And an update on our mission
In January 12’s newsletter, we shared the recent Ten Percent Happier podcast interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. My takeaway from the discussion is that the single most important thing we can each do at this moment of great personal, political, and global turmoil, is take care of our minds.
Practicing mindfulness helps us notice our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, which creates the foundation necessary to objectively examine our biases, discomforts, and the values and judgments we’ve inherited from others rather than consciously formed for ourselves.
Yes, I agree; at this moment in our lives, taking care of our minds is crucial for a future that involves moving forward with any sense of unity.
Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness has been teaching mindfulness for over 10 years now. During that time, the 24/7 news cycle has proliferated into unlimited broadcast and online channels, while social media grew exponentially in popularity and potential for harm. Meanwhile, workplace stress has only increased, along with the stressors of daily life.
We live in a country obsessed with capitalist progress, keeping up with Joneses, and continually climbing the corporate ladder (perhaps now more like an infinite escalator). Add to this the effects of a global pandemic and a divisive political climate, and the cost has been a significant detriment to our minds, bodies, spirits, and our sense of social belonging.
All these factors and more have only increased the demand on the limited resource of each person’s attention. Mindfulness helps us train our attention, and what we do with our attention matters—for our lives and for the future of our local, national, and global communities.
Doing Things Differently
We believe in the importance of each of us caring for our minds, now more than ever, and we’re determined to continue helping people learn to live with more awareness and compassion—to choose to live differently—despite the difficulties the last year has presented for small businesses like us.
To quickly recap GRCFM’s challenges and successes of the last year:
- We introduced a new sliding scale tuition structure for multi-week classes in January, in an effort to support the greatest amount of student participation regardless of financial situation.
- We wrapped up 2020’s first session of classes the very week Michigan shut down in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Session two was scheduled to begin in less than two weeks.
- We pivoted to hold our first-ever online classes in March. Enrollment was low—no surprise, considering the collective shock of a drastic change in daily life—but we knew it was important to keep offering these skills at a time when people needed them most.
- In response to the change in format and the financial challenges presented by COVID–19, we lowered tuition rates across the board, in addition to continuing our longstanding scholarship program. Collectively, the reduced tuition saved participants over $6,600, and registrants experiencing financial hardship received over $5,000 in scholarships.
- We were honored to be invited to offer online, multi-week programs to educators and healthcare providers.
We Moved Online Together
Last year, life as we knew it changed drastically, and part of that was a mass migration of our everyday activities to a digital format. Moving our classes online was something we had planned to do, possibly towards the end of 2020, but it became the only viable way to continue our mission in March—and our team and learning community rose to the challenge.
It’s been great!
We were worried about the ability to connect with our students in the same way we could during our in-person classes. Yes, there were clearly some differences with gathering online, but connections were still made, and we were encouraged by the positive feedback of participants even in those first online classes, which were a trial run for everyone involved. We’ve also been able to welcome participants from across the U.S. and hope to be able to meet even more folks from outside West Michigan through our online programs.
Offering classes online has saved our students a commute; students have also had more opportunity to create space for their meditation practice within their daily life simply through attending class in their own environment. And for some, it’s taken away some of the social discomfort of participating in-person.
…And also has its challenges.
Still, we understand the online classes are not a perfect alternative, as many would prefer to learn in-person, and not everyone has access to the technology or network connection that would make learning online a smooth experience. And we understand that the thought of participating online can create feelings of discomfort or present barriers for many reasons. As we continue to learn about and improve the online learning experience, we want to know about your barriers or discomforts in case we can address or help you overcome them.
You can choose to live differently—starting now
We’re here to help you take care of your mind. If you’re interested, please join us for our classes starting next week. Sliding scale tuition and payment plans are available, and scholarships are available to anyone unable to pay at the low end of the sliding scale. We want everyone who is interested to be able to learn these life-changing—and world-changing—skills, regardless of ability to pay.
Your Support Matters
If the timing isn’t right to take a class, or you’d like to support us in other ways, please do! In addition to the suggestions in this graphic that’s made its way around social media in the last year, consider purchasing a gift card for a loved one, donating to our scholarship fund, forwarding our email newsletters to 1-2 friends, or writing a Google or Facebook review if you’ve learned from us in the past.
We plan to continue online offerings in 2021 and beyond, but we look forward to a transition back to in-person classes later this year, according to health and safety recommendations.
If you feel like the time is now to learn these beneficial skills, we encourage you not to wait. And please know that if you have any goals or concerns you’d like to share before you sign up, we are always happy to talk with you! Contact us anytime.