Mindfulness Across Borders came from working with Syrian and Afghan women and children in the refugee encampment of Idomeni on the borders between northern Greece and Macedonia in March 2016.
Ariana Faris, with the help of Zarlasht Halaimzai a Humanitarian Aid worker and Reham Kenane a Clinical Psychologist who were setting up psychosocial support services, introduced mindfulness exercises to groups of women and children stuck in the camps. The hope was that these practices might help to provide temporary relief and solace from the uncertainty and stress of their current situation.
Often when we are stuck in such distressing circumstances this can affect not only our minds but also our bodies. Mindfulness exercises encourage awareness of our sensory experience, moment by moment, without judgment. Without knowing how these practices would translate in such a context, much to our surprise, women and children easily connected with the practices of paying attention moment by moment to the breath, short body-scans and mindful movement. They reported how they were able to come back to themselves, feel calmer, feel more connected to themselves and each other.
In times of peace we take for granted certain levels of safety, we expect things to remain the same and that the background features of our lives will be fairly permanent; our homes, our families will remain intact. War and violence shatter this certainty, the ground is pulled from under our feet through the experience of violence and extreme fear, leaving only huge uncertainty and an unknown future.