After a year of teachers using the I Create What I Believe! program (ICWIB) in classroom settings, collecting data, and tracking results, the pilot study is finished! We will begin posting the results on our website (http://icreatewhatibelieve.com/) over the next several weeks. For now, I would like to talk briefly about the Labyrinth, one of the exploratory activities, because several teachers were surprised by how many students had difficulty doing this seemingly simple drawing activity.
The Labyrinth, http://www.innereyepublishing.com/support/labyrinth.html, has its roots in yogic breathing and labyrinth walking. Using a pencil or pen for exploration, this exercise helps detect and resolve sensory integration and coordination problems. In an ideal situation, our senses work together providing us with accurate information so that we can respond to a given situation most effectively. Unfortunately there are many places this cooperative information gathering system can break down.
If individuals are emotionally hurt by what they see, hear, or feel, one of their senses can withdraw from active involvement with the environment. When this happens their other senses will try to compensate; but good intentions can’t prevent the absent information from biasing the brain’s interpretation of a situation. It is also important to remember that if we acquire inaccurate beliefs about the world or ourselves in our early and formative years, this too can misconstrue our perceptions, affect our sensory integration and subsequently hamper learning, our decision-making, and performance.
In the Labyrinth exercise, movement of the pencil is driven by the breath. This helps individuals become more aware of their breathing, and learn to purposely use their breath to increase brain activity and focus, decrease stress and anxiety, and perceive situations with more clarity. Since learning problems often stem from poor sensory integration, or poor coordination between the body and mind, regular practice of this activity can help students gain deeper insight into their learning challenges and also help their systems recalibrate for more efficient operation.
“…Breathing is more than a mechanical reflex of oxygen exchange; it is the basis for all of our cellular functions, our energetic well-being, even our emotional health…When we’re continually stressed out, our mind and body become frozen in a chronic state of fight-or flight: we consistently react as if we’re surrounded by a pack of wild animals…Deep breathing is a key to breaking the vicious cycle of fight-or-flight…” –Mitchell Gaynor, Sounds of Healing
Several teachers were surprised by how difficult this activity was for many students—especially students that had ADD and ADHD. If you think about it, the reason is obvious—the system is in a state of stress–either lacking enough energy to maintain focus, or having too much energy to manage a stable focus. Whatever the reason, this activity can help individuals learn how to use the breath to move out of fight-or-flight, activate their conscious problem-solving mind and increase their sensory awareness.
Today we are blessed with a wealth of information about learning challenges, and also a wealth of possible solutions. Though often this information is difficult for children or adults to understand and fully integrate because it isn’t presented in a fashion that encourages them to gain sensory insight to their system’s malfunction. Consequently, they can be left with the feeling that they are less than, instead understanding that they have a uniquely wired brain with unique capacities that other may lack. The ICWIB program activities gives the child or adult an opportunity to see, explore and understand their own mind’s errors and create viable solutions on their own. This can be a very empowering experience!
I personally use the labyrinth daily because it helps me quickly slow down my breathing, activate my parasympathetic nervous system, and regain clarity anywhere or any time I become confused, or stressed. As I mentioned in my interview with John McComb, (http://icreatewhatibelieve.com/media.html) simple tools that I can use at the moment of disturbance work best for me. The experience is similar to pushing the reset button on the computer.
For more information about the ICWIB program and pilot study