As new businesses pop up around the West Side, there is a storefront at 484 Connecticut Street whose signage is subtle so it might not have grabbed your attention yet. It’s called Mindgardens and its purpose is to teach Mindfulness Meditation. In our highly stimulating world with so many things vying for our attention at all times, it can provide balance to sit and focus inwardly, to practice attending to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations through mindfulness meditation. After all, our inner world affects us at least as much, if not more than the external information coming in.
The two Mindgarden business owners, Gregory Bodekor and David Evans, have more than three decades each, of in depth education as well as professional and personal practice in the area of fostering human growth and development. Greg’s background is in a range of human services including substance abuse, criminal justice and disabilities. David’s expertise includes trauma recovery as well as meditation and economics. They know firsthand what they teach; they practice it, and are committed to sharing it with others.
Mindfulness meditation is not new or unique to Mindgardens. The internationally known scientist and writer, Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, has worked since 1979 to bring mindfulness into the mainstream. He founded the Mindfulness Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where they offer on –site as well as on-line programs to practice and learn mindfulness meditation. Through his teaching, writing, and appearances on national news programs, Kabat-Zinn has brought these techniques not only to society in general, but to educational, medical and prison environments. His work is available at Mindgardens on Connecticut Street.
Why mindfulness mediation? Mindfulness meditation improves overall well-being including physical and mental/emotional health. Practitioners can increase their capacity to enjoy life, to deal with adversity, and to connect with others. Health improvements include stress relief, reduced pain and disease as well as improved sleep. There is reported less depression, substance abuse, disordered eating, anxiety, relational conflicts, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
After an eight week course, participants attest to an increased ability to accept their experiences and respond rather than react to situations. There are several programs offered at Mindgardens, including the eight week course to learn mindfulness practices, Mindfulness in Addictions, Mindful Eating and more. The storefront has a lobby area as well as a seminar room where participants learn in small groups.
On Saturday, May 14th, there is a Mindfulness Experience from 10:00 until 2:00 p.m. and on Friday, May 20th at 6:00 p.m., there is an evening opportunity for learning about mindfulness meditation and the presenters; both of which are at the Connecticut Street site. There is an ongoing group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst on Thursday nights from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. Check out the website, or call 716-259-2994 for details.
Last week, my daughter and I showed up for an introduction and met with the Greg and Dave to learn about mindfulness meditation and the Mindgardens. There is no window in the front of the building, but don’t be put off by that, when you walk through the door, you will feel welcomed. After even a brief encounter, it is apparent that they both bring warmth, compassion and presence to their interactions with others. This makes it possible to take in the information about mindfulness and witness the benefits at the same time.
Mindfulness meditation improves overall well-being including physical and mental/emotional health.
The goal of mindfulness meditation has to do with being present rather than in our thoughts or feelings, witnessing life as it happens without our stories or judgments layered on top of what is happening. Without that layer, awareness is increased, stress reduced and greater ease arises in meeting life. After all, it is what it is, not what we tell ourselves about what it is. Our thoughts about things are based on conditioning rather than on what is presenting in the moment. Those reoccurring thoughts are how we project our past onto the future and keep repeating the same thing. Although the goal for mindfulness meditation is not to change or fix anything, being present does change our experience of life.
It’s worth experimenting with and maybe developing a habit of mindfulness, especially if living in the world of your repetitive thoughts is not truly serving you. Think about or better yet, experience it by showing up for one of the events described above.