Find Acceptance Like an Air Bender
Hello and welcome to part 2 of our Avatar: The Last Airbender mindfulness series. Last time, we looked at Fire Bending and breath. Today we lift ourselves into the world of acceptance by looking at and exploring Air-Bending. Whether you are already familiar with the world of Avatar or maybe just looking for new and interesting takes on mindfulness, these techniques will offer interesting and helpful tools towards mental liberation and tranquility. In the world of Avatar, Air Bending represents freedom, peace, and detachment. Air Benders, as the name implies, control and manipulate air and aim to embody the qualities of air in their everyday life – they are free-spirited, peaceful, and are known for their non-attachment. In the show this is exemplified by their nomadic way of life, going wherever the wind takes them. They are highly focused on the present. Monk Gyatso wisely states “We can’t concern ourselves with what was: we must act on what is.” These principles resonate intricately with mindfulness; teaching us to free our minds, find peace in the present, and practice letting go of our attachment to thoughts and feelings. Become the Wind Before we begin, it is important that we try to bring with us the values of an Air Bender. We want to strive for the freedom and adaptability of the wind. Air Benders teach us to find the calm in the storm; to observe rather than be caught up in the turbulence; to embrace the present moment. As Tenzin teaches “True wisdom begins when we accept things as they are”. Throughout our practice we will be observing our thoughts and emotions, even if they are turbulent and wind tossed. For the following exercises, we are going to be utilizing movement, specifically walking and dancing. Throughout the exercises, turn your attention to your thoughts, feelings, and judgements. Visualize them as gusts of wind- fleeting, formless, without substance. We recognize and observe their presence but allow them to pass without resistance in the same way that a tree bends with the wind. Remember to reflect at the end of each exercise. Guiding the Breeze Now, just as the Air Benders maneuver the currents in the air, we too are going to guide and maneuver our thoughts and feelings with the following practices: Reed in the Wind - This exercise brings focus onto freedom in self-expression and detachment from judgment. Begin by turning on some of your favorite calming music and warm your body with some simple stretches. Next, move into dancing freely to the music. Let your movement be as free moving as the air and follow wherever it takes you. This requires you to move with what feels good and right to your body, so tune your attention towards these bodily needs. Just go with whatever comes to mind. As the music winds down, so too should your body. End with the music and by coming into a comfortable sitting or lying position. Rhythm of the Wind - Have you ever looked out at a field of grass on a windy day and seen the almost rhythmic waves of wind as it blows? We are going to attempt to replicate this sense of free flow and rhythm in this next exercise. This exercise focuses on developing awareness of the present moment through rhythm and developing freedom from distractions. First, find some music with a strong beat or rhythm (like Enya!). Find a connection to the sounds. Begin building up movement with the rhythm and connect with each beat of the sound. Nomad Movements - This exercise brings our attention to the world around us and the changing of location through a walking tour of nature. We use this to focus on detaching from our daily stresses and to foster a feeling of inner freedom. We begin by finding a natural setting such as a park or hiking trail. We ground ourselves with deep breaths and start walking at a natural pace. Bring your attention to the sights, sounds, and smells that are around you. Notice the nature of change and connect to your movements through the world. Embrace the Sky Embodying the wisdom of the Air Benders means finding peace within acceptance and recognizing that true balance comes from not taking all that we can from the world or others. As Avatar Yangchen beautifully stated, "No one is entitled to their every desire. To live in balance, we must willingly decide not to take all that we can from the world, and from others." Infuse your daily activities with the spirit of an Air Bender. When stress arises, visualize it as a gust of wind that you can acknowledge and allow to pass. When joy comes your way, let it lift you like a gentle breeze, knowing that it too will shift and change, just like all experiences do. In Avatar, bending is more than just a martial art; each style has its accompanying philosophy and approach to life. With air, we embrace freedom, peace, and acceptance. As Tenzin wisely said, "Change can be good or bad depending on your point of view." So let us look towards embracing the things that are impermanent and look at things for what they are while letting go of our judgment; it doesn’t have to be good or bad and could simply be. Until next time, stay free and take to the skies As a final note, this blog included many movement and dance-based exercises. If this is something that resonated with you, and you would like to explore these concepts further, I highly recommend reaching out to Applehelen Kirby, LMHC at A New Hope Therapy Center. Zachary Dehler Egan (Zac, He/Him) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a focus for helping people foster emotional and social growth and healing. He is passionate about utilizing geek/pop culture based therapy for individuals 14 and older. This includes tapping into people's fandoms, utilizing board and tabletop games, and even video games to help people achieve their mental health and social skills goals. Zac has received training in using Solutions Focused Brief Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, and Mindfulness therapy which he incorporates into his sessions and interventions. He also loves playing Tabletop Role Playing Games, Tabletop Wargames; reading Fantasy and Science Fiction books; watching movies and video gaming. Some of his fandoms include Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Comics, Disney/Pixar and animation in general, and The Wheel of Time series.