Mind Does Matter

In Broward County, there are many ways to bring a sense of awareness and serenity to your daily life and self-care routine.

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Intro to Zen 

Depending on when you pop into Zen Mind Space in Fort Lauderdale, you may see adults kicked back in zero-gravity chairs, seemingly floating as an instructor rhythmically leads them through a deep meditation. At other times, you might be greeted by a group of children sprawled across yoga mats, working through their emotions by pretending to be a roaring lion. The eco-chic lifestyle studio is the brainchild of Marla Reis, a licensed psychologist who extended her private practice into a one-stop studio where people of all ages can engage in mindfulness.

Photo by Lauderbabe; courtesy of Zen Mind Space.

“We’re trying to stress that mindfulness is a critical foundation of general wellness, not something you do when everything goes wrong,” says Reis. “If someone is looking for basic stress management, which I believe is everyone these days, we can create a customized program, or they can join individual classes.”

In a world where technology constantly demands our attention and news headlines scream threats of war and viruses, we could all use a little mindfulness. In simple terms, mindfulness is the ability to calm and focus a busy mind—to be present in the moment—and there’s sturdy science behind it. While it’s rooted in Buddhism, mindfulness gained traction in the late 1970s when Jon Kabat-Zinn launched his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since then, thousands of studies have documented its physical and mental health benefits.

“Research shows that when you use different approaches to create mindfulness, it can move you out of mental processes associated with anxiety or depression,” explains Reis. “Anxiety is often fear of the future, while depression can mean being stuck in the past, so the ability to bring yourself into the present moment allows you to move forward in a positive way.”

Reis and her daughter, Brooke Veingrad, curate a roster of weekly classes based on that science, including guided meditation, yoga, crystal therapy, and reiki (energy healing). Reis touts research that sound healing creates profound changes in the brain, so classes often end with a sensory experience like blowing an ancient wind instrument called a didgeridoo around participants, its intense vibration reverberating through the body. Unique to the studio are mindfulness classes for kids, where instructors teach children between the ages of 3 and 10 how to effectively deal with their emotions by guiding them through yoga poses, breathing exercises, or therapeutic play.

“From being sad to angry, we’ll show them specifically how to address these emotions,” says Reis, “so the emotions don’t wind up controlling them.”

Zen Mind Space offers a variety of activities that promote mindfulness, such as crystal therapy, deep meditation while sitting in zero-gravity chairs, and kids’ classes that explore therapeutic play.

Depending on when you pop into Zen Mind Space in Fort Lauderdale, you may see adults kicked back in zero-gravity chairs, seemingly floating as an instructor rhythmically leads them through a deep meditation. At other times, you might be greeted by a group of children sprawled across yoga mats, working through their emotions by pretending to be a roaring lion. The eco-chic lifestyle studio is the brainchild of Marla Reis, a licensed psychologist who extended her private practice into a one-stop studio where people of all ages can engage in mindfulness.

“We’re trying to stress that mindfulness is a critical foundation of general wellness, not something you do when everything goes wrong,” says Reis. “If someone is looking for basic stress management, which I believe is everyone these days, we can create a customized program, or they can join individual classes.”

In a world where technology constantly demands our attention and news headlines scream threats of war and viruses, we could all use a little mindfulness. In simple terms, mindfulness is the ability to calm and focus a busy mind—to be present in the moment—and there’s sturdy science behind it. While it’s rooted in Buddhism, mindfulness gained traction in the late 1970s when Jon Kabat-Zinn launched his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since then, thousands of studies have documented its physical and mental health benefits.

“Research shows that when you use different approaches to create mindfulness, it can move you out of mental processes associated with anxiety or depression,” explains Reis. “Anxiety is often fear of the future, while depression can mean being stuck in the past, so the ability to bring yourself into the present moment allows you to move forward in a positive way.”

Reis and her daughter, Brooke Veingrad, curate a roster of weekly classes based on that science, including guided meditation, yoga, crystal therapy, and reiki (energy healing). Reis touts research that sound healing creates profound changes in the brain, so classes often end with a sensory experience like blowing an ancient wind instrument called a didgeridoo around participants, its intense vibration reverberating through the body. Unique to the studio are mindfulness classes for kids, where instructors teach children between the ages of 3 and 10 how to effectively deal with their emotions by guiding them through yoga poses, breathing exercises, or therapeutic play.

“From being sad to angry, we’ll show them specifically how to address these emotions,” says Reis, “so the emotions don’t wind up controlling them.”

Bill Gisclair-Sullivan practices sound healing at Meditate.

