What do YOU see? That's YOUR reality.
Every day is a series of beginnings. Waking up is a beginning: the beginning of a new day.
There are two days that I feel have been the most profound and eye-opening days since I began teaching in juvenile justice.
The first day is when I walked through the gates of the facility to begin teaching, and the second is a recent evening when I was leaving the facility through those same gates.
I like to face new experiences head-on. Of course, there is some nervousness, trepidation, and anticipation. That is completely normal.
Take a deep breath and make the first step. “Go with the flow”, be as non-attached to the outcome as possible. Understand that the lesson plan is a guideline.
Some days you are going to have to throw it all out of the window and make a new plan on the spot. You sift through your cerebral database of exercises. You also may need to draw on past experiences of student's behavior, reactions, responses and occasional stonewalling.
Think fast on your feet, don’t give yourself a hard time, don’t judge yourself, take a deep breath and grin when it all goes down the toilet.
Teens are some of the most responsive, open, accessible, forgiving and accepting groups to teach. THEN some days they aren’t. Add incarceration, to the mix and you realize: flexible, firm and friendly" becomes your mantra. BUT not too friendly especially in the beginning. They can smell vulnerable or too softhearted and that is the crack in the veneer they use to manipulate the situation. When that happens you have lost control before you started and you have to go backward to go forward.
The first time anyone is buzzed through the monolithic gate, attached to a 20 foot fence, topped with barbed wire, I imagine the gravity of it is pretty inescapable. It certainly was for me.
I am a free person. I have never been incarcerated. None of my family members (that I know of) have ever been incarcerated. I have worked with formerly incarcerated adults outside of the criminal justice system and this is altogether different.
Walking down the sidewalk to the lobby, surrounded on every side by fences with no way of exiting except by the way you entered is, well, sobering.
You enter the lobby, sign in and wait for your escort. You are taken through a series of hallways. Some contain as many as 4 doors in or out. You are constantly monitored by video cameras. Practically your every move is observed.
The staff carries large round key rings that jangle and clink every time a key is placed in an enormous round lock. You cannot enter or exit any of these hallways without a staff member with a set of keys reminiscent of those for an English castle. OR you are buzzed in and out via the video surveillance.
Naturally, my classroom is monitored. I always feel very good about that. Things happen and a swift response is imperative.
By “things happen”, I mean, not only could a resident have a "moment", but many of them have health issues.
The beautiful thing is that I have not experienced one moment of fear or distrust while in the facility - with my students or while in the hallways.
This facility is run like clockwork.
That being said, I am not so naive to I think that things don’t happen. They do.
These are young teenaged men. Many of them have been incarcerated before.
Through it all, this is one of the most well-behaved facilities, with minimal incidences, in not only the county but in the state. A true testament to the private organization that operates the facility.
Only one time did I feel a twinge of claustrophobia.
I was escorted into a hallway to wait for the facility director. I was alone in the hallway outside of the classroom where he was speaking. I could not get in or out of any room. I was incarcerated for those few moments. I briefly felt the gravity of the situation.
These days it is typically routine. I feel zero trepidation being in the locked down hallways or classrooms. I trust the staff and I trust my students. They have earned my trust and they have let me know that I have earned their trust, too. (More on that is a subsequent post.)
So, what was the second eye-opening day?
Fast forward six months.
I had finished teaching a class and was being buzzed from hallway to corridor to hallway, back into the lobby.
I said goodnight to the staff and breezed out feeling positive about the success of the classes that night. There was a sense of normalcy to it all. Students and teacher.
Just as I exited the final door two sheriffs entered the building. I held the door for them. No smiles, no thank you's, let's just say serious game faces. They were not there for a social call. They were on a mission and it involved one of the residents. I was hoping it wasn’t one of my students. (It wasn’t.)
Reality paid me a visit. I was still teaching in a high-security juvenile justice facility.
I walked out, into the crisp night air, a free woman. I reminded myself to be grateful for the decisions I had made in my life and to be grateful for the decisions my son has made in his life.
