Teachers Rebecca Li and Shaka Georges guided once again an engaging retreat for NCMC — expecially important since the majority of the students were beginners. The students asked excellent questions during the Q&A’s. The reflections got personal and the students empathized, connected, and learn from each other because of it. Of concern to many was how to bring what they learned on the cushion home to the people they live with and see often.
A couple teachings that were taken home to practice were: a) See things for what they are and not what you think they should be. So pay attention as the ideas in your mind are most often not what is right in front of you, and, b) Suffering provides us with the opportunity to observe and experience our habits. We always have a choice to continue acting out our habits or free ourselves to expose the truth through mindfulness.
One student commented that they would take home the art of seeing people the way they are and another about how it helps to practice with others and to hear their questions about the practice.
We had one 10 year old participant who had lots of fun with the movement meditations and was the first to volunteer to show her drawing and explain it during the Art of Seeing workshop.
The vegan lunch was a hit! People came back for seconds and there were plenty of compliments. We thank our volunteers Elena, Marcus, and Teneka for their support at the retreat. And kudos to Elvis for his beautiful art photography of the program. We are especially grateful for the teachers Rebecca and Shaka for practicing with us.
And, as always, thank you to Lowell, director of Index Art Center, for providing assistance, and this time, such a colorful venue to experience… and well, see!
It’s a wonderful line-up for the day. You can register for full-day or part-day. Here’s a quick listing of bio-notes of your presenters:
Mandara Parashakti Akiwumi is a trauma informed, evidence-based pastoral and spiritual counselor, wellness coach, and equity, diversity, and inclusion trainer. She is certified in mindfulness, yoga, and multiple somatic traditions. She received her training from Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Walden University, The New Seminary, and many teachers.
Michelle Beadle Holder, PhD, President and CEO, Food at the Center, Inc. is a medical sociologist dedicated to doing her part to improve the social and physical health of black families. Her research has appeared in the Journal of African American Studies, Substance Use and Misuse, and American Journal of Health Behavior. In 2018, Dr. Holder founded Food at the Center, Inc., an educational and research social enterprise that uses food to build meaningful connections, improve health, and celebrate the culinary genius of people of African descent.
Kamilah Crawley, MPH,CHES is a public health professional who has provided health education workshops and trainings for various populations. She currently focuses on the intersection of public health, mindfulness and meditation as a tool for healing and healthy living. Kamilah was born and raised in Newark and is an alumni of University High School. Her degrees are from Temple University and the Rutgers School of Public Health.
Aleah A. Gathings, JD, MPH is an advocate for children and a proponent of the medical-legal partnership model. Aleah believes in the power of hope, love, and the ongoing fight for social and health justice.
Jillian Faulks-Majuta, Founder and CEO of Majuta Wellness, is committed to bringing wellness to individuals, groups and communities who are interested in living their most fulfilling lives possible. Through journaling, Kemetic Yoga™ and Holistic Health Coaching (July 2019). Jillian creates spaces for people to feel safe enough to challenge their bodies, thoughts and habits.
You will enjoy a heart and body warming day of winter practice in semi-silence with a like-minded soul group. Your retreat will include relaxing into clarity through meditation (chan) with Rebecca, flowing with healing movement (chi-gong) with Shaka, a creative Art of Seeing workshop, Truth Talks, and engaging dialogue. Also included are healthy breakfast treats from during check-in and a delicious vegetarian lunch. See Teachers Bio-notes.
*You must request to volunteer BEFORE registering. Contact the retreat coordinator (email below). You can discuss the volunteer opportunities then.
It was a spectacular day on Saturday, November 10th for a hike through a 5.5 mile stretch of Newark NJ. The weather was a bit chilly, sunny, and breezy so we were bundled up. This was Newark Center for Meditative Culture’s first such program, though we have done shorter nature walks and hikes through Branch Brook Park and South Mountain Reservation. This particular hike was held in cooperation with Hikeolution and The Spirit Centered Life.
It was also a day of renewal for one of our urban hikers as this was the way she was spending her birthday – and we shared in her renewal.
We started off with a prayer for guidance and protection by co-leader Kazi, spiritual director of NCMC, forming a circle around a large tree near the northern corner of Lincoln Park.