The Art of Being Present 

Swing by Meditate: School of Mindfulness in Wilton Manors on a Thursday night, and you’ll peep a small class intently splashing paint onto blank canvases. The studio/school doubles as a gallery and offers a meditation art class that sells out weekly. It begins in an intimate room dotted with comfy couches and chairs, where participants can lie down or wrap up in a blanket, as owner/hypnotherapist Bill Gisclair-Sullivan leads them through a short meditation. From there, artist Mike Rocheford helps participants create an art piece based on what they saw or felt during the meditation.

“I call it art therapy because I don’t worry about anything,” says Jack, a regular of the class, as he paints streaks of yellow that he saw during meditation. “I don’t think about work or home.”

Participants paint canvases during a meditation art class at Meditate: School of Mindfulness.

Meditate hosts an array of classes, from guided meditations to powerful sound healing sessions to deep relaxation yoga, as well as weekly workshops based on everything from setting boundaries to mindful eating. “This is different than a Buddhist or spiritual center,” says Gisclair-Sullivan. “It doesn’t have any dogma attached to it besides the practice of sitting in meditation.”

The studio also offers several yearly cruises to relaxing destinations like Alaska and the Caribbean, where guests can engage in nature walks and mindfulness-based practices. “There is power in mindfulness because we get back to taking care of ourselves,” explains Gisclair-Sullivan, “and then we have more to give to those around us.”

Marti’s Meditation Garden.

Park It 

The mind-body connection also extends to nature, with numerous studies citing the positive mental health impacts of spending time in the great outdoors. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is the act of soaking up the sights and sounds of nature with the intent to center yourself and make a genuine connection with the world around you.

Broward County residents and visitors can practice a distinctly South Florida spin on forest bathing at the newly constructed Marti’s Meditation Garden in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale. Named in honor of the late Marti Huizenga, who spearheaded the project, the meditation garden is tucked away in a peaceful spot overlooking the Intracoastal. It’s fitted with a stone maze that subtly forces visitors to focus while walking it. Plans are also in the works to hold tai chi, meditation, and yoga classes in the garden.

“People come to Birch to walk and jog the nature trails or to kayak, but we noticed that many just want to sit and look at the water, so we felt the meditation garden was necessary,” says Gale Butler, executive director of Friends of Birch State Park, who practiced forest bathing when she lived in Japan years ago. “When in nature, you tend to slow down and enjoy the natural surroundings.”

Photo by Austen Amacker.

Shoot for the Moon

Whether or not you believe in the effects of a full moon on behavior, enjoying yoga by moonlight is another easy way to practice mindfulness. Yoga educator Lisa Pumper hosts a $10 moonlight yoga class for the community on Fort Lauderdale Beach the day before and of a full moon. During the events, which range from one to two hours, yogis of all levels relax on towels and blankets as Pumper coaches them through yoga postures—sometimes timed to the moon rising over the ocean.

Photo by Austen Amacker.

“Nature is such a powerful way to become more mindful,” says Pumper, who also leads weekly sunrise and sunset beach yoga classes and even offers mindfulness workshops for companies who want to provide stress relief for employees. “This experience captures all of your senses and creates a reconnection to nature and the earth.”

Farther north, more than a hundred people gather on the sand each month for a beautiful full moon ceremony at the Pompano Beach Pier. Led by yoga teacher and reiki master Samantha Marcum, the ceremony begins with a brief meditation, before participants release flowers into the rolling ocean.

“It’s a symbol of all that we do not wish to carry into the next moon cycle,” explains Marcum, who’s been leading the ceremonies with Rich Gausman for the last five years.

Once the flowers float away, participants sink back into the sand while the sounds of a symphonic gong and crystal singing bowls wash over them.

Drift Away

Another way to reset the mind: float weightlessly in a tank of saltwater without sound or light to distract you. Float therapy, or “floating,” has gained momentum over the last few years, with devotees—including NFL quarterback Tom Brady and comedian Joe Rogan—reaping its calming benefits.

Photo by Dylan Calm.

After much success at their Float8 location in Deerfield Beach, husband-and-wife team Destiny and Matt Beck are opening a Fort Lauderdale location this summer. “Matt and I were both experiencing burnout from our jobs, and we found that flotation therapy was one of the best ways to alleviate stress, anxiety, and insomnia,” says Destiny Beck.

The new location will boast four float rooms, including one with a deluxe cabin where two people can float together. The individual float pods contain 180 gallons of water with a thousand pounds of Epsom salt. The mixture measures 10 inches tall, and its temperature is the same as the user’s external temperature, resulting in a feeling of weightlessness and a deprivation of the senses that encourages maximum mindfulness. During a session, you’ll drift for 60 minutes in complete darkness and silence, with the goal of reaching a deep level of mental and physical relaxation. «

Story Credits:

Text by Angela Caraway-Carlton

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