Freedom must never be taken for granted.
For that brief time, the teacher was the student.
Thanks very much for reading.
If you would like to contact me with input, questions, ideas or to introduce Moving Meditation to your facility please contact me:
Discovering who you are may be an uphill climb. That's ok.
Those are BIG questions. From my perspective of living a large life, it would seem that everyone knows me. Many days I feel like I have met a quarter of the world, even though it may just have been twenty or thirty thousand people or so. Still, that’s a lot of people.
The life I am living now and the life I have lived are different, but with the same elements dialed WAY DOWN. I have to chuckle at that. Who doesn’t look back on their life and go…”whoa THAT happened?” Or “I did that? Did I go there? I felt what? I saw who?”
I’ve learned simpler is just…simpler!
Instead of just cutting and pasting my bio, I’d rather give you the “Cliff Notes" version of my working life.
My life, so far, has been diverse, exciting, challenging, painful, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, a constant evolution and fun!
I feel like I’m a very fortunate, fortunate person.
In 1991 after 16 years in entertainment as a musical theater performer, actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, theater artistic director, stunt person, professional water skier and circus artist (plus various and sundry day jobs - politics, veterinary medicine, theater management - to keep my performance “habit” going) I had come to an emotional cliff. The stress of the industry was contributing to the loss of sleep, anxiety, and disordered eating. All of that was VERY new to me.
It is said people get into “show biz” BECAUSE they are insecure and need the recognition and adulation. I am not sure that is true in all cases. I loved what I did with my talents. I would do a show for one person or record a CD even if no one bought it. For me, it was the love of the craft. Still, it was always an up and down profession.
I began taking a Kundalini yoga class in Orlando, Florida with students of Yogi Bhajan - the Sikh who brought Kundalini yoga to the US. They were either training to be teachers of Kundalini or were already certified. This led me to actually take classes with Yogi Bhajan. Here is where I can insert “…and the rest is history.”
For me, to this day meditation is not a panacea or a Band-aid. It is a way of life.
That being said, my life did not get any less busy as the years went on.
I kept studying with various teachers throughout the US and then decided that if it helped me others might also benefit. I taught easy, beginner classes in breath exercise and movement while still heavily involved in entertainment and business.
After working in many stage shows, in television and film, coaching in stunts and performing, adjudicating competitions in theater, I moved to Canada and with a partner started a television production company. Oh, yes, and we invested in a restaurant. What is the old adage about giving a busy person something to do?
The television company produced 2 informational series and two pilots. These series were the first to be shot in HD. Everyone thought we were crazy. We all know how that went!
At this time, I only taught in a disordered eating facility, kept up with my personal practice and kept studying.
After co-owning one more restaurant, a cinema, and a fitness center later, I had had enough and returned to the US to teach meditation and to sing. I did one more television series and hung up my acting career.
A label and producer approached me about recording a healing CD and Spirit Oasis, my third and last CD, was born. Four years later I hung up my singing career.
All I could think about was teaching meditation and learning more.
Concurrently, I was teaching youth, in the LGBTQ community, seniors, those in recovery, and veterans.
I also decided to train as a Qigong instructor. (Qigong is the mother of Tai Chi but not a martial art. It is a moving meditation.) I had been practicing Qigong for many years and it was a natural fit.
This is when the new technique I have developed was born.
Today, I am working in juvenile justice teaching my Moving Meditation technique based on the 5 elements I have combined through years of trial and error.
In the New Year, I am taking that technique, with a few minor adjustments, and applying it to a school in an at-risk community. I will be teaching staff and students.
My ultimate goal is to make this technique available to staff within these facilities so they may instruct the residents and students. Who knows the community better than someone who is on the inside?
This is where my book - Moving Meditation During Incarceration: A Teaching Guide for Staff and Residents in the Juvenile Justice System- comes in very handy. The end of the book is my entire method, made accessible to anyone who wants to learn it, practice it, or teach it. Along with personal and online support from me nearly any interested teacher can learn and teach this technique .