Walking north on Broad Street for a while, we then entered Military Park, the base for NCMC’s warm season outdoor meditation and tai-chi. Here we picked up a few more hikers. We again made a circle. This time on the Great Lawn where Kazi lead us in a graceful flowing tai-chi movement called Wave Hands Like Clouds.
We continued along Broad to Washington Park studying the monuments. A nice surprise participant to our hike was Suzanne Joblonski of Newark Centric City. She gave us an informal and informative tour of the landmarks and background of Newark along the way. We also had two members of the Appalacian Mountain Club join us too — one from NYC and the other all the way from Philly!
We learned from co-leader Keyana Jones that we were following the yellow-blazed Lenape Trail of the Lenni-Lenape, indigenous people of this area. She pointed out a marked tree on James Street and we were to continue on this trail through Branch Brook Park. Her associate, Leslie Arthur, described how this trail is 34 miles long. Newark and Millburn are at either end, the trail bowing all the way north just into Passaic County.
We continued to make our way, our hike zig-zagging back and forth along concrete and grass, crossing over Route 280 to Branch Brook Park. Following along the blazed trail, we stopped along the way to reflect on the lakes and absorb the colors of the berries in purples, reds, oranges, and golds.
Our “great ascent” was to climb the some 25 steps up to a large meadow. Here we practiced a qi-gong standing meditation that Kazi called The Mother, an energy harvesting form that in just a few minutes of practice, the group felt results.
Almost there, we sauntered a little while longer close to the cherry blossom groves and crossed over into Belleville at 5.47 miles. Retracing our steps back a little way into Newark, we ended our beautiful and peace-filled urban nature hike.
To all things there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
— Ecclesiastes 3
Hippocrates, in teaching the doctors of his day, said, “Consider the seasons of the year and what each of them produces.” When you respect the seasons you will respect your body, mind, and spirit and their needs.
Based on chinese medicine the fall is the season of the element of metal and lung and the lungs are associated with sadness and grief. We move from the external, expansive nature of summer to the internal, contracting nature of fall.
What does this have to do with meditation?
Through specific meditation and mindfulness skills — stationary, movement, eating, sound, and all our sense organs — we can learn season-specific techniques and tools for self-care: stress resilience, immunity boosting, health promotion, and methods to boost your creativity and mental sharpness.
We can also develop insight into the constantly changing, impermanent nature of our bodies and minds and learn to let go. In fact the energy of the lungs is related to “letting go” — first remembering our breath, using our breath, relaxing our breath — then becoming aware and allowing the elements and nourishment to inform us.
The northeast Autumn with it’s cool temperatures and warmly-colored leaves is a good time to:
• eat hot foods
• eat gourd foods
• supplement with mullein
• get to bed early
• sweat in a sauna
• socialize locally.
Over the past six years, NCMC has presented close to 300 life changing, health promoting, and self-empowering programs within the context of the socially engaged, multi-cultural, and diverse population of the Greater Newark Area.
16 Seasonal Full-Day Meditation Retreats (including 3 People of Color Retreats)
10 First Sunday Art and Meditation Workshops
Over 200 Meditation Workshops (of which over 30 bi-lingual workshops offered)
2 Ten-Week Basic Meditation Courses
26 Dharma Movie/Meditation Sessions
2 Online Meditation Medicine Courses
16 Tai Chi/Qi Gong Classes
2 Open Mind Film Festivals
12 Nature Walks and Hikes
1 Deep Ecology Training Workshop
Publishing of 2 Books: Buddhist Dharma Book and Meditation Manual.
Having established ourselves as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2017 and having previously engaged since 2012 as a community initiative, we now need to meet some formative and developmental needs in order to advance our Mission, which is:
To be a safe place where like-minded people can gather in order to practice the fundamental meditation methods of tranquility, insight, healing, and loving-kindness (metta), and to become engaged together in conscientious, compassionate, and contemplative activities as a group and in the local community.
How do we work?
