Headspace: Mindfulness and Intentionality

Headspace: Mindfulness and Intentionality

Increasingly, I am opting out of the typical, American greeting which is some variety of:

Hi, how are you?

           Fine, thanks, and you?

Doing fine, thanks.

My reason for opting out is that in my experience, no one is doing “fine/great/well” all the time. This ritual greeting has lost meaning for me, because it fails to express the reality of my dynamic state from day-to-day, and moment-to-moment. I strive to avoid fluff, and “autopilot communicating” in my dealings with people. If I am asked about my status, my answer is an honest one, and usually based on how I am feeling in the moment. If I initiate the conversation, I will perhaps simply offer “Good morning” or “Hello” without the overt request to know the other person’s status. I welcome the information if he or she cares to share. This approach reflects my focus on clarity and honesty, which I am building into all aspects of my life.

It can feel uncomfortable operating in this mode, when interacting with other people. It is remarkable how much meaningless filler can dominate conversations. Without easy filler to fall back on, gaps in the conversation might crop up. In that moment, there is a choice to make. Instead of rushing to fill the gap, I am interested in seeing what rises to the surface in my mind, which either represents a genuine mutual point of interest, or is something that I truly desire to share or ask. If nothing comes up, then I am OK with silently taking the moment in.

Internally, I am engaged in a similar effort to drop automated and inherited patterns of thinking, to reject assumptions and projections, and instead to look for real evidence on which to base my conclusions and actions. While it sounds simple, operating in this manner is not an easy thing to do, since unchecked assumptions and inherited norms have significantly influenced the way I navigate and see the world. Actively rejecting assumptions, stereotypes, and projections means taking on the job of discerning the reality of situations that may defy easy compartmentalization when critically examined.

Consequences of my move toward intentionality, clarity, and honesty are that I must do more thinking overall, and that the familiar universe that formed my reality yesterday may not exist tomorrow. I accept and in fact embrace these changes because the reward is a heightened sense of purpose and self-respect and an activated mind, all of which enable me to operate at my personal best.

By: Erin Thompson

Read more

Space for Meditation

I have tried meditation before. Quite a few times, actually. I have also led meditations for a group and for a loved one. I often grow irritated with myself over my inability to quiet my mind. My thoughts are loudest when the world is quiet and my only focus is myself.

I’ve sat in the meditation room here at the Gandhi House a few times. It’s so quiet in there, so clean and unimposing. I’ve sat my butt on one of those fun round pillows, crossed my legs, and closed my eyes. And from there, I start to feel like a failure. I’m not very nice to myself.

Read more

My Road to the Gandhi Institute

I first visited the Gandhi Institute in June of 2015. I had no idea that in two short years I would become one of its employees.I was there with the University of Rochester’s Urban Fellows, an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program that pairs college students with community organizations for summer internships and educates them about urban issues through a combination of academic study and hands-on learning. As a student at UR, I had heard of the Gandhi Institute and had even participated in one of Kit’s on-campus Conversations on Race, but I was still only marginally aware of what the institute did outside of nonviolence workshops.

Read more

Shanell from SYFI

With this being my second year as a SYFI (Summer Youth Facilitation Institute) member at the Gandhi Institute, I am excited and ready for everything this summer and the Gandhi staff have in store for me. Being able to come here and be a facilitator for a second time is an overwhelming feeling. I will be able to extend my learning of nonviolence as a facilitator and I will have a chance to improve my leadership skills. I’m more than pleased with their decision of adding me back to their already amazing staff.

Read more

Religion & Human Rights

Catholics. Jews. Mormons. Sikhs. Hindus. Muslims.

All of these religions have faced documented discrimination here in the United States and I am both deeply saddened and angry to see the same rhetoric being launched today under the veil of human rights issues. Sound bites and cherry-picking leaves little room for the complexities that vastly shape our lives.

I have fear about tomorrow, when over twenty cities nationwide will lead protests called the March Against Sharia, March for Human Rights. My fear is that this march arose out of white supremacist thinking, based on the Eurocentric lens in which most of our U.S. history is written, swallowed, and regurgitated without critically being analyzed.

Read more


Over a year ago, I stumbled upon Nora on Instagram and my goodness!–she is one heck of a lady who is equal parts brilliant, witty, deep, vulnerable, and compassionate. I ended up scrolling all the way back to her very first post in efforts to piece together her joys (babies!) and heartaches (losing her husband to brain cancer). I was unclear how this person was still standing. Her vulnerability and openness about her personal losses really hit me. Upon learning she was publishing a book, I firmly decided I would order it as soon as it was released. WELL, it’s been exactly one full year since it was published: I’ve seen it at Barnes & Nobles, at public libraries, at various bookstores – and still, I have yet to place the order. Why? Grief.

Read more

“Who wants to pick today’s question?”:


It’s one thing to believe that talking circles in schools is a good idea, and another to really experience the power of it.

You’ve probably heard people share glowing tales of circle magic in the classrooms where a gaggle of troublesome students transform into that holy grail of a community of learners.

Read more

What is a Help Zone?

by David Sanchez


For the past three years, staff from the Gandhi Institute have been collaborating with a group of Rochester City School District (RCSD) schools and staff in supporting the spread of an initiative of a social-emotional support space called the Help Zone (HZ). The Help Zone was created through the vision of NorthWest College Preparatory (NWCP) School principal, Barbara Zalazny who saw the need for a system that would address the need of many students walking the halls, searching for a classroom item when they didn’t have one, or dealing with a conflict that could easily be remedied with a short break or mentoring session.

Read more

Reflection on J-Serve 2017: Interfaith Day of Service

Over the winter, Rich Gordon, Coordinator Teen Education and Israel Trips at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, reached out to the Gandhi Institute to potentially host Rochester J-Serve, an international day of service for Jewish teens.

Read more

New Beginnings at the Gandhi Institute

A lot of questions might be popping in your head. Who am I? Why am I here? What do I hope to achieve by interning at the Gandhi Institute? What can I offer as an undergraduate student at the Institute? How did my connections with the Institute start?

Read more