I’m Roger Miller, the new Executive Director of the Mind Body Awareness Project. I work alongside Sam Himelstein, who has spent the last 18 months securing and cultivating our programs. Now as our Program Director, Sam is doing what he loves most: working directly with the youth we serve.
I am honored to be part of MBA and diving into developing the the relationships that help our programs thrive. Our mindfulness-based programs work because we know that deep human connections make personal change possible.
That’s what brought me to this work. I had dabbled with meditation over the years but never prioritized it. Then in 2009, I entered a period of self-destruction: My job burnt me out. My ego damaged professional and personal relationships. To top it off, I developed a nervous system disorder that was both physically and emotionally debilitating.
Despite the tribulations, that bad year offered me an incredible gift: the opportunity to change how I operated in the world. With the guidance of meditation teacher Tempel Smith, I cultivated a strong daily meditation practice and attention to self-care. Those tools have helped me lead a more fulfilling life. Ultimately, that’s what I hope to bring to the youth that MBA serves.
On a recent NPR Fresh Air program, author Nell Bernstein discussed her book Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. Bernstein noted that today, juvenile correctional facilities across the nation offer therapeutic treatment. But many incarcerated youth have challenges with the way those treatments are framed: Some of the youth she met with said: “I’m supposed to open my heart in group and put my deepest traumas on the table, but the guy leading the group has the key to my cell.”
This is why MBA has maintained strong partnerships with the Alameda and San Mateo county juvenile justice facilities. Many of our instructors once inhabited the facilities where they now work with youth. Their personal stories have a lot in common with the backgrounds of our youth. And this the basis for an authentic human connection in facilities that often feel cold, isolating and even dangerous.