Applied Mindfulness is dedicated to helping individuals and communities tap into their innate resources of resilience and wellbeing through the development of mindful awareness focused on ourselves, through relationships, and in communion with the living world. We observe that mainstream modern western society is experiencing an absence of meaning and wellbeing that manifests itself through unprecedented levels of normalized stress, illness both physical and emotional, existential loss of meaning, interpersonal alienation, and ecological crisis. Although humans are more technologically connected than ever before, the very foundations of the modern western worldview have emerged from disconnection- separation of the mind and body, separation from each other through dominance and oppression and othering, separation from nature through materialism and extractive economics. This disconnection is infused into the core structures of modern western epistemology and ontology- how we understand ourselves, each other, and our place in the universe. This disconnection is killing us everyday. We believe that the path towards healing and thriving requires cultivation of connection- to ourselves, each other, and the living world. As nature awareness teacher Jon Young comes explaining,

“When we feel connected to something we have a relationship with it. We value it, and we take care of it. When we don’t, we don’t.”
— Jon Young, The Role of Nature Connection in Culture Repair

This applies to ourselves, to our relationships with others, and to our relationship with the living world. We believe that we must learn and practice connection as if our lives depended on it.

The role of culture is to help individuals learn to connect with themselves, each other, and the living world. In indigenous and ancestral societies, when through stress or threat or trauma individuals got pushed out of connection, there existed a body of

restorative practices

to help them come back to this baseline of connection. Speaking biologically, the neuro-physiology of connection involves bringing online and stabilizing the ventral vagal parasympathetic aspect of the autonomic nervous system, which ties together the neural regulation of the face and voice with the regulation of the heart and lungs and induces a state of functional calm and connection, when we feel safe (Polyvagal Theory). This neural system is, not surprisingly, also activated when we access the relaxation response. Our further proposition is that it is connected as well to states of connection with the natural world. So here we have a physiological description of the Connection System, which can be evoked intentionally through restorative practices that discern deficits of connection, and address them. Mindful awareness, if skillfully applied, dissolves the illusion of separateness experientially. It is the appropriate tool for gently evoking the Connection System and supporting the concomitant transformation of self- and other-understanding that accompanies moving back into relationship. Because working with awareness is powerful, this must be done with significant care.

For the past 14 years, we’ve been helping young people and grown-ups in incarceration, medical, mental health, and educational settings develop the conceptual frameworks and transformational practices to articulate, in the clear and precise language of neurophysiology, and in the local and culturally-resonant voices of their own community and culture, a culturally-informed trauma-sensitive set of mindful awareness practices to help us become more present to our internal landscapes, available for connection with others, and connected to nature. Along the way, we have had, and continue to have a lot of support and mentorship. In our conceptual and theoretical work we draw heavily on the conceptual framework of Dr. Darcia Narvaez, pioneering researcher on the relationship between indigenous child-rearing practices and the development of morality. In neurophysiology, we draw on the work of Dr. Stephen Porges, developer of the Polyvagal Theory, and the clinical applications of Polyvagal Theory elaborated by people such as Dr. Peter Levine and Steven Hoskinson. Awareness teachers who have shaped our view include José Gabriel da Costa, GURUCHARN SINGH KHALSA, Shinzen Young, Vinny Ferraro, ALAN WALLACE. In our somatic and emotional awareness work we’ve been influenced by people like Eugene Gendlin, the CULTIVATING EMOTIONAL BALANCE PROGRAM developed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, and taught by Dr. Eve Ekman and Alan Wallace. In our relational mindfulness work, Lee Mun Wah is a primary mentor. In our nature awareness work, John Stokes, Jon Young, and Jeffrey Bronfman have been significant. In our work on narrative, Adam Johnson has been a formative mentor. Our advisors include Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness, Dr. Melissa Moore, founder of the Karuna contemplative psychology training program, and Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center. Our mentors and facilitators have come to this awareness through their own study and lived experience, and therefore are able to embody it in their own unique ways while working within a common language and conceptual framework. We come in various colors, cultures, genders, and from different walks of life. As facilitator Earl Simms says, “Some of us did our graduate work at Penn State, some us in the State Pen.” What all of this means is that when you work with us, you are working with a network of minds and hearts that spans cultures and traditions and disciplines, all in the service of life. When we do this work, we access the wisdom of the felt sense and connect again to our own indigeneity as earth-based humans, connected to place and grounded in the experience of inter-dependence, and able to work more sustainably in the service of others and of life itself.

This year we have launched the Applied Mindfulness MANIFESTO, a call to the modern mindfulness movement and society-at-large to systemically apply mindfulness across all the domains of our lives, including the relational, and with the living world. It is a call to unite our internal work with the work of social and restorative justice and ecological awe and restoration, as these three are inseparably linked. We are creating our first FILMS series, Restorative Practices, in collaboration with a range of luminary thinkers, practitioners, and activists in mindfulness and its application in neurophysiology, somatic and emotional awareness, individual and collective trauma healing, movement practices, diversity equity and inclusion training, nature awareness, and creativity. We are launching a forthcoming BOOK of the same name, and have created a variety of writings and learning aids. We recently launched Applied Mindfulness MATERIALS to offer learning tools and other relevant materials congruent with our mission. We offer EXPERIENCES of several types, including on-site trainings for organizations and collectives of all types, as well as retreats and keynotes. Part of our business model is offering 10% of our resources through STRATEGIC PHILANTHROPY and targeted consulting to organizations we believe in.

If you are new to our work, one of the easiest ways to learn what we are up to is to check out our manifesto (and sign it if you agree!), then watch the introduction to our Restorative Practices film series for free here. If you are interested in booking a training, take a look at our experiences page and be in touch. If you want to buy a righteous wool hat with the star logo, go here. We hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with you, and wish you sincerely well. Thanks for coming to learn a little bit about our work.