Executive Director: Sam Himelstein, PhD
Sam Himelstein, a formerly incarcerated youth himself, is dedicated to and passionate about serving high-risk and incarcerated youth through the practice of mindfulness and other emotional intelligence skills. He brings a great deal of both personal and professional experience to his role as Executive Director of The Mind Body Awareness Project.
As a young adolescent, Sam was heavily involved in the juvenile justice system and was incarcerated on several occasions over a period of three years. He was on a personal path to destruction, struggling with drugs, violence, delinquency, and most notably anger. He eventually turned his life around through connections with mentors, personal inner work (including mindfulness meditation), and the never-ending love and support of his parents.
Sam went on to graduate high school, college, and eventually pursued his PhD in Clinical Psychology. He received his PhD from Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) where he is now Associate Core Faculty, teaching classes on the incorporation of mindfulness into psychotherapy in the low residency master’s program.
Sam completed the first published research for MBA, entitled, “A Mixed Methods Study of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention with Incarcerated Youth.” as his dissertation. He has been involved with MBA for over five years in many different positions including MBA Instructor, Program Manager, and Director of Research and has dedicated his career to working with high-risk and incarcerated adolescents. His knowledge and love for this work have been compiled in his upcoming book, “A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents,” which will be published by Routledge in April of 2013.
Director of Operations: Juliana Hawawini Johnson
Juliana’s career in the nonprofit world began in 2005, after the birth of her second son. After having worked in the entertainment industry for several years – on both the business and creative side – she had the intense feeling that spending significant time away from her children felt very wrong unless the work she was doing during those many hours made a difference. Juliana decided to actively seek out organizations whose missions she felt strongly about.
The first such organization was The Family Center, a nonprofit organization in New York City, whose mission is the strengthening of families affected by illness, crisis and loss. She subsequently went on to work for the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and The Well Project, two organizations putting forth great efforts to make an impact on the HIV/AIDS landscape. In these three organizations, Juliana worked in capacities that encompassed all imaginable aspects of operations, human resources, administration, and website management.
In 2011, Juliana moved back to her native California after having lived in New York for 18 years. At the same time she began seriously searching for methods of handling the uncertainty and stress that arise in life simply from being human. Having embarked on her own journey to cultivate mindfulness in her life, Juliana soon became aware of the work being done by the staff of the Mind Body Awareness Project. Acutely cognizant of the inequity that those who seem to need positive life skills most are often the least likely to be exposed to them, she heartily believes in MBA’s mission. Juliana is thrilled to be part of the MBA team, and to support the work of likeminded individuals in order to bring mindfulness and other positive life skills to at-risk youth.
Senior MBA Instructor: Micah Anderson
Born in Connecticut, Micah Anderson spent several of his teen years in and out of psychiatric wards, drug rehabilitation centers, and group homes. After years involved in 12-step fellowship, followed by extensive travel overseas searching for a spiritual path, he embraced Islam in the mid 90s.
He began working with the Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA) in 2011. Since then, he has helped teach and lead trainings on mindfulness and emotional literacy in five countries, and leads a weekly meditation group in the Bay Area. Aside from being the Senior Instructor at MBA, he is a program coordinator for Ta’leef Collective in Fremont, CA., which provides an alternative social and sacred space for Muslim converts and seekers.
Micah pulls from a wide variety of lived experiences, including struggles with chemical dependency, years involved with straight-edge punk rock, as well as his ongoing practice of martial arts.
Micah lives in Oakland, CA. with his wife and son, and is currently enrolled at Sofia University to attain his Masters in Psychology/Counseling. He loves old soul 45s, Vespas, and single-origin coffee.
From left to right: Kamal Ahmed, Lauren Funiestas, Gregory Mitchell, Julia Eden Ris
Board of Directors
Connor Aiken has been professionally involved in the fitness, dance, and health field for 25 years. He is a personal trainer and advanced Pilates instructor, working with clients to help them move beyond self-imposed limitations and discover within themselves new possibilities for strength and freedom through movement. He serves on the Fundraising Committee.
Ivy Ang is founder and president of Visionlinc, a company dedicated to linking vision, people and strategies. Ivy works with CEOs and teams committed to new ways of thinking and doing business. She has 30 years of business and human resources management experience in high-tech, bio-technology, strategic design consulting and financial services. She has worked for global industry leaders such as Genentech, AIG and Landor Associates. She serves on the Executive Committee.
