by Belinda Levychin, Program & Marketing Director

I sit here at my desk as a black woman, a mother of two young black men, unsure of where to begin.  As someone who has been working on the creation and development of Tournesol Kids from its inception, I turn to the tools that we have been working so hard to bring to the world, this time, to find my own balance. So, I begin looking for Water Power, which will help me be able to find grounding and some new perspectives. Before there can be any movement forward, we must begin to Listen Deeply. Water Power can help shift our thinking in even the most troubled times.

As a black person, it has been so hard to take in the events of not just of the past week, but the past several years. Growing up, I was taught that I had to work hard, to play by the rules, and to create change from being on the inside. I was willingly following the social contract and had a measure of success. Often in my life, I was the lone black person in the room. I pushed any discomfort I may have felt to the side, telling myself this is what it takes to be successful. I fell in love with the advertising world and saw the impact that I could have on how things were communicated. Luckily, I had an opportunity to work at one of the larger multicultural agencies, which led to a lot of opportunities at some very big companies and, for a while, that was enough. I thought I was doing the thing!

Then, I became a mother of two black sons. Through their eyes, I have realized my own complicity in the so-called social contract that Trevor Noah spoke about so eloquently this past week. It is no longer enough to work hard, to be the best, to just turn the other cheek. The reality is the kind of life I live is still a rarity in the African American community. The reality of a good life — and more importantly, a safe and healthy life — should not be relegated to luck of the draw. As most black mothers know, it is a scary proposition to raise a black child and while it is not safe for black women, it most certainly isn’t safe for black men. Even Michelle Obama made mention of the fact of this virtual luck of the draw during a 60 Minutes piece when she said that her husband was always at risk, even just going to the gas station. Going outside has always been a gamble when you are black. I am no longer interested in living in a world where I hope both my boys drew the lucky stick. We must be a part of the change — right now, not later, not when the election is over, or when the pandemic is over — but now.

More than 50 years ago the civil rights activist Fannie Mae Hamer spoke about the idea that when our communities were burned down, no one said anything; but when black people burn things down, somehow, it’s different. The reality is that the black community learned destruction from how they were treated by those who were in power. To hear similar words in 2020 from a current civil rights activist, Tamika Mallory, is more than unsettling, and I repeat her words wholeheartedly — enough is enough. It has become clear that we need to start over. And while my Fire self wants to see the system figuratively burn down, we must create a new social contract, this time with all parties in the proverbial room. 

Tournesol Kids’ basic philosophy can provide a spark. Tournesol Kids is based on the idea that we all have innate powers: Wood, Fire, Earth, Gold (Metal) and Water. All powers working together can create transformation. One power, Water Power, focuses on going within, retreating, listening deeply and, yes, using the power of metaphor to better understand what is really happening.  The exercises that make up Water Power are used to improve mindfulness and the capacity to accurately self-reflect and grow our social intelligence.

As someone who is Fire Power, I have used one Water Power exercise recently and I encourage others to try it as well. You see, the exercises we teach at Tournesol Kids are not just for kids, but for everyone. Our methodology is meant to bring wholeness to us all. So, right now, while the world is burning try this exercise called Listen Deeply. The Water Hero walks the path of peace by listening deeply to the world and sharing deep insights with others. Listen Deeply is designed to help us gain perspective and confidence and to shift us into growth-mind thinking – because all of the unrest we are experiencing is coming from a fixed-mind perspective and that is not going to fix anything!

The Listen Deeply exercise works well by yourself or with others. Here’s how you start:

  1. Find a small bell or something that can create a fading sound. (If you do not have a bell, just find stillness.)
  2. Find a quiet space and close your eyes.
  3. Take a few cleansing breaths.
  4. Relax your body, from the top to bottom.
  5. Feel the weight of your body as you relax.
  6. Ring your bell to “clear the air” and listen closely to the sounds of the space that re-emerge as the bell fades.
  7. Whispering whatever you hear in the space.
  8. Don’t forget to notice the sounds of your breath.
  9. Now notice the sounds of your thoughts and how they can sometime distract us from hearing the world around us.

This exercise is designed to help understand our relationship with what is going on around us in a deeply personal way. It will help you gain deeper insights about our lives and our responsibilities to each other. 

I know that right now I am in listening mode. I know that what I am supposed to hear will be clear if I can be still enough. I hope we are all beginning to listen and then, as Spike Lee says, we will all “Do the Right Thing.”  Because enough is enough.