Mindfulness where it’s needed.
Our mission is to inspire and empower by teaching mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices to people in communities of need, including those who are incarcerated or returning from incarceration, in substance abuse treatment, or affected by poverty, aging or illness.
We began in 2009, when a small group of Washington-area meditation practitioners decided to start teaching mindfulness to returning citizens housed in the Montgomery County, MD, Pre-Release Center. The effort proved so rewarding for both our students and our volunteer teachers that we have now grown to over 30 volunteers leading classes in six facilities in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. We make approximately 10,000 teaching “visits” per year, with one “visit” defined as a single inmate, resident, or other student attending a class.
We recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each individual and strive to bring mindfulness practices to vulnerable communities – places where the teachings are most needed, or that have been alienated from society at large. We are particularly concerned by the country’s high incarceration rate, by inequalities in its treatment of women and persons of color, with matters of substance abuse, and with the social costs of the country’s economic structure.
Many of our students have experienced trauma or neglect, and we see the benefit, principally, of showing up, creating a dialogue, and demonstrating that we care.
The mindfulness practices we teach are informed by the teachings of Buddhist psychology, but IOI is not formally a Buddhist or other religious organization. Rather, as mindfulness practices have integrated into Western culture, the basics of mindfulness can be taught in a secular and science-based format, using methods that have proven clinical benefits. Our teachers use sitting meditation, walking meditation, open-focus techniques, body-centered inquiry, breathing exercises, yoga, and qigong, among other techniques, as methods to help our students gain clarity, insight, and compassion.
Our work is only possible from the support of our qualified, compassionate teachers, who see their work as essential to the greater good, and whose own practices are deepened by their encounters with students. We hope that you will be inspired to get involved, whether by donating, volunteering, pointing us to other places where these teachings would be useful, or just simply by spreading the word.