Local Non-profit Teaches Mindfulness
Stress is a common factor in everyone’s lives and its negative effects can be difficult for adults and children to manage successfully. Fortunately, there is Open Minds, Inc., a non-profit community resource for facilitating mindfulness education for all ages, which recently celebrated its first anniversary serving the needs of underserved Western Maryland communities. “We offer yoga, meditation, breathing practice training, nature-based activities, nutrition and the arts to relieve stressors in all environments, fostering a more healthy, positive, and productive lifestyle,” relates co-founder Jan Hummer, who developed the idea for the organization’s mission after attending a mindfulness conference at American University in March 2014.
Jan, who has a master’s degree in contemplative education from Naropa University, attended the Holistic Life Foundation, Baltimore session at the American University conference and decided to create Open Minds in Hagerstown with co-founder Amanda Adkins. “There is a strong need to develop mindfully-educated communities demonstrating passion, gratitude and respect, as well as balance. It’s a very stressful world right now. Our goal is to reach as many people as we can, from children through adults,” shares Jan.
Since its inception, Open Minds has developed mindfulness programs with several Western Maryland organizations reaching children, teens and adults. “We are in our second year offering mindfulness classes at Head Start Noland Village and we began a gardening program there in May.” Other mindfulness education partnerships included Boys and Girls Club of Washington County, and Girls, Inc., both of which have seen positive results. “We’re connecting students’ minds, bodies, and spirits together so they can manage their reactions in positive ways. And through the yoga segments of the program, they are also getting physical activity.” Open Minds continues its second year assisting teens in HCC’s Upward Bound program, as well as offering programs at the ARC of Frederick County, Brunswick High School (Frederick County, Md.), and weekly meditation and discussion groups and garden assistance at Soul Haven in Hagerstown.
In addition to organizational programs, Open Minds hosts mindfulness retreats. “We hosted 18 teens from MD Promise and the Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. at Fox Haven Farms for mindfulness and nature immersion via the Coyote Mindfulness Retreat for Teens in June. It was wonderful to see kids from two different walks of life interact. Many who live in the city had never enjoyed nature. They learned about mindfulness techniques, yoga, camping, and organic food.”
Open Minds hosts its first retreat geared to educating adults in mid-September. “We’re offering a program designed specifically to help teachers, coaches, parents, social workers and anyone looking to integrate mindfulness, and social and emotional learning into their daily life,” Jan explains.
Mindfulness is a rapidly growing movement around the country and Open Minds will implement more programs this fall that correlate with communities’ ever-growing needs. Open Minds will offer family mindfulness sessions at Frederick Mediation Center; host wellness classes at Noland Village in conjunction with the University of Maryland Extension Office, Hagerstown and meditation in the park events around Hagerstown; workshops in conjunction with the Frederick Housing Authority; weekly workshops at Brunswick High School, Frederick County; monthly wellness workshops at Fox Haven Farms; and monthly OM mindful outdoor retreats beginning October through June. The organization will also participate in the Mindfulness and Education Summit to be held at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV next April.
Open Minds is also moving forward to develop and expand its community partnerships and reach via fundraisers and sponsorships. “Mindfulness is growing. We’re here to help people as much as we can and give them the tools they need to create less stress in their lives and be healthier.”
- Jane Schmidt is a freelance writer living in Hagerstown, Md. who specializes in writing feature stories, advertising/marketing copy and business profiles.