Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM) Community Practice Group

Practicing mindfulness as a group has many benefits and is recommended by most teachers. Spending time in the presence of like-minded individuals deepens the connection to practice and fuels motivation. This adds a layer of support and accountability that nourishes a devoted and sustainable practice.

The Kansas City community is fortunate to have a number of free and donation based mindfulness practice groups available to them. However, many of these groups are affiliated with a religious organization, which may not appeal to some. In addition, practice groups seem to be hard to come by in Johnson County, KS and people find they have to travel across the state line or to West to Lawrence in order to practice together.

This is about to change. In February 2017, a nonsectarian, donation based, community mindfulness practice group is launching in Overland Park. The meeting space was gifted by Colleen Constance Boveri, the generous owner of Seeking Solace Yoga. A rotating lineup of local mindfulness teachers has volunteered to lead each meeting. Newcomers and experienced practitioners alike are welcome. Any donations collected will go toward the studio to maintain the space and equipment.

Offered Thursday evenings from 7-8 pm (starting February 2nd), a variety of practices can be experienced, such as guided meditation, mindful eating or walking, yoga, group discussion, etc. Some of the teachers include:

  • Marla Herron, EdD, a long-time practitioner who is working toward her certification in MBSR through the UMass Center for Mindfulness

  • Lisa Pinsker, MS of Mindfulness Matters who has been teaching MBSR courses for many years and is trained through the UMass Center for Mindfulness

  • Amy Zoe Schohnhoff, BA of A Beloved Life, a mindfulness educator who is working toward her certification in MBSR through the UMass Center for Mindfulness

  • Tracy Ochester, PsyD of Clear Mind Open Heart, psychologist and Qualified MBCT Teacher who received her training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

For more information, visit the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MAMcommunity/

Body, Mind & Spirit: Amy Zoe Schonhoff

Meet mindfulness educator, Amy Zoe Schonhoff of A Beloved Life: Mindfulness in the Heartland. Amy offers mindfulness coaching, public speaking for events, and mindfulness classes in the Kansas City metro. She was recently interviewed by Ned Kelley for his Buddha Brunch series about her journey into mindfulness and her area of specialty, mindful parenting.

Does Training Matter for Mindfulness Teachers?

SitSiteIts a wonderful thing that mindfulness is proliferating across the United States – even here in the heartland of the midwest. More and more opportunities for classes, workshops, and trainings are available to people at all levels of interest and skill. With an increase in the choices available locally, one might wonder, “Do mindfulness instructor credentials matter?” Additional research is needed, but currently the data is showing that instructor training does indeed matter. Studies suggest that a higher level of Mindfulness Based Intervention teacher training may be linked to higher wellbeing outcomes, lower perceived stress, and greater service satisfaction among participants.

Training for mindfulness teachers generally includes participation in the course one wishes to teach, a strong and consistent personal practice including attending teacher led silent mediation retreats, basic and/or intensive teacher training in the course one wishes to teach, mentoring by an approved provider, and a minimum level of teaching experience. Some programs like Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy also require the teacher (or at least one co-teacher) to be a licensed mental health professional.

When choosing a mindfulness class, course or workshop, look closely at the instructor’s credentials and experience. Is there an indication of the above mentioned qualifications? It can also be helpful to ask about other’s experience with the teacher – are there ratings or testimonials available? Although no amount of credentials or positive reviews can guarantee a good experience, taking the time to do a little research about your teacher will increase the odds that you will make a satisfactory investment of your time and money.

Our First Yoga Retreat: Karma Tribe Yoga


My husband and I recently stepped out of our comfort zone and signed on for a yoga retreat in a jungle lodge on the Mexican Pacific coast. The yoga teacher, Lauren Leduc of Karma Tribe Yoga, is a Kansas Citian with a beautiful mission of service: providing affordable yoga through her successful, not-for-profit studio on a donation basis. The opportunity to practice with this teacher, in combination with the intriguing location and ecologically sustainable accommodations run by a wonderful family of yogis (Tailwinds Jungle Lodge) is what drew us to this experience.

DetailsMX2016Once we left the Puerto Vallarta airport, we found ourselves completely disconnected from our usual routine, interaction with family and friends, internet and cellular service, and the work of our careers. It was truly like entering another world. The shuttle took us through the quaint beachside town of San Pancho (home to EntreAmigos, a community center recognized by the Dalai Lama for the work that is done with children) in Nayarit – freeway giving way to cobbled streets, giving way to dirt roads, until we finally reached our steep, cliffside destination.

The jungle was hot and humid, close, green, fragrant and teeming with life. Birdcall provided the soundtrack while red-winged butterflies and purple and yellow flowers set the scene. Lugging inappropriately packed suitcases, we ducked our heads under palm fronds and spiderwebs and stepped nimbly over trails of ants.

yogaretreat2016Our home away from home within this lodge carved into a cliff overlooking the ocean, was a palapa – an open sided structure with a thatched roof. We showered and relieved ourselves exposed to the jungle. Mosquitos hovered perpetually around our ankles so washing and elimination were hurried affairs. Tejones (sort of a cross between a raccoon and a monkey) rifled through our belongings and drank from our toilet. We slept under a mosquito net to the rhythmic sounds of the ocean crashing against the shore.

Each day we rose before sunrise to hike a steep dirt path to the yoga platform to practice asana and meditation with our soulful teacher and a band of diverse adventurers. We were fed a hearty, imaginative and healthful vegetarian breakfast by a talented local family (Nectar Health). Their culinary creations were one of the true highlights of the trip.BeachTrailMX2016 After yoga, we descended a rugged trail to a hidden beach to bask in the hot sand, occasionally wrestling the powerful surf, watching the tides come in and out, and observing the blue crabs popping out of their sand tunnels or scuttling over the rocks. We covered ourselves in the bentonite healing mud from a pit in the side of the cliff, let it bake into our skin, and then washed it away in the surf. We witnessed a local man create a hand railing for the steepest part of the beach trail out of logs and vines using only a machete.

Each evening we climbed the path again to return to the lodge for more asana and meditation and then back to the palapas for a fantastic meal. After the evening meal the tequila made an appearance and we had time to get to know each other and share our stories. Many of us were healing painful emotional wounds, adapting to significant life changes, or just seeking something greater. We were touched by each other’s stories and a bond developed between us. All the necessary ingredients were here offering an opportunity for true presence, authenticity, and personal growth – if only we would dare to partake of it.

The close of the retreat came all too soon. We said our tearful goodbyes and did our best to integrate ourselves back into the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. In the meantime, we set an intention to visit Lauren Leduc and her Karma Tribe Yoga from time to time in order to get a little taste of that retreat magic right here in Kansas City.

Body, Mind & Spirit: Tracy Ochester

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Tracy Ochester, PsyD, RYT

Body, Mind & Spirit is a series introducing Kansas City wellness professionals whose service offerings address the whole person.

May I humbly introduce myself? I am Tracy Ochester, PsyD, RYT, clinical psychologist, mindfulness coach and registered yoga teacher. I have an independent psychology practice, Ochester Psychological Services, LLC in Leawood, KS and a mindfulness coaching practice, Clear Mind Open Heart, LLC in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in downtown Kansas City.

Please tell us a little about yourself, what you do and your journey into this type of work:

I have always been interested in the humanities and fascinated by people’s stories, wondering what makes us do what we do. I studied theology, psychology and philosophy in college, not thinking this could be a career path for me. Once I finally worked up the courage to go to graduate school, I knew I was moving in the right direction.

My interest in theology and experience with psychological interventions that include elements of mindfulness led me to develop a personal yoga and mindfulness practice. Seeing the positive impact of the practices on my own life, I decided to seek out formal training to deepen my understanding and so I could share them with others.

How does the body-mind-spirit connection inform your work?

Psychologists have long understood that the mind and body are interconnected and research shows us that faith and spirituality are correlated with wellness. My original training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and behavior impact each other in important ways and teaching clients how to intervene in any of these areas can reduce distress and dysfunction. I eventually sought out further training in mindfulness based interventions which teach clients to relate with internal sensations in a new way so they can respond with wisdom rather than reactivity.

What makes your services unique?

I am a licensed psychologist, qualified mindfulness based cognitive therapy teacher (mindfulness coach), and registered yoga teacher. I don’t think there are many of us here in Kansas City (at least at the time of this writing) with this particular triad of specialties, but I hope I will see more in years to come.

My training and especially my experience in psychology (my clients have been my best teachers) give me unique insight into human behavior while my mindfulness and yoga training help me offer simple, practical and concrete tools for cultivating wellness.

What can people expect to experience when they first come to see you?

In my one-on-one work, our first meeting is generally an interview to get to know you and what your goals or intentions are. This is also an opportunity for you to get to know me and decide whether I am a good match for you.

I also try to offer some guidance or practical suggestions for what you can do on your own between meetings to work toward your goals. This isn’t always possible in the first meeting in my psychology practice as I must conduct a full psychiatric diagnostic interview and that takes quite a bit of time.

What does your personal wellness routine look like?

I rise early each weekday to practice Mysore style Ashtanga yoga and I practice sitting meditation afterwards. On the weekends I like to take led yoga classes, sometimes mixing it up with other styles of yoga. I am a vegetarian and I try to eat organic foods at home as much as possible. I am a lifelong learner reading books, blogging, and enrolling in various classes, workshops, trainings or retreats throughout the year. I also volunteer, spend time with family, and actively cultivate new relationships.

Tracy Ochester, PsyD, RYT
Clear Mind Open Heart, LLC
Ochester Psychological Services, LLC

Body, Mind & Spirit: Martha Childers


Martha Childers, LPC, EdS

Body, Mind & Spirit is a series of interviews introducing Kansas City wellness professionals whose service offerings address the whole person. We kick off our series today with Martha Childers, LPC, EdS who is a licensed professional counselor in independent practice on the Country Club Plaza.

Please tell us a little about yourself, what you do and your journey into this type of work:

At midlife I read an article saying that one way to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is to do something never done before at middle age. After two years of thought and self-exploration, I remembered that my original youthful intention was to become a psychologist. However, the first day of class in Psychology 101, the teacher said that we need to be honest with ourselves; that we study psychology to control people. I was fresh off the farm, 17 years old, and believed her. I thought, “I don’t want to control people!” So my life took another path. Now I am fulfilling the dream of my youth by helping people fulfill their own needs and desires.

How does the body-mind-spirit connection inform your work?

For several years during my 20’s, I lived in Japan and practiced a variety of Zen meditations including flower arrangement, calligraphy, koto, and tea ceremony. Since that time, mindfulness has been an integral part of my personal and professional life. My clients routinely learn a variety of mindfulness practices to help them with issues such as anxiety, decision-making, and PTSD.

I believe that the mind, body, spirit are words we use to provide a means to communicate and make sense of the world. In reality, we are one creature in one creation moving and being as one. As a psychotherapist, I have a professional responsibility to utilize the techniques defined within this field while keeping in mind the wholeness of the being.

What makes your business/services unique?

A dear friend helped me design my office. It is a reflection of my life and my personality while providing a peaceful, relaxing place for my clients to talk freely and openly. The location is on the Plaza, which is central to the area. Parking is convenient, and for individuals who have difficulty getting around, handicap parking is just outside the office. Having lived and traveled in Europe, Asia, and Africa for 12 years, my experience facilitates relationships with multicultural couples and individuals. I know what it’s like to be a minority and to be a foreigner in a strange land.

What can people expect to experience when they first come to see you or visit your place of work?

My clients can expect a nurturing, beautiful, safe place.

What does your personal wellness routine look like?

Daily meditation provides a way for my mind to clear. Daily exercise gets my blood flowing. Nutritious food feeds my body. Careful cleaning of my teeth, hair, and body refresh me. Regular visits to the chiropractor and an energy worker help alignment and eliminate blockages. Routine visits to my primary care physician and dentist monitor my health. Mini-mindfulness practices throughout the day reduce anxiety and keep me in the moment. Sleep and rest revitalize me.

ChildersLogoHorzRGBChilders Counseling Service 816-892-0803

how to start a home practice.

How to set up a home yoga practice by a wonderful yoga teacher, Lisa Ash.


Berkeley, California When it’s sunny I recommend taking your home practice outside. 🙂

Nearly every week I get a Facebook message from a friend saying, “Oh, I WISH I could come to your classes, Lisa, but…<enter any number of legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons> so could you recommend yoga for me to practice at home?

I always try to be helpful, because I understand that attending a yoga class led by a teacher is not always feasible. Babies require babysitters, Kids need rides to gymnastics, co-workers schedule mandatory lunch meetings, work deadlines must be met, happy hour specials should be enjoyed.  Or, it’s snowing.  Or raining.  Or sunny.  Or hot.  Or just too stinking early in the morning to get to a 6:00 am class.

If any of these excuses ring a bell: you need a Home Practice.

Home Yoga Practice has benefits: I engage in home practice at least twice a…

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