City Silence promotes the practice of mindfulness

Shhh. Be still. Don’t talk. Just breathe.
That’s the message of City Silence, an international network of community mindfulness events. It’s organized by novelist, playwright, Pilates instructor and activist Stacy Sims, founder in 2005 of True Body Project.
Cincinnati will host City Silence this summer at 7:30-8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday in Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park, starting this week and running through August. Gatherings encourage individuals to sit in silence for as long as they wish. The time commitment is whatever works for participants; they can try out stillness and silence even for a few minutes if that best suits their lives.
In addition to Washington Park, “barrier free” City Silence activities will be offered at other locations around Cincinnati — by Project Yoga in Ault Park on Sunday afternoons, with Vitality Cincinnati in Walnut Hills on selected evenings and a program at the University of Cincinnati’s Integrative Health and Wellness Center.
The initiative is happening in cities across the United States — Cleveland, Columbus, Marietta and Athens, Ohio; Denver; New York City; Portland, Ore.; and Richmond, Va. — and around the world, such as Wroclaw, Poland, and Cuenca, Ecuador. Each city will tailor activities to local needs. In Cincinnati, in addition to the morning hour, City Silence will provide printed materials about mindfulness as well as mp3 downloadable files to help newcomers.

Stacy SimsFollowing a difficult period with addiction in her own life, Sims came to recognize the power of meditation — initially just five minutes a day of sitting and appreciating breath, gratitude and sensation.
“That was the perfect prescription for me,” she says. “Since then, I have deepened the practice and fortified the work of the True Body Project to bring more silence to those who need it.”
That endeavor focuses on empowering adolescent girls to identify and connect with their bodies and to grow their authentic voices.
“In the last few months alone,” Sims says, “my True Body teachers and I have created a space for silence with fourth- to 12th-grade girls, with children from around the world who have had their education interrupted due to their refugee status, survivors of sex trafficking, veterans, yogis, teens and friends. Life is better this way.”
Those experiences led to City Silence. “Why not commit to my own practice and invite others to join me? Why not just do it, one hour at a time, one park at a time, one city at a time? Why not celebrate 10 years of the True Body Project this way?”
Over the summer, Sims intends to offer proof of why mindfulness and meditation are vitally important to fulfilling, productive and healthy lives.
“We will share studies, statistics and personal stories,” she says, “and, more important, we’re going to show up. We’re going to meet everyone in silent practice together. We might sit spine to spine. We might sit with each other at the same time but in different cities.”

Her plan is to “slow the world down and notice what we smell, hear, taste, feel, noticing our thoughts — the genius ones right along with the hare-brained ones. We’re going to turn off our digital devices and turn on our capacity for stillness, wonder, creativity and compassion. We are going to connect to each other in the space of silence, where we are all the same, where we are all just humans who want to feel better and do good in the world.”
Sims works with six teachers for True Body programs. Together they have offered programs at eight Cincinnati-area schools that include the practice of meditation. It dawned on Sims that many of the lessons of True Body are broadly applicable to people struggling with today’s cluttered, fragmented and demanding world.
“Silence,” she says, “is brain-altering medicine.”
In Cincinnati she has begun to work organizations such as Joseph House, an Over-the-Rhine agency that serves homeless veterans suffering from addiction. Practice of mindful silence has been beneficial to many of their troubled clients.
City Silence, Sims says, is an opportunity for more people to begin to practice mindfulness.
“We want to create an entry into this activity that is less daunting,” she says. “We will provide guides and resources about silence and contemplative practices, the kind of activity that benefit many artists and thinkers. We’ll help people learn to exhale as long as they inhale, to slow down, to rest, digest, assimilate and integrate experience.”
City Silence is supported by a website with meditation and mindfulness tips, articles and research.

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Rick Pender is an Over-the-Rhine resident with many years of writing, editing, fundraising and public relations experience. He is the theater critic and contributing editor at CityBeat and a regular contributor to WVXU's "Around Cincinnati." Follow him on Twitter @PenderRick.