So there you have it. The long and less long of it.
"Go with the flow” is my companion. Although, I imagine I test and vex it on occasion. I could say life is what you get out of it but I imagine you’ve heard that already.
Life is life.
Do with it as you see fit.
See fit to do something worthwhile for yourself and others.
Feel free to contact me with your comments, input or to introduce MoVing Meditation with KaZ in your community or facility.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: "Moving Meditation During Incarceration: a Teaching Story and Guide for Juvenile Justice."
Picture you are teaching a one-on-one class with a student. In my case, we were working on breath work and energy work. We started by sitting in chairs facing each other. We had closed our eyes and were just taking some deep breaths - going through a little bit of breath work and relaxation work.
All of a sudden I felt that my student was not there anymore. I opened my eyes and he was standing in the back of the room. I said, "What's up?" And he said, "I gotta fart." I tried to be as cool as possible with that statement. What I mean by that is I tried so hard not to laugh about it. It was funny and endearing and FUNNY! When is anyone so REAL with someone they don't know well; someone they are just beginning to trust?
Mind you, these young men take my class after they have had their dinner and a shower. YOU KNOW that gas will sneak up on you after you eat; especially if you are eating a more institutionalized meal. He said he wanted to be respectful of me and not "stink me out" with the smell. I said that it was perfectly OK and not to be concerned about it at all. Then he said: “Yes, it's a natural bodily function." I was so proud of him to have that attitude. My students can be so real and genuine, that is why I love teaching them. They have been through tough times and still can be honest. (Sometimes VERY honest!)
So he's standing there waving his gym shorts around and actually very discreetly smelling to see if it smelled bad. Can you imagine? All out of respect for me AND so he wasn't holding it in struggling with pain the entire class. Maybe we ALL can take a lesson from that.
Then he just came back to the chair and we finished up the session. It happened to him again at the end of the session, but by then we were completely relaxed about, I smiled and it became a normal occurrence. (A normal occurrence in ALL of my classes.)
I also told him the story about someone I knew who hated when women burped or farted. He said it was very gross and unladylike. My student looked at me with a very quizzical expression and said: "well, that sounds stupid". Isn't there a Forrest Gump expression about just that?
That leads me to the timeless and wise saying from the Shrek movie: "better out than in".
Indeed, "better out than in". Words to live by.
Thanks for visiting.
As always if you have any comments, or questions OR want to get in touch to arrange a meeting to explore my teachings in your facility, please text, email or call.
KaZ has been in many facets of entertainment, plus the co-owner of two restaurants, a fitness center, a television production company and the owner of a cinema. She did a stint in politics, and in veterinary medicine, She now focuses on writing.
In addition to the above, KaZ is an award-winning vocalist, a former dancer, stunt actor, circus artist, & professional water skier. She has worked as a theater artistic director & writer.
KaZ has been a published writer in magazines & books since the age of 15. She has written plays that have been produced in New York, Florida & New Orleans. She has a featured chapter in the book How To Survive A Move. (Up-to-date she has moved 45 times!) She wrote an article for Organic Wine Journal, and also wrote an article featured at the Ground Zero Memorial.
KaZ co-wrote 2 television informational series & 3 television pilots. One of the pilots, a sit-com, was produced as a reality pilot. KaZ has revisited it and it's now a one season cable series.
“(And ) Then This Happened.” based on life, love, and everything in between in the mid-life years. Loosely based on her life and the life of two of her best girlfriends.
KaZ's many high pressure pursuits led her to meditation.
She began studying meditation in '91. Her initial training focused on Kundalini Yoga with Yogi Bhajan and his teachers. She is a certified Master Meditation and Qigong Instructor, having taught
throughout California, Florida, New York & British Columbia, Canada and online worldwide.
Most recently KaZ taught in a juvenile justice facility, and lectured on mental health in juvenile justice.
With writing being her first love, look for KaZ's upcoming children's books:
from the tales of two grandmothers.
Plus, a play based on letters from her two great uncles during the Second World War.