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Mindfulness design studios have been conducted in two Brooklyn high schools, John Dewey High School in Coney Island and Brownsville Academy in Brownsville.  The concept is to introduce a core group of teachers and students to concepts behind mindfulness spaces based in practice of mindfulness.  This builds on art forms and understandings of zen concepts that the students and faculty are familiar with in their own lives. As practice develops, a keen understanding of mindfulness concepts allows for the building of a room that emphasizes the beauty and value of the school and community in which it exists. 

Mindfulness in Place

Mindfulness is in Chinese 念, and in Japanese used in the word "nenjiru" to be mindful, to think about, to be anxious, to desire, to let one's thoughts and feelings go through the mind and body, or simply to be present for the time being.  

Research has shown that mindfulness is an extremely effective method for young people to focus and, incidentally, improve their classroom work. 

The concept is strongly related to "chilling," "turning down," "breaking," "grooving," "jiving," "jamming," and even "wilding," in the American English language.  Students in Brooklyn readily practice various methodologies of mindfulness and immediately find parallels within American traditions, especially when introduced to the aesthetics of the zen temples and the tea huts of the warring Momoyama (1573-1615) period in Japan that later developed into the sukiya "as you like it" style of design under the extreme caste segregation and military dictatorship of Edo Period (1603-1868) Japan.   This kind of refined "chilling" space required warriors and entertainers alike to put aside their weapons and crawl into a small almost bitterly barren space that served as theater of their wildest fantasies, all imagined while sitting quietly listening to the wind and sipping tea.

Many of the most respected researchers in mindfulness as a form of psychotherapy come from Brooklyn and NYC in general, frequently from economically challenged neighborhoods.  


Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School comes from  Washington Heights.  Trudy Goodman who founded the Center for Mindfulness and Psychotherapy in 1995 after years of teaching in Cambridge, MA, is from Brooklyn.  Larry Rosenberg,  a renowned scholar mindfulness practice comes from Coney Island, Brooklyn.  Sharon Salzberg, who cites her troubled childhood in NYC as a major influence on her path to study mindfulness, became one of the nation's leading scholars in the Eastern traditions of mindfulness.  Sylvia Boorstein, also from Brooklyn, has become a leading teacher of mindfulness as psychotherapy on the West Coast.  This is just to name a few of the most famous practitioners of the contemporary mindfulness movement from neighborhoods like Brownsville in Brooklyn.   

Mindfulness Room John Dewey High School

John Dewey High School

The mindfulness design and build studio has been ongoing at John Dewey High School since Spring 2017. John Dewey is a public school in Brooklyn with approximately 2000 students that requires students and teachers to pass through metal detectors at its entrance.  The school is broken up into specialized academies, all of which are associated with one unifying counseling program under Assistant Principal Barbie Frias and her team of counselors.  In Spring of 2017 a core group led by Roseann Ponce, 8 students and 4 other teachers worked with AWEcosocial to design a mindfulness room.  Because practice of mindfulness is an essential part of the building of the room and its maintenance, this was only the beginning of the design and build process.  In a sense mindfulness design works like a community garden, legitimized by the school administration, but cared for and enlivened by students who actively practice mindfulness there.   The room is being slowly materialized through community building process in 2017 and 2018. 

Mindfulness Room Brownsville Academy, Brooklyn

A mindfulness room was designed in 2015 through a series of collaborative student workshops at Brownsville Academy in Brooklyn.  


Students drew from Afro-Caribbean and African American traditions of meditation to create a culturally resonant space for mental tranquility and restoration. Inspiration was also drawn from the Japanese tea ceremony as students participated in a Matchaparty in the process and playfully found parallel psychological roots of Japanese temple ideas in Afro-Caribean and African American environments identified in music and music videos. 


Original appearance of the space



Rendering based on student collaboration



The group began by asking questions of what it means to meditate, to “turn down,” to “chill,” to relax. Students realized the importance of creating a series of experiences and spaces that allow those who enter them to consider impermanence: memories of hard times and personal loss, along with good feelings and dreams of the future.

Students designed a contrast from dark to light, from inside to outside, and found inspiration in a series of contemporary art pieces that exemplified the experience that they wanted to create.  The designed plan for the room is below along with a deeper explanation of mindfulness in Brooklyn and links to scientific research supporting mindfulness as a technique of mental health.

Students found inspiration in Afro-Caribbean traditions such as Jah Cure's "Never Find"

Inspiration drawn from "No Love" by Nicki Minaj



Inspiration from Museum of Natural History



Tea hut garden, Kyoto, Japan


Being in the present moment in "No Love" with August Alsina



Tea hut, Kyoto, Japan



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