In 1985 I got a summer job as a teacher’s aide working with handicapped students. The big topic of discussion that summer was what would happen in the fall when the required full inclusion of students in regular classrooms would be carried out. Until then students with disabilities were segregated into separate classrooms; but the new thinking was that all students would benefit from including students with disabilities inside regular classrooms. The “regular” students would be exposed to people who were different than they; be able to interact with students with disabilities and even mentor their peers in some cases.
This was unconventional and largely inconvenient to the current way of getting along and the teachers and staff had been doing things a certain way for many years. They were having a hard time imagining how on earth they could provide the support the students needed outside the walls of their classroom. They were having a hard time imagining this kind of integration. They didn't want to do it. One teacher was thrilled to be retiring at the end of summer and wasn't going to have to participate! As a new member of the team, I wasn't invested in the ways of the past and I remember wondering what the big deal was.
One thing was for sure; the mandate had come down ant it WAS happening. The directive was to get on board or get off.
When things or people have been segregated for quite some time it can be hard to imagine how to bring them together.
Here is where creativity and imagination come in very handy.
In the fall I was assigned to the "school to work /transitional" students. We were charged with the task of teaching the students to be out in the community. We spent our days teaching students to take the bus, buy lunch, and looking for jobs. These students ranged from 17 to 22 years old and had been, for the most part, segragated from the community. This was very rewarding work for me. At 19 years old I was excited to be participating in cutting edge educational practices even though many veteran teachers and aids were struggling to carry out this integration. As problems or issues arrose, we brainstormed, got creative and solved them.
Creativity and imagination came in very handy for sure!
In yoga practice the main theme is integration. This ancient practice is aimed at an individual understanding of nonseparation. When we practice poses in our bodies we feel the integration of our physical parts and when we practice yoga of the mind we feel the integration of the self. There is also the integration of breath and movement; of mind and body; of stable and fluid; of rooting down and rising up; of inner and outer; of holding and releasing; of heart and soul …… the list goes on…..
When we engage in yoga practice we notice that our segregated parts feel normal to us and yet we are charged with the task of integrating them.
Then we feel the strong resistance of our current way of being and doing.
And why is the ancient practice of yoga a practice of integration?
Because with full integration and inclusion comes freedom.
Dr. Martin Luther King is just one of many significant leaders who expressed this. In his famous speech in 1963 he said, ".....for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone." At the school, no student was denied an opportunity to be included with his or her peers. For the first time ever, students with disabilities were proactively included with all students.
As each of us expereinces the process and freedom of personal integration, we can imagine and create full human integration. Integration of each person on the soul level is the foundation of integration of all ...people...hearts.... with each other and in such integration we all become free.
Free to persue that which the heart wants.....