Volunteer Trials and Tribbles – I mean, Tribulations

So I was doing something today that everyone should do one and a while — volunteering. Seriously, like an hour a week won’t kill you. Hell, even an hour a month if you’re that busy. It can be hard to find secular programs to volunteer for, which may be why secular people are allegedly less likely than the religious to volunteer for stuff and donate money, but there are ways to be involved in religious-y programs without wanting to shoot yourself in the face. For example, just don’t go on the days they’re praying or going to church etc. Do other things like sports, activities, bookkeeping, fliers, etc. for the more secular parts of the program. Many programs that have religious/spiritual components also have components that aren’t overtly religious/spiritual, too.

For instance, I was volunteering today at the YWCA which has many woman power, body energy, spirit, blah blah nonsense. But most of the day, which is a summer camp by the way, was based on stuff that had nothing to do with that. The only infuriating part was at the end and it lasted a mere 30 minutes. Even though it was relatively excruciating, it was a small price to pay to be part of a free camp that’s offered to mostly underprivileged young girls.

The day was spent doing music and art. Tomorrow we are going to a science center and I’m doing a science experiment. So even though we had to do the 30 minute excruciatingly pseudoscientific garbage that made me stabby, I think I can at least even things out and the girls will have been exposed to science as well. I also intend to do a piece on critical thinking and not believing everything they hear.

So enough suspense, what had my knuckles white at the end of the day was a meditation that we did as a group. Now, I just want to make it clear that I have no problem with meditation as a general idea. There are non-ridiculous ways of meditating and there are non-ridiculous explanations for what happens when you meditate. A form of “meditation” that we use in [profession deleted] is rhythmic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation — no woo-woo involved.

This round of meditation however was based on “ancient Chinese” (there were actual “oohs” and “aahs” at this point) blah blah blah, called Qigong — pronounced either chi-gong or ki-gong. So I had to endure explanations like:

“Hold your hands out in front of you with palms facing each other. That tingling is your energy bouncing between your hands.” (Inner monologue: “Actually it’s my ulnar nerve rubbing against my medial epicondyle”).

“Stand with your feet perfectly parallel so that you’re open and energy will flow through your central meridians.” (Inner monologue: “Sigh.”).

“Now bring your arms to your chest and down, while bending the knees. That’s pushing the energy from your hands down through your central meridian and out your feet.” (Inner monologue: “Or your activating nerves due to movement, ala proprioception, and the regular breathing you’re doing combined with concentrating on an arbitrary detail like moving the arms is what is relaxing you — such as in non-ridiculous meditation.”)

“You should all be feeling more energized.” (Inner monologue: “I’d be surprised if they didn’t considering you just told them what they should be feeling.”)

“Adults have more of a problem feeling the energy than kids, so you guys should be able to feel it” (Inner monologue: “Adults also have a harder time believing in fairies. Are you going to hold that against me too?”)

I don’t want to step on the girls toes who did the meditation because she’s a nice girl and this would be really confrontational of me considering the environment, but I’m soooooo tempted tomorrow to do the exact same exercise during my science talk and give the scientific explanations for everything. I guess I’ll just have to try to repair the damage with my general critical thinking talk.

Not that I want to convert them all into little scientists — it’s not for everyone — but I am seriously disturbed that there may have been 30 girls in that room today who’d never heard of meridians and qi who are now home believing that it was true just because one of the event staff said it. Sigh indeed.

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