Mindfulness as a shared and sharing practice.

Mindfulness as a shared practice.

In the fall of 2021, iBme manifested a long-time goal of incorporating youth voices into our daily work with the inauguration of our Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). Comprised of esteemed, awesome young people – mindfulness practitioners and iBme retreat alum – the YAC helps guide and influence iBme’s mission, vision, voice, and programs. Acting as a compatible steering committee, the YAC sits alongside fellow Committees that together form our Collaborative Leadership System.

In essence, iBme is enriched by the minds and hearts of young people and adults alike, with various backgrounds, identifiers, and life experiences.

Gracie Yaconelli, a YAC member, shares why the practice of mindfulness is so meaningful to her.

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Mindfulness to me is more than forcing myself to be still for 10 minutes when I get the time. It has gradually become a lifestyle.

A lifestyle that is sensitive and spacious, that allows me to step outside of my own inner turmoil. Mindfulness in my daily life is as simple as taking a few deep belly breaths in traffic, noticing my jaw is clenched as I talk to someone, or pausing before I make a choice against my gut feeling. It is something gentle that underlies my days, like a puffy cloud. I can fall back on it, particularly when I find myself spiraling in anxiety or disconnected from the present moment.

I am a person who feels a lot and feels deeply. While I am grateful for this, it also means I get anxious very easily and trapped in my own experience. Mindfulness has shown me that in moments when my anxiety feels like everything, it really isn’t. It is just an experience, and one that I can consciously be aware of. Through that compassionate awareness, I am able to regain a sense of groundedness.

“Through that compassionate awareness, I am able to regain a sense of groundedness.”

I love that mindfulness brings me back to the bigger picture, to the reality that gets lost when I sink into personal stress. I also love that it doesn’t get rid of hard things, it simply makes room for them, allows them to exist while not consuming me. It is an accessible and kind practice. In a world where we are inundated with constant media messages about “self care,” mindfulness is radical. A practice available to everyone, at any time, in many forms. This allows for very authentic self care, which of course not only benefits yourself, but those close to you. I believe that’s something we all need more of.

With anxiety, depression, and worry creeping into the new norm, a compassionate place feels essential. It gives me permission to take a breath and find a place of active acceptance. As I’m filled with hopelessness around the climate crisis, for instance, the act of being mindful, of being in the true moment, redirects me towards gratitude. From feeling nothing but panic and despair, I am able to (slowly) shift into a mindset that feels proactive and gracious. I notice the lavender plant in my front yard, the feeling of sitting on wood, the smell of pine needles. Suddenly, I am back into a gentle reality and out of my own reactivity.

“I remember during my first iBme retreat, the feeling of safety as peers and teachers I’d grown to trust all sat together in one big room, supporting not only their practice but the practice of others.”

While meditation and mindfulness may seem like (and commonly is) a solo practice, iBme offers the powerful experience to share it with others. For me, this has been invaluable. I remember during my first iBme retreat, the feeling of safety as peers and teachers I’d grown to trust all sat together in one big room, supporting not only their practice but the practice of others. The energy that emanated from this was not only contemplative, but playful. That was the magic of iBme. After collectively sitting in silence, the entire group would gather at night to dance. Or wrap up in blankets and listen to music. Or draw, or hike, or do other nourishing activities. The iBme retreat experience offers the time and space to let yourself embrace humanity and the present moment in full.

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Gracie Yaconelli is a senior in high school living in the foothills of the Cascade and Siskiyou mountain ranges in Ashland, Oregon. She is a musician, songwriter and, avid trail runner. In her free time, Gracie enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and deep conversations over tea. She first encountered mindfulness at three years old and has been hooked ever since.