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Starting Conversations About Mindfulness with Steven Universe

In our work with sexual assault survivors and in the community, it can be helpful to explore the topic of mindfulness. This tip provides a fun and engaging way to start conversations about mindfulness with young people.

Mindfulness is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Regularly practicing mindfulness helps us to better identify our feelings and maintain some detachment from them (simply noticing a feeling and observing it), creating the conditions to choose how we respond instead of reacting when we experience strong emotions. Mindfulness is useful for all people and for youth who have increased stress in their lives or youth engaged in change work to interrupt oppression; this practice can be especially valuable.

Steven Universe is a cartoon that is loved by children, teens and adults alike. The cartoon follows a young boy named Steven and his unconventional family of alien “crystal gems.” This TV show explores many different values-oriented topics that can be useful for support groups, workshops, and presentations in the sexual assault field. Since the episodes are about ten minutes long, they make an excellent “self-care break” and can also be used to start discussions. Clips can also be shown during shorter presentations to illustrate a particular point or whole episodes could be screened during a support group session with popcorn as a way to break the ice and get participants thinking about a particular topic.

Tips For Facilitators

  • Watching the TV show and becoming familiar with the characters and plot will help you more easily create context for participants before showing the episode.

  • To get you started, we’ve selected one episode that explores mindfulness. The episode "Mindful Education" is currently available to watch for free. You can watch it here.

Mindful Education Season 4 Episode 4

In this episode Steven and his best friend Connie practice sword fighting for the first time as the fusion1 Stevonnie. Stevonnie begins to have difficulty when shame from an earlier mistake distracts them from sword fighting and Steven and Connie learn that they cannot stay fused while distracted and upset. Garnet, another character on the show who is also a fusion, helps Steven and Connie learn to manage their emotional overwhelm by practicing mindfulness. Group discussion questions for this episode can include questions like:

  • What happens to Stevonnie when they become caught up in an intense emotion?

  • Is that similar for you? Do you find that you become distracted, can’t focus, make mistakes when you are experiencing strong feelings?

  • Have you ever tried to challenge an oppressive comment while experiencing strong feelings? Did it feel harder to think of what to say?

  • What advice does Steven offer to Connie when she first confides in him that she is feeling guilty about the mistake she made?

  • Have you tried to not think about something that is bothering you? How did that work for you?

  • What advice does Garnet offer to Connie and Steven about addressing strong emotions? What key pieces of advice did you hear in Garnet’s song?

Advocates should not try to use mindfulness with survivors as a way to process their trauma. Slowing down and becoming aware of breathing and bodily sensations can be uncomfortable or triggering for some. This is a therapeutic intervention and practitioners should have clinical training. However, this video can help introduce the topic of mindfulness as a concept to explore and tool in effective communication. Facilitators can choose mindfulness activities that require focus on something external rather than internal physical sensations and breathing. Ideas for mindfulness activities can be found in the resources below. 

[1] The term Fusion on Steven Universe means that two or more characters have joined together to become a single character. Usually the skills and qualities of both characters are found in the combined character along with a new skill or talent that neither individual possesses on their own.

Additonal Resources

Reviewed: May 17th, 2017