Dr. Kyra Bobinet is the Founding Director of Vision Youthz, an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and transformation of incarcerated youth, where she received national recognition as a pioneer in bringing contemplative and healing arts practices to urban youth. Vision Youthz merged with MBA in December of 2007. Dr. Bobinet is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and holds a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University. She serves on the Program and Fundraising Committees.
Kate Frankfurt, MSW, currently manages the San Francisco Zen Center’s capital campaign; she has also fundraised for the Dalai Lama Foundation. From 2005-2007 she was the Community Outreach Coordinator at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. From 2002-2005, she was the California Advocate for the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, where she did extensive research and advocacy on abuses within the juvenile justice system. She has also been and a social worker/case manager at The Door – a drug treatment center in the South Bronx. She serves on the program and fundraising committees.
Joy Glenwright is founder of Dedication to Special Education – a nonprofit serving developmentally disabled youth in Marin County. She ran the capital campaign to build the Technology Resource Center of Marin that services over 2,000 Marin County students in Assistive/Augmentative Communication each year. She has experience soliciting grants and major gifts from companies and foundations such as Wells Fargo, Marin Community Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and Tides Foundation. Joy has significant experience in marketing, finance/budgeting and nonprofit board-drive fundraising. She is passionate about youth issues and is currently volunteering with the Marin Collaborative Youth Court.
Isaiah Seret, M.A. is a filmmaker who has produced, directed, and assistant directed commercials, music videos, and feature films. Isaiah co-founded the MBA Project after working for Spirit Rock’s Family Program and for the Lineage Project at the San Mateo juvenile hall. He is the Chairman of the Board.
Daniel Goleman, PhD is a co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the Yale University Child Studies Center (now at the University of Illinois at Chicago), with the mission to help schools introduce emotional literacy courses. One mark of the Collaborative—and book’s—impact is that thousands of schools around the world have begun to implement such programs. His 1998 book, Working With Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books), argues that workplace competencies based on emotional intelligence play a far greater role in star performance than do intellect or technical skill, and that both individuals and companies will benefit from cultivating these capabilities. His most recent book, Primal Leadership – Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, explores the crucial role of emotional intelligence in leadership. Dr. Goleman is co-chairman of The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, based in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, which seeks to recommend best practices for developing emotional competence. In 2003 he published Destructive Emotions, an account of a scientific dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers.
Joan Halifax is a medical anthropologist, deep ecologist, and meditation teacher, who has long been at the forefront of cultural and spiritual exploration. A former Rockefeller fellow, she lectures and teaches worldwide. She directs the Upaya Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which includes the Upaya Prison Project, a network of contemplative prison programs.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn: Major research pursuits lie in the emerging field of mind / body medicine, with the focus on the clinical, social, and human performance effects of mindfulness meditation training in various populations. These include people with chronic pain, stress related disorders, and / or a wide range of chronic diseases with a particular focus on breast cancer; multi-ethnic and multi-racial inner city communities experiencing high psychosocial stress due to poverty and associated social conditions; and inmates and corrections personnel in the prison system. Other areas of research are directed at the effects of regulated attention on healing processes; stress in medical education; cost-effectiveness of mind / body interventions; stress related to work and organizational re-engineering; the Tao of work; mindfulness in the physician-patient relationship; the development of psychological resilience to stress; mindfulness-based stress reduction curricula and their implementation in the primary and secondary education; achieving optimal performance in athletes through mindfulness meditation training.
Noah Levine, M.A. is one of the founders of the Mind Body Awareness Project. He has been teaching meditation in prisons for close to 10 years and he leads retreats and workshop all over the world. He is the author of, “Dharma Punx”, a spiritual biography chronicling his transformation from Juvenile hall to spiritual activist. Noah has led rights of passage retreats for youth and he has become a leading advocate for incarcerated youth.
Stephen & Ondrea Levine are world famous meditation teachers and writers who have counseled nurses, doctors, their terminally ill and many others for over 25 years. Stephen and Ondrea’s books include, “A Gradual Awakening, “Who Dies” and “Embracing the Beloved”.
George Mumford is a sports psychology consultant, meditation teacher, and personal/organizational development consultant. He served as a member of Head Coach Phil Jackson’s support staff for the Chicago Bulls (1993-1998) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2003), teaching both teams the practice of mindfulness meditation. During that time, Jackson’s teams won six NBA World Championships—the Chicago Bulls won three (1996-98) and the Los Angeles Lakers won three (2000-2002). Mumford was a colleague of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s at the University of Massachusetts for five years. He first began teaching vipassana in 1986 and has taught meditation in prisons, medical clinics, corporations, and at Harvard University. Since 1999, he has been teaching insight meditation in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York. He is also currently a consultant to the Boston College Athletic Department, working with the men and women’s basketball and soccer teams, as well as the women’s field hockey, softball, volleyball and lacrosse teams. In September of 2003, he was one of several meditation teachers invited to participate with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a group of former prisoners in the “Healing through Great Difficulty” three-day conference held in New York City.