NCMC is a volunteer-run organization with a strong commitment to openness and inclusion. We do this in two ways:
Diversity/Expansiveness: We offer both general programs and pin-pointed programs for specific affinity groups of people and surrounding issues. For example, our People of Color retreats especially are intended to provide an affinity group for individuals who daily confront the effects of oppression and racism, and who therefore may initially choose to avoid mixed programs.
Inclusiveness: All of our programs are offered as donation-based no-fee or free to the participant. We base this system on the practice of dana or generosity, which is inherent to many spiritual traditions. Your donations will allow us to continue to provide life enhancing programs to the entire community regardless of their present economic circumstances.
NCMC is committed to community engagement and compassionate activism and to educating the community about meditation and its benefits. We have collaborated with or facilitated meditation classes and programs for several organizations including:
Artisan Collective – Barat Foundation – Bateman & Associates – Greater Newark Tennis & Education – Hikeolution – I’m So Yoga Newark – Ironbound Community Corporation – Newark LGBTQ Center – Newark Museum – Newark Yoga Movement – NJPAC – Rabbit Hole Farm – Sis & Bro Foundation.
In the educational sector, we have provided our services to:
Rutgers Law School – Rutgers Bookstore – Louise A. Spencer Community School – Technology High School.
We have also engaged in area compassionate activism through participation in walks, marches, and activities such as:
Million March NYC – Buddhist Global Relief NYC Walk to Feed the Hungry – 300.org People’s Climate March – Clean Energy Walk Phila. (w/NJ group) – Buddhist Council Meditate NYC & Peace Lantern Festival.
NCMC has also worked closely with generous venue providers over the years including:
Index Art Center – City Without Walls Gallery – Seed Gallery – Military Park Partnership – Ironbound Community Corporation (current).
What are our immediate needs?
Our current fundraising goal of $5,000 is a portion of our 2019 budget of $12,000. The focus of this initial campaign is to raise the finances needed to begin the new year with a strong organizational infrastructure. Our “must haves” include:
– Bookkeeper $16-20 per hour at 1 hr a week approx for yr.
– Accountant for tax return and quarterly filings for yr.
– QuickBooks Pro
• Office Supplies
– Post Office Box (yearly)
– Domain Name Renewal (yearly)
• Student and Teacher Advancement
– MBSR fundamentals teacher training online: 1 student
APPROX $5,000What do we hope to do in the near future?
• establish more weekly and monthly group meditations and study groups
• reestablish our monthly First Sunday meditation and creative journaling
• establish a weekly Sunday meditation group
• develop a training program for student leaders for groups
• provide opportunities for our students to deepen their practice at longer residential retreats
• provide opportunities for our students to advance to teachers
• secure funding to be able to afford rent for a steady place to hold group sessions
• secure funding for a director or part-time directors
• secure funding to support free programming (as our teachers need to be gifted and expenses covered)
• establish a community of practice that includes volunteers practicing generosity who love meditation or being around meditators and understanding our purpose.
So you can see, we need your help in funding!
Can we take a little more of your valuable time to relate some student stories to help you understand the need for NCMC?
(Please note that these stories are paraphrased from memory.)
One young lone meditator came to us once and scuffled shyly into the art center where we were holding our meditation session. He said “I can’t believe I’m in here, I never thought I’d be in a place like this.” He also said he had imagined how nice it would be to meditate outdoors in a park — and his dream came true! We sit in the park in the summer!
= Exposure, safe place, non-judgement.
At one of our recent People of Color Retreats, one student described how wonderful it was to “meditate with people who look like me” as she was used to having to go to meditation centers that were mainly populated by white folk.
Another woman pops in and sits with us only when she is sometimes available on Wednesday evenings. Her comment though, “I love knowing that you are here doing this every week even though I most often can’t make it.”
= The more group sessions we can hold, the more opportunities for people to show up.
Three seasoned public school staff members in Newark have come regularly and felt the positive results of continual practice. They’ve asked us mature questions about how to relieve their stress as they watch their students in difficulty and are immersed themselves in co-worker conflicts. One found results in walking meditation, another in sitting meditation, and another more in the continual probing that her new mindfulness brings.
= De-stressing techniques to help through work-related stress.
A young sensitive woman studying online to be a reiki master, having gone back and forth and back and forth through her childhood between here and Uruguay, lacks confidence in both her languages. She stated from the heart, “My passion is to become a meditation teacher.”
