Folks, we just wrapped up a 40-hour Basic Mediation Training, putting 26 people from all walks of life on the path of joining New York City's largest civilian peacebuilding force. This was a pretty eclectic group -- including a mother & daughter, a hypnotist, a couple of triathlete trainers, and three people from Switzerland. (Yep, we were teaching the Swiss about neutrality. Oy.). Here's a little photo essay to give a sense of how we roll -- combining visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, and verbal learning styles. We like to think of our trainings as a friendly assault on the senses.
Pictured above is Melissa, our Manager of Mediator Education, spieling about building agreement. She uses the acronym ADD UP (which I shan't spell out...spoiler alerts and such). We used to use the acronyms APUDD and DDUPA, but they were, respectively, nonsensical and a Slavic obscenity. Behind Melissa are some of the infographics I drew for the training.
Here, trainees are creating a human sculpture representing the core mediation value of neutrality.
The dress code degenerated daily, and by Sunday, we learned that plaid is the new neutral.
Our heating system was on the fritz over the weekend. Also, flip chart pages make better learning tools than they do blankets.
Spontaneous yoga broke out during our lunch break. As if there weren't enough confusion between mediation and meditation. Pretty much every mediation training starts with a mediation-mediation joke, but there's a good amount of stuff we borrow from our meditative brother and sisters -- mindfulness, being in the moment, self-care, breathing and whatnot.
We did an exercise requiring participants to stand in a circle and, among other things, throw and catch a soccer ball -- which just felt wrong for our European trainees, who are hardwired to not touch soccer balls with their hands. (As the least athletic person on earth, my instinct is to duck from any ball coming in my direction). Anyway, the point is, much about learning mediation feels unnatural, and we try to push folks to rewire their systems a bit.
It's been said that laughing brains are more absorbent, so we aim to make our trainings as infotaining as possible. But we take this work awfully seriously. I'll tell you what, training mediators the day of the Newtown tragedy both underscored the importance of promoting peace in every nook and cranny of our lives and communities -- as well as the need for us to do more. Thanks to all of our mediators -- volunteers, every one of them -- for giving your time, energy, creativity, and compassion to build peace in New York and beyond.