Meditation Studio Masters Guided Mindfulness Techniques
Jennifer Pascal and Mari Woodlief
In today’s frantic world, it’s all too easy to let random thoughts and distractions interrupt our daily functions. Even peaceful walks through the park can be marred by worries of an unexpected medical bill or problems in the workplace.
Enter meditation, an ancient practice which more people are discovering as they search for mind-body balance and skills to savor the present moment. Since August 2016, Mastermind, a comprehensive Dallas-based meditation studio specializing in mindfulness style meditation, has offered an array of classes for adults and children to help everyone find a sense of peace and well-being amid the chaos that modern society throws our way.
Mari Woodlief, who co-founded Mastermind along with Jennifer Pascal, says the concept for a meditation studio was born from a desire to become healthier, combined with a growing curiosity about how meditation can improve physical and mental health. Woodlief studied mindfulness training under renowned meditation expert Marty Lumpkin, Ph.D.
During the genesis of Mastermind, Woodlief and Pascal met Chelsey Charbeneau, a Los Angeles-based meditation teacher and yoga therapist who relocated to Dallas recently. She previously owned a meditation studio in Santa Monica, California. As Chief Mindfulness Officer, Charbeneau handles everything from daily studio operations, writing class curriculum, hiring and training teachers, facilitating corporate mindfulness programs and helping develop material for businesses to incorporate into their employee practices.
Mastermind has a broad array of offerings for those just beginning to explore meditation, plus intermediate and advanced seminars designed to dive deeper in understanding the history and principles of mindfulness and how to incorporate it into our daily lives. Participants learn how to enhance relationships, build overall communication skills and balance work-life matters. Upcoming classes and workshops include Mindfulness for Beginners, Stress Management Through Mindfulness, Living At Your Peak and Mindfulness for Anxiety. “They’re all designed to help people bring their lives and minds to a healthier place,” says Charbeneau.
Instructors that dive into the medical research behind meditation lead longer, 60-minute Sunday classes. Because children often deal with stress both in school and at home, there’s also Mindfulness For Kids; 30-minute sessions held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
There are approximately 25 different meditation techniques, and mindfulness is one of the most effective, says Charbeneau: “What’s great about mindfulness is that not only is it a peaceful meditation practice, but it’s also an informal process in which we live, so it brings a new heightened awareness, or consciousness, to our everyday actions. It results in less stress, more emotional intelligence, less reactivity and a better balance of the body and mind connection.”
Learning how to control the body’s response to stress helps us decide how we want to respond, leading to more pleasurable life experiences; scenery and senses become more apparent. “Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in the present moment, without judgment, so it creates new shifts to take on how you live your life,” adds Charbeneau. “We often feel like we’re rats on the wheel, eating, multitasking or on the phone, and not really enjoying the process of living. Mindfulness is learning to be very present.”
Seasoned mindfulness professionals include Lumpkin, as well as Dr. John Gasko and other experts in the realm of mental health. Most Mastermind teachers are licensed professional counselors and have medical training or backgrounds. Mindfulness for Kids instructors such as Michelle Goldsmith are schoolteachers or licensed professional counselors that work only with youth.
Mastermind recently partnered with the Emerging Teacher Institute (ETI) at the University of North Texas – Dallas (UNT) to implement a pilot program for helping urban public school teachers use mindfulness to reduce stress for themselves and students. “Teachers absorb a lot of weight, and self-care is becoming more important in teaching,” Woodlief relates.
A September 15, 2016, a National Public Radio (NPR) report, “Frustration. Burnout. Attrition. It’s Time to Address the National Teacher Shortage,” noted that while there’s an uptick in teacher hiring since the Great Recession, attrition is high and enrollment in teacher preparation programs has fallen about 35 percent over the past five years.
“With ETI, the idea was to build self-care into the curriculum,” says Woodlief. The partnership with UNT/ETI entailed teaching mindfulness to in service teachers in 14 Dallas Independent School District elementary, middle and high schools. The eight-hour curriculum was held over five sessions, and every teacher in those schools was involved.
“They learned mindfulness, including what stress does to your brain and how mindfulness mitigates that, and they learned a way of teaching the importance of self-care and laying the groundwork to teach mindfulness to their students, with an immediate impact of being calmer teachers and setting the tone in classrooms, instead of reacting to what the kids bring in,” says Woodlief.
The UNT/ETI mediation for teachers pilot program was implemented in January and finished in May. Results of the program are still being processed, but Woodlief says Mastermind staff is standing by, willing to go wherever mindfulness training is needed.
Mastermind is located at 3858 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 410, Dallas. For more information, call 214-522-4575 or visit MastermindMeditate.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.