Research Advisory Council
Dr. John Astin, PhD
Research Scientist, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
John Astin is a Research Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. His research and clinical work has focused on several related areas: 1) the use of mind-body therapies, particularly mindfulness meditation, to treat various health-related problems; 2) psychosocial factors associated with use of complementary and alternative medical therapies; 3) the psychological construct of control and its relationship to mental and physical health; and, 4) the role of spirituality in healthcare. Dr. Astin received his Ph.D. in Health Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. From 1997-1999, he was a research fellow in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine. From January 2000-June 2002, he was the director of mind-body research at the Complementary Medicine Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine. He has occupied his present position at CPMC since July of 2002. His research has appeared in such journals as Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. He is the co-author (with Deane Shapiro) of the book: “Control therapy: An integrated approach to psychotherapy, health, and healing.”
Thao Le, MPH, PhD
Senior Fellow, National Council on Crime & Delinquency
Thao Le is currently Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Colorado State University (CSU). She also has joint appointments with the Colorado School of Public Health, and is currently serving as the Director of Translation and Dissemination Activities for the Colorado Injury Control Research Center. She is also a senior fellow with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and has conducted multiple research and evaluation studies, both cross-sectional and longitudinal, with immigrant and ethnic minority youth. She has 27 publications in peer-reviewed journals related to adolescent development that focus on delinquency and at-risk behaviors, as well as on topics related to cultural influences on the development of wisdom self-transcendence. She is currently the Co-PI on a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense/NIFA to develop a mindfulness curriculum for 225 military youth.
Susan L. Smalley, PhD
Founder and Director, Mindful Awareness Research Center, UCLA
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA
Dr. Susan L. Smalley is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Founder and Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center in the Semel Institute. Dr. Smalley’s research laboratory at UCLA investigates the genetic basis of childhood onset psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and neurodiversity, in general. She is particularly interested in how self-regulation of environments – including one’s own attentional states – can be used to enhance health and well-being while reducing impairment associated with neurobiological differences. This work has led to research on mindfulness including studies of basic biological mechanisms, relationship and intervention in childhood onset psychiatric disorders including ADHD, and dissemination of mindfulness across the lifespan, from Pre-K to the elderly. Dr. Smalley is widely published in both scientific journals and mainstream press (e.g. The Huffington Post) as she is particularly interested in the intersection of science and self-exploration (such as meditation) and its translation to the general public. Lab websites: http://www.marc.ucla.edu and www.adhd.ucla.edu
Susan Turner, PhD
Co-Director, Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, University of California, Irvine.
Professor, Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine.
Susan Turner is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California’s Irvine campus. She also serves as Co-Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, and is a board member of the newly created California Rehabilitation Oversight Board (C-ROB). She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has lead a variety of research projects, including studies on racial disparity, field experiments of private sector alternatives for serious juvenile offenders, work release, day fines and a 14-site evaluation of intensive supervision probation. Dr. Turner’s areas of expertise include the design and implementation of randomized field experiments and research collaborations with state and local justice agencies. Dr. Turner has conducted a number of evaluations of drug courts, including a nationwide implementation study. Her article, “A Decade of Drug Treatment Court Research” (2002) appeared in Substance Use and Misuse, summarizing over 10 years of drug court research conducted while she was at RAND Corporation. Dr. Turner is a member of the American Society of Criminology, the American Probation and Parole Association, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology.
Angela M. West, PhD
Developer of the MTASA- Mindfulness Thinking and Acting Scale for Adolescents
Ms. West has studied mindfulness meditation as an adjunctive therapy since 2001; initially in a maximum security forensic mental hospital. In 2003, she initiated her own research in this field focusing on measurement of mindfulness in an adolescent population. The result of an initial project dedicated to measuring mindfulness in youth resulted in an experimental self-report questionnaire, the Mindful Thinking and Action Scale for Adolescents (MTASA). The MTASA is a thirty-two item pencil and paper instrument designed for administration to English speaking adolescents ages thirteen through nineteen. Currently, this project is in a second stage devoted to determining the psychometric properties of the MTASA, along side mindfulness measures designed for use with adults. Results are expected to assist with the further exploration of mindfulness as a potential wellbeing marker in adolescence.