"The first mindful sit: 2012, Room 18 at Coronado Elementary"
“I went back to my classroom and said, "Boys and girls, it is so good to see you. A new year, a new me." (laughs) So I had them get in a mindful position and said, "We are going to work on listening to sound and focusing on breath for two minutes." These thirty third graders just looked at me like, "What? This is what you left for? Just so we could focus on sounds and breathing?" So I rang the bell and they got really still and silent. And we focused on sound for a minute. Then we focused on breath for a minute, and then I rang the bell again. But the kids didn't open their eyes, like I asked them to. They were so still, and the energy in the room started getting more and more light. By the fourth minute, I thought they were messing with me. The fifth minute went by, and at the sixth minute, some eyes started gently opening. By the seventh minute, no one was talking; I said, "I want to hear your voice. What did that feel like?" They said, "I felt the safest I've ever felt," "I felt peace that I've never felt before," "I felt so connected" — the most beautiful things. And that is when we started it
— Mindful Life Project.”
Founder and Director JG Larochette created Mindful Life Project on May 1, 2012 after working with South Richmond, CA youth and their families for a decade as a coach, community advocate, leader and teacher. As a highly regarded and successful elementary school teacher, JG cared deeply for his students, and like many teachers, absorbed their trauma as he struggled to provide a healthy learning environment. In the Fall of 2011, he encountered a challenging time where depression and anxiety overtook his life. JG attempted to push through the sleepless nights and deep suffering, but was not able to be fully present for his students. In December, he realized that his health needed to be a priority, and after months of trying what all the doctors recommended, he learned about mindfulness. For one month, he dedicated himself to the practice, discovering its ability to rewire the brain into optimal mental health, and it had the most profound impact possible. He returned to school and introduced mindfulness to his class, noticing an immediate change the self-awareness, self-regulation and behavior of his students. In the Fall, this group of students who had significant trauma would often spend… an hour or more per day dealing with conflicts, lack of attention, and emotional dysregulation, but within six weeks, this same group and JG created a much healthier learning environment where those problems were very infrequent. From January to May of 2012, JG and his class piloted and created what Mindful Life Project would become, with daily mindfulness and weekly yoga, expressive arts and performing arts. The students and JG decided that Mindful Life Project needed to reach a much larger population, leading to community transformation and the founding of the organization.
Mindful Life Project works diligently to support the mental and emotional wellness of students, teachers, staff, leaders, and families through mindfulness programming to create a foundation of wellbeing at the individual level, then leading to a very connected school culture and climate where all feel safe, welcomed, valued, and believed in.
Our focus is supporting TK-8th grade schools in the same communities to transform the educational ecosystem so that it prioritizes the whole child and the adults who work with students every day. We strive to collaborate with schools to create significant space for students and educators to cultivate mindfulness and compassion daily. As our youth and educators grow these practices early and often, their inner critic and layers of conditioning never get fed, and they are able to connect with their authentic and powerful, resilient selves and are empowered to thrive both in school and in their community.