Resident Juliana Lottmann shares her new mindfulness project for a greater sense of togetherness in times of isolation.

I feel that this crazy period of the past 10+ months of lockdowns, face masks, alcohol gel, 2m rule… have taken a huge toll on our communities.

When sneezing leads to hostile looks instead of ‘bless you’, we all instinctively know that something is missing.

I think that this something is the explicit understanding that we’re all in this together.

Belonging is part of our basic needs and covid is creating a lot of distance between us. So, I stop to think, how can we bring back our sense of community and kindness, even in this long period of enforced distance?

I came up with three related projects with the intention of helping the small community to connect, and to give all of us, individually and together a reason to come back out of isolation.

At the core is the ‘Embrace kindness’, rock painting project, with the following aims: bringing mindfulness trough painting, kindness trough spreading words of support, and community by putting people onto a common social platform to interact with each other.

Painting rocks can be a fabulous mindfulness project for all ages, expressing yourself with a message, drawing or colouring, it can help you relax and deal with anxiety, stress, and to feel better. It’s an activity for the whole family, which comes in handy when in the confinement of your home during lockdown and isolations.

It can help bring families together, and give a moment of pause, allowing little ones to experiment with diverse colours and materials. Parents and children creating together and teaching each other new skills during a bonding activity.

Then, there’s the process of hiding the painted rocks around the community, and then seeing the photos and posts of our art, uplifting those around us, and giving us a platform to share.

The person finding a surprise gift will experience a feeling of happiness, having a sense of community is a foundation for feelings of safety and security. The social media platform, allows people to get in touch with each other from a safe distance.

When I started creating this project, we thought about creating classes in the community centre. For now, we will have to hold this until Covid restrictions allow us to meet in person again.  The Facebook page is full of guides and instructions on how to start, and even how to create your own stones with cement, demonstrated by my 10 year-old son.

For my family, this project already started to give fruits, it brings us all together, creating and teaching each other new techniques, and we experience the joy of going to the park, hiding the stones. My little one is such an avid art creator that I had to think about alternative materials for him to paint, as we ran out of stones, so we started working on wood. I also found myself alone making some dotted mandalas, a very calming activity for moments when we have a full mind.

When we engage in creative activities, we flood our body with stress reducing hormones, and we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Mindful painting can be a type of meditation, and extremely relaxing.

The kindness stones project came to stay in our house, and hopefully will be part of the community for some time to come, but two other small projects came parallel to it.

Halloween was the kickstart of this project, I was very sad when I found out that trick or treating was not going to be part of Halloween this year, but as someone in a vulnerable family nucleus, I completely agree with the decision. So, I decided to create a stones treasure hunt in the Barbican gardens, the idea is that for 2 days, families can go to the garden, find the stones, share the photos of the stones and their costumes, and after each child receives a monster glove, full of sweets and the encouragement to start creating their own stones. This ensures that children can still go out in costumes and have a rewarding activity and some well-deserved sweets. With each family doing their own hunt, it becomes an activity that respects socially distancing. And fruits already started to bloom, more parents in the community offered to help to distribute the sweets, showing that the care and sense of community are alive and well inside the Barbican walls.

Christmas will bring another activity to embrace kindness, we will be making gratitude stones, we will think about what we are grateful for and create some gratitude stones to give to our loved ones. An activity that mixes wellbeing with kindness towards the ones we love. and to hide in the nearby parks and hopefully spread some of the joy in the big neighbourhood.

I will be creating tutorials, sharing ideas and proposing a few zoom art and mindfulness classes on Facebook, and hopefully many more will come forward as admin on the page, making this a proper community sharing page. The beauty of kindness is that it grows exponentially, one pure act of kindness can generate many more.

A bit about me.

Coming from a family of ecologists, political activists and healers, community work runs in my family. I started volunteering in London in 2007 with cancer charities like Macmillan and Orchid cancer research, after 2009 I turned my focus toward children and women’s mental health.

For the past 2 years, my focus has been working with mindfulness, for children in the form of kids yoga classes, and for adults as mindfulness classes and women’s circles, meditative and sharing meetings for mental wellbeing. More than half of my work at the moment is free, with St Luke’s community centre and LAWRS, Latin American women’s rights services.

It is my believe that community and a sense of belonging are part of our basic needs, but we tend to put it aside because of other commitments, and now, in this time of lockdown, we are more than ever suffering from isolation and with anxiety. As a new resident of the Barbican community, I decided to engage via this project.