LOS ANGELES — One of the ongoing ways the folks at Grand Park are helping to keep mental health awareness going is through their Gratitude Walk programs. For Samzie Davis, a teacher who works with troubled teens, the combination of meditation and walking is the perfect way to center herself and wake up her energy and positivity.
"I have to wake up in the morning with my mind and my heart right," Davis said, strolling through the park.
Davis said her work and schedule can be challenging.
"Some days, I can't get into the gratitude because I'm already thinking about things that I need to do for that day," she said. "When those challenges come up, I delve into the gratitude."
The Gratitude Walk is a 20-minute audio program hosted by Justin Michael Williams, a guided meditation that one can access on Grand Park's Mixcloud page. One simply puts on headphones, walks, listens and taps into what gratitude means.
Williams emphasizes that meditation practices predominantly come from indigenous cultures and cultures of color. Although these practices have been co-opted and corporatized, they are accessible to everyone, not just the hipster set.
"When we step back into these practices, it feels like we're coming home to ourselves, and it feels like we're coming back to our greatest source of power," Williams added.
He also reminds us that meditation is not a quick fix or about silencing our thoughts.
"Meditation is not about getting your mind to stop thinking," he said. "Meditation is about getting our thoughts to work for us instead of against us."
Davis said this kind of disciplined mindfulness and observance of what she is grateful for has already had an impact on her work dealing with emotionally troubled teens.
"I had a kid the other day that was disrespectful and addressed it toward me," Davis explained. "But when you understand when someone's emotionally disturbed, you can stand in your power, you can stand in your greatness, and you can stand in love and be able to still help them and extend your hand."
Davis said she likes Justin Michael Williams' message that meditation is for the people and doesn't have to be rigid and intimidating.
"I like the informalness of it and the inclusiveness of it," she said.
And as pandemic restrictions continue to ease and the summer kicks into high gear, Grand Park encourages anyone to stop by and take a gratitude walk of their own.