= Helping to build confidence and support potential meditation and mindfulness teachers.
We hope that these stories give you an idea of some of the reasons we think the development of a meditative culture in the Greater Newark Area is as vital and important a cause as we do. Do take the time to look at our website to get to know us even better at www.newarkmeditation.org.
Can you please share our story with your network of like-minded mind-loving friends who might support this cause?
Thank you again for your time. We hope you will consider donating now to help our work to get to the next level and blossom.
Thursdays, September 13 – November 15 | 5:30-7:00pm | ICC Family Success Center, The Wellness Room, 317 Elm Street, Newark, NJ
Above: On September 20th, we had three english-speaking students and one spanish-only and our meditation circle was ready to go. Mindful moments of students practicing walking and sitting meditation. But wait, where’s the men? Donde esta los hombres?! Oh, he’s taking the picture!
In these on-going weekly meditation classes with NCMC instructor J. Javier Cruz and assistant Jennifer Becher you will learn basic meditation and how to apply mindfulness in daily life to live with more ease, more joy, and less stress. Sessions include meditation, light yoga stretches, readings, and discussion. You are welcome to join in at any time. Translations to Spanish and Portuguese as needed.
As we watch the weather storms Tropical Storm Isaac, Hurricane Helene, and the incredibly threatening Hurricane Florence, we can use the parallels of our mind storms.
If we’re mindful-and-aware, these mind storms clue us in to their coming. When we catch ourselves in the middle of a mind storm we realize we weren’t attentive to the warning signs. These signs usually come in the small voice of self-talk, either mental or verbalized, that is negative or irrational. On the other hand, we need to be kind to ourselves, even amused at some of our sillier mind storms.
A humorous example comes from an excerpt of a book by meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein where she describes The Broccoli Phenomenon that occurs at retreats. She based it on the many meditators who become agitated at being served ubiquitous and often unappreciated broccoli and their ensuing mind quotes such as, “When I get home, I’m sending them a collection of good cookbooks!”, “If they are determined to serve so much broccoli, they could at least cook it separately, as a side dish!”, and “I guess I’ll put the stew over the rice and pick out the broccoli. I hope they don’t do this to me again!”.
She continues: “Days pass, meals pass, and between bouts of culinary criticism that temporarily cause mind storms, you continue to develop composure. Sitting, walking, breathing, stepping — hour by hour, gradually, while you are busy concentrating, your mind smooths itself out.”
With mind storms, we can choose to distract our minds with positive thoughts until it calms down or we can choose to watch the mind storms objectively from a mental distance, watching them come and go. We use right effort to not react by feeding them more energy caused by habitual negative thinking, impulsive reactions, and even liking them as your act.
Similarly, different people choose different ways to prepare for weather storms. Some leave the area while others stay in the area, safeguard their belongings, hunker down in a shelter, and watch and wait. Each of us approach our storms based on our conditions and relative perceptions.
Given the right conditions a mind storm thunders in and takes over before you know it. When it clouds your whole mind it can sometimes be hard to get out of. Both the cause of the mind state and the mind state itself have become unrecognizable. But, we can develop many mindfulness and meditation skills to get out of them and prevent them from gaining strength.
Given the right conditions a weather storm thunders in. We may not seem to be able to do much about them, but perhaps we can help as much as we can to gradually weaken their effects through our consumer habits, climate change advocacy, praying for those in danger, and making repairs.
PLANTING SEEDS OF DHAMMA Book-Signing • Meditation • Talk • Vendors Saturday Sep. 8 | 7:00pm to 9:00pm Fee: $15 Source of Knowledge Bookstore
RSVP | Details: Greg 973-388-4900 or Ayanna 862-944-8860
CULTIVATING WISDOM & COMPASSION TO HEAL THE COMMUNITY People of Color Full-Day Meditation Retreat Sunday Sep. 9 | 9:30am to 4:30pm Meditation • Talks • Movement • Art • Healing • Affinity Suggested Donation: $30 Atrium Room at the Early Learning Center
Register | Details: ncmc-poc-retreat.eventbrite.com