(Not-so) radical giving, day 11: New Leaf Foundation

Photo by Olivier Miche on Unsplash

I’ll spare you the details of my terribly average middle-class-white-girl-discovers-yoga story, but here’s the gist of it: I’ve spent thousands of hours on a purple mat, learning about my mind works. I’ve learned about my body, too, of course, and some sanskrit words and that social pressure can get me to participate in something called “an intention smoothie,” but it’s learning how to cope when things get stressful, uncomfortable, and emotional that has been most valuable. A handstand is a party trick: dissolving into tears because you still can’t do such an arbitrary pose is a lesson.

After all, yoga is just preparation for meditation, and unless you’ve just come out of cryogenic freezing, you’ve probably heard meditation is good for you.

New Leaf Foundation wants to bring those benefits to undeserved youth who often have significant barriers to access. They run long-term mindfulness- and yoga-based programs in priority schools and for youth going through the justice system. In 2016–2017 they reached 1400 youth at 12 school sites and six closed custody facilities. In their annual report, one program facilitator shares a story of a guard in one such facility taking off his steel-toed boots and practicing alongside the youth.

According to their annual report, about 60% of donated funds go to programming, which is a bit below average. That said, I’ve decided to give to them, because yoga and meditation have given a lot to me, and I want it to be accessible to everyone. In this fraught, divisive era, we need self-awareness and emotional moderation more than ever.

You can donate here (tax deductible in Canada), but there are other ways to give to New Leaf: if you’re someone who practises yoga, karma classes run by donation and give the proceeds of their classes to various non-profits, New Leaf often among them.

And if downward dog is not for you, maybe try a little compassion meditation at home. It sounds insufferably ooey-gooey, but cold, hard science has shown a lot of benefits — including beefing the parts of your grey matter associated with empathy. No athleisure wear or intention smoothie required.

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