WINOOSKI, Vt.- What began as a way to help grade school students have better focus has turned into a city-wide initiative in Winooski.
The Mindful City Project is being made possible through a $20,000 grant given to the Center for Mindful Learning by the Vermont Community Foundation. On Monday night, Winooski city council members experienced how to practice it first hand, before their meeting.
“You pick a focus, so in there we were doing relaxation,” says Lindsay Forman, Program Director at the Center for Mindful learning. You notice your tension going to something else and every time that happens, you bring it back to relaxation.”
The Mindfulness Project started two years ago at JFK Elementary School. Its success caused the project to branch out to The Winooski Middle High School.
Arica Bronz is partly to thank for the start of the initiative. She, along with another mother, asked the Center for Mindful Learning to teach the practice to Winooski students.
“If we don’t have training on what it means to be ‘present,’ then more and more we’re going to move off of something that’s scary, or sad, or challenging, and we miss something there,” says Bronz. “We miss part of our humanity and our ability to connect with each other.”
In a world of technology and stress, Bronz wanted her daughter to have an escape.
“It’s a really nice way to relax,” says 11-year-old Linden Bronz-Russo, Arica’s daughter. “Everybody just seems a lot calmer.”
The council members are in support.
“It’s a great community builder,” says Winooski City Manager Katherine Decarreau. ”It’s kind of weird to think about if you sit in a room and breathe all to yourself it builds community, but trust us, it does.”
Lindsay Forman is in the process of setting up a mindfulness practice session with the Winooski Police Department as well, which is one of three partners in the project, along with the Winooski school district.