June 7th, 2013
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We all need a mental health break, don’t we?  I just didn’t expect to find one downtown in a city park.
While walking down the street yesterday during lunch hour in the downtown area of the nation’s capitol, I spied a large white tent set up across the street in a park known as McPherson Square.  The tent reminded me of one of those large white tents that people use at outdoor wedding receptions.  I could only see the back of the tent so, ever the curious one, I walked over to check it out.
Somebody must be promoting something, I thought, but from the first glance of it, I couldn’t tell exactly what.
Turns out it was Mental Health; as in come inside the tent and take a rest from your daily work routine or from whatever is happening to you.
When I got closer to the tent, I could see a rather small blue, yellow and white sign saying “Mental Health Break, Noon to 7 pm, May 6.”  Yes, I thought, this looks interesting.  The front of the tent was wide open and inside were low white tables and cushions for seating.  Small groups of people were sitting and standing, talking and reading.  Other tables were set up with free goodies such as blue balls that people could hold and squeeze to relieve stress or anxiety, and there also were water bottles along with green tea for drinking.  There was even a photobooth for quick laughs if you wanted to take silly pictures.
Children Practicing Yoga
Photo Courtesy The Daily Om
Thanks to The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, which was sponsoring the mental health event, people could also take yoga classes outside of the tent for relaxation under a cluster of trees. A few people taking a class that had already started were either sitting on chairs or sitting on mats with their eyes closed and arms stretched out, palms towards the sun.

It looked so un-DC.

Yet it was a unique concept.  Everything went to improving the human experience and community.
Here, a couple of blocks from the White House and The Washington Post, two centers of business that I think most people would associate with stress and hypercompetition, was a place dedicated — at least for one day — to finding your inner self and “happy place.”
I associate, and I’m sure you do too, a mental health break or a mental health day to calling in sick from work.  We’ve all done it at least once in our work lives or know someone who’s done it. Either you’ve been working on a project or just putting in too many long days and you need a break.  You’re not really sick but you know you’re going to get sick if you don’t take a much needed break.  Thus, the mental health day.
But this mental health tent was sending a different message from what I could see,  which is: we are all capable of self-care at any time of the day in any place and with some practice, we can learn to  turn down the extraneous volume surrounding us and instead find inner calm and peace.
As author and wellness coach Kris Carr has written, “When you understand your mind you can harness its power to achieve more than you imagined possible.  The space between the noise is where God/dess lives.  There are many answers there.  Don’t shy away from visiting.”
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