Heart of Mindfulness

The 2017-2018 Heart of Mindfulness program is underway. If you are interested in receiving information about the 2018-2019 program, please let us know using our contact page.

Private page for 2017-2018 HOM Participants

September 2017 - May 2018

Join a supportive group of women learning how to wake up and enjoy life using daily mindfulness practices and meditation.

The Heart of Mindfulness is a nine-month program designed to help you develop or deepen your mindfulness and meditation practice within a small community of women. This program will support you in finding more ease and joy in your relationship with yourself and your body, in your interactions with others, and in your everyday life. The Heart of Mindfulness is open to women who are new to mindfulness and to those who have more experience.

Women of color and LGBTIQ women are strongly encouraged to register for this program. In addition, students with financial need may apply for a partial scholarship. See Fees & Registration to download an application form.

What is mindfulness?

Put simply, mindfulness is fully attending to what's happening in the present moment—where you are, what you’re doing, how you're feeling, how you're responding to what’s going on around you. Each moment can be an opportunity to build stress or bring joy. Mindfulness practice gives you more freedom to choose. With time, you can begin to recognize habits that keep you caught in cycles of over-thinking and busyness. You can also learn how to be gentle with challenging emotions and begin to transform negative reactions.

When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid... And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently. ― Pema Chödrön

Regular practice

Mindfulness is a skill that can be cultivated through regular practice. Practice can include basic sitting and walking meditation, guided relaxation, self-study, connecting with others through sharing, and using simple techniques to experience more presence in your daily activities. Recent studies demonstrate that regular mindfulness practices like these can have a positive impact on our lives—including less worry, stronger concentration, better health, and more fulfilling relationships. Neuroscientists have found that a regular practice can actually change the brain and shift old, negative patterns. Even ten minutes a day can make a difference.

As a Heart of Mindfulness participant, you will have dedicated time to help you establish a regular practice of mindfulness and meditation—or strengthen your existing practice—over the course of nine months. The program begins with a day-long retreat in September and culminates with a weekend retreat in May 2018. Through regular workshops, mentoring group support, and individual practice, you will learn practical tools that can help you encounter life's challenges more skillfully and nourish greater joy and connection. Specific readings and exercises will also be recommended for at-home practice and learning throughout the year.

Supportive community

Heart of Mindfulness participants will benefit from being part of a small community of women who also are working toward presence and mindfulness. The 2017-18 program is limited to 16 women. In addition to gathering for full-group workshops and retreats, participants will meet regularly with smaller mentoring groups. Much of your time with the group will be spent learning and practicing aspects of formal and informal mindfulness and sharing your experiences with others.

Your sangha—family, friends, and co-practitioners—is the soil, and you are the seed. No matter how vigorous the seed is, if the soil does not provide nourishment, your seed will die. A good sangha is crucial for the practice. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Experienced teachers

The lead Heart of Mindfulness teachers are Kaira Jewel Lingo and Marie Sheppard. They bring years of mindfulness practice and experience to the program. Both Kaira Jewel and Marie draw primarily from teachings and practices rooted in the Plum Village tradition, founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. They are also passionate about exploring other ways of integrating mindfulness into our daily lives and, in particular, grounding mindfulness practice in the body. Kaira Jewel will share the tools of InterPlay, for example, which uses improvisational movement, storytelling and song to access the wisdom of the body. Marie will teach participants how to use Focusing, a simple mind-body awareness technique that taps into the emotional intelligence that our bodies hold.

Over the course of the year, Heart of Mindfulness participants will also have the opportunity to learn from several guest mindfulness teachers, including Annie Mahon. Annie founded Circle Yoga and co-founded the Opening Heart Mindfulness Community. Learn more about Annie at www.rawmindfulness.com.

A sustainable practice

The longer-term goal of the Heart of Mindfulness is to help you establish a practice that is integrated into your daily life and sustainable beyond the program year. If you choose, you can continue to connect, learn, and grow with your fellow Heart of Mindfulness practitioners. You will also learn about the many opportunities for continuing to develop your practice through area mindfulness sanghas and teachers, retreats, and other resources.


Download a printer-friendly schedule with dates in chronological order. The Heart of Mindfulness program includes:

Two Day-Long Retreats (60-90 minutes from DC)
Saturday, September 23, 1:00-6:30pm
Saturday, February 10, 10:00am-3:30pm

One Weekend-Long Residential Retreat (in Germantown, MD)
Friday, May 18 - Sunday, May 20

Friday Evening Workshops (at Circle Yoga)
November 3
January 26
May 4

Saturday Afternoon Workshops
and Mentoring Group Sessions
 (at Circle Yoga)
1:00-3:00pm - Workshop
3:15-4:15pm - Mentoring Group
October 14
October 21
November 18
December 9
January 6*
March 10
April 21

* The January 6 session will start 12:45pm with a potluck lunch/mindful eating and will end at 5:00pm.

More About Mentoring Groups
Each Heart of Mindfulness participant will be part of a mentoring group of 3-4 women. Mentoring groups will have dedicated time to meet as small groups at the day-long and weekend retreats. They will also meet for an hour following each Saturday workshop (3:15-4:15pm) throughout the year. Four of these Saturday mentoring sessions will be facilitated by a Heart of Mindfulness teacher; the other four will be self-facilitated. In addition to the scheduled mentoring group sessions, these small groups will be encouraged to meet on their own once a month (or more, if desired). Groups are welcome to meet by phone, Skype, or in person.

Teacher Biographies

Kaira Jewel Lingo grew up in Chicago and in Nairobi, Kenya. From a young age, she remembers feeling connected to people in other countries and knowing that her purpose in life was to be of service, to relieve suffering, and to bring joy to others. Kaira Jewel began practicing mindfulness in 1997. Today, she teaches Buddhