Saturday morning mindfulness offers a chance for secular meditation

Jennifer Howd knows what it is to live the high life full of stress and bad choices. Originally from New Hampshire, she later lived in New York City and then moved to Los Angeles with her partner. While in an abusive relationship, she hit the bottom when her partner was arrested and she saw her dragged away in handcuffs.

“I had a moment when the lights were flashing on the cop car, I felt like I was in the middle of a Lifetime Movie,” she says, “and I asked, ‘How did this happen and who am I?’”

“A lot of the self-soothing behaviors, like drinking too much and taking antidepressants wasn’t sustainable for me,” she continues. “If I kept going in the same direction, I wouldn’t be around much longer. That was a bottoming out for sure.”

This was the final step that took her to her current life.

Jennifer Howd is an author, editor, indie filmmaker, and a Certified Mindfulness Facilitator through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Her debut memoir, Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat, was featured on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”

Prior to her own catharsis, she had constant inclinations that a life that involved meditation might be her own path.

She didn’t have a religious upbringing and the spiritual context that comes with most meditation was not a good fit for her personally.

She explains that meditation is a path for people to know themselves better. Her initial personal meditation lasted somewhere between three and five minutes. She explains that it is a process.

“I started seeing a difference in myself,” Howd says.

She was able to receive certification from UCLA at MARC, which replaced religion with neuroscience.

She dove in deeply.

“Because I had such a significant shift in my wellbeing, my everything changed,” she says. “I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I wanted to help people.”

Howd determined that the community part was central to her own group facilitation.

“I talked to a friend of mine who is a teacher and I said, ‘Let’s create a mindfulness collective. Let’s hold sits in secular spaces,’” she says. “I turned the garage space in our house into a space to participate. I invited folks to come in and sit. I tried to keep it small (20 people or under) and create sense of intimacy.”

She includes selected poetry into her sessions and explains that people talk about what is going on in their lives during group sessions.

“There is always a box of Kleenex in the center of the circle and it is used,” she says.

She, her partner and son, chose to live in Cincinnati and determined that her home in Pleasant Ridge would be the place that she would hold weekly Saturday morning public mediations as well as individual sessions.

“I wanted to be in an area that would be open to mindfulness,” she explains. “I want this to get out to the people that are looking for it.”

“There is a misnomer in that meditation is publicized as a person with internal balance,” Howd says. “You don’t just sit down and meditate and become enlightened. There is a lot that shows up when you sit down and are quiet with yourself. It’s not a quick fix.”

She explains that those who meditate get a better sense of flow and a greater connection to wellbeing. It is a mastery as opposed to being led by our own thoughts. It leads to happiness.

She has seen people make major life changes.

“We spend a lot of time on our own in front of screens,” she says. “To come into a place and connect is important. It bonds people, and that can be a good thing.”

To join a Saturday morning meditation from 10–11:30 a.m., RSVP on eventbrite. A $5 donation is suggested.


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Read more articles by Jennifer Mooney.

Jennifer Mooney is a reformed corporate communications senior executive. She has also worked in the advertising industry and founded The Mooney Group, LLC, a boutique public relations practice. She is an avid adventurer and traveler, which includes climbing/hiking, open water swimming, and downhill skiing. She is a downtown resident and is married to Donald Mooney. She has two grown daughters.