Chattanooga’s first non-profit non-sectarian center dedicated to teaching and supporting mindful practices will officially open on Tuesday.
A free open house is scheduled at the Center for Mindful Living on Sunday, Sept. 8, from 3-5 p.m.
The Center for Mindful Living is a place where people of diverse backgrounds can come to participate in a variety of mindfulness practices, such as meditation, contemplation, and mindful movement (e.g., yoga, tai ji), that encourage stress reduction and self-awareness. Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present and accepting ourselves and others without judgment or fear, officials said.
Scientific research evidence suggests that practicing mindfulness helps people respond to the flow of life in a resilient and peaceful manner; lead more joyful, compassionate, healthy and meaningful lives; and become positive agents for change in their communities, officials said.
It has been 30 years since Jon Kabat-Zinn launched his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Since that time, a growing body of research has documented the physical and psychological health benefits of practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks.
The Center for Mindful Living is at 1212 McCallie, across from Warner Park. The public spaces of the 4,000 sq. ft. facility are:
• The Meditation and Contemplation Room and Garden is a dedicated space for individuals and groups to practice stillness, contemplation, and meditation. Floor cushions and chair seating are available in the indoor Meditation and Contemplation Room. The enclosed outdoor garden adjoins the Meditation and Contemplation Room and offers space for walking meditation.
• The Education Studio is a space for daily programs, special workshops, and multi-session courses.
• The Library is an area with books, DVDs and CDs related to mindfulness practices and the health of mind, body and spirit.
• The Community Room and Kitchen is an area for members and visitors to relax before or after attending an education program or spending time in the Meditation and Contemplation Room.
Free parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Center, enter from the corner of Spruce Street and McCallie Avenue.
The mission of the Center for Mindful Living is to teach and support practices that help us be with ourselves and with others, in the present moment without judgment, officials said. Programs and workshops at the Center for Mindful Living aim to help visitors and members “experience inner peace in a changing world.”
• Workshops provide instruction in practices such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Communications, Mindfulness Based Eating, Mind-Body Skills, as well as retreats and other offerings. A workshop, The Twelve Steps as a Spiritual Practice, will be presented by Rabbi Rami Shapiro on Nov. 2; Rabbi Rami is an acclaimed author and columnist in Spirituality and Health magazine. Workshops are fee-based; Center members receive discounts.
• Daily Mindfulness Practice Programs help members and visitors maintain and deepen a practice of mindfulness, lower stress and increase self-awareness. These programs, offered at various times throughout the day, include guided and healing meditations, gentle movement programs (yoga, tai ji, labyrinth walking), sound meditation, mindful meals, dream work, and much more. General admission for these programs is $5-$15; members attend for free.
• Meditation/Contemplation/ Stillness offerings include (1) Individual Time, (2) Silent Group Sits and (3) Group Gatherings in the Meditation and Contemplation Room. Currently four groups meet on a weekly basis at the Center for meditation and contemplation. They include Zen of Chattanooga, Passage Meditation, Tara Mandala Sangha, and Insight Meditation of Chattanooga. A Centering Prayer group will also be established at the Center during September. A $5 donation is suggested but not required for use of the Meditation and Contemplation Room and Garden.
• Free Introduction to Mindfulness and the Center events will be offered at various times.
Program and workshop details are posted, and online workshop registration is available on the Center’s website: www.centermindfulliving.org.
Memberships are available to the general public. Members receive a variety of benefits, including free or discounted admission to programs and workshops at the Center, borrowing privileges in the Center Library, and invitations to special Member Gatherings. There are several different membership levels, but the most popular is the individual annual membership for $250 (monthly payment plans are available).
Memberships are available online at http://centermindfulliving.org/member or in person at the Center for Mindful Living.
The support of Members ensures that those of less means still have access to the offerings of the Center. A limited number of volunteer memberships and workshop scholarships are available.
The Center for Mindful Living is the result of a concept initially presented to a group of interested local residents in October, 2011. Since that time, a dedicated group of volunteers have refined the concept, developed operating plans, and raised funds to make the Center for Mindful Living a reality. After a “Create Our Space Party” was held at the Center in October, 2012, contributions and in-kind donations were secured to furnish and outfit the Center. Construction and finishing of the space has been ongoing since that time.
The Education Studio of the Center for Mindful Living has been open since early 2013 and has been the meeting location for several meditation groups, as well as the site for a number of educational programs related to mindfulness, including an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.
Earlier this year, volunteers from the Center for Mindful Living presented a five-week outreach program at the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA), a diverse K-8 public magnet school. These programs were designed to help 6th and 7th grade students manage and reduce stress. Fun and friendly mindfulness techniques were developed to build kids’ inner and outer awareness and attention and to positively affect their academic performance and social/emotional skills such as making friends, being compassionate and kind to others, officials said. A formal evaluation was conducted, and additional mindfulness-based programs for educators and students are planned for the future.
A seven-member Board of Directors leads the Center for Mindful Living and includes Lisa Harrison (president), Julie L. Brown (vice-president), Jann B. Sullivan (secretary), Nora Bernhardt (treasurer), Randy Hollingsworth, Lynne Lockie, and King Oehmig. Joellen Dickey and Susu Smartt also serve on a volunteer “Operations Team.”
Jennifer Fahey has been hired as the part-time Center manager, and she is responsible for recruiting and managing a volunteer force that will be responsible for staffing the Center during operating hours. Depending upon volunteer support, the Center will be open to the public from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. on Mondays-Thursdays, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays; and 10: a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Operating hours will be posted on the website.
Instructors confirmed for programs and workshops through December include: Anne Bright, Julie L. Brown, Robin Burk, Stephen Cavitt, Annie Harpe, Lisa Harrison, Judy Herman, Pamela Kelle, Lilan Laishley, Janka Livoncova, Lynne Lockie, Jas Milam, King Oehmig, Yong Oh, David Prestridge, Gerre Schwert, Susu Smartt, and Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Instructors have varied expertise, and training has taken place at various locations including the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Mind-Body Medicine Training Retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington D.C. A number of instructors are practicing psychotherapists or counselors. Most hold graduate degrees and several hold Ph.D. degrees.
The Center for Mindful Living also includes four private offices that are rented to affiliate practitioners whose practices incorporate present-moment awareness in their services. Currently two psychotherapists, a life coach, and two bodywork/massage practitioners occupy three of the four rental offices. This rental income covers a portion of the operating expenses of the Center.
The Center’s application for non-profit status has been submitted to the IRS; approval is anticipated by the end of 2013. The Center will be funded primarily through memberships and donations, as well as by program and workshop admission fees and practitioner rental income. Until the IRS confirms the Center’s non-profit status, Community Shares is serving as the financial agent for the Center. Community Shares, based in Knoxville, is a 501 (c)(3) federation of Tennessee based community groups who have joined together to raise money cooperatively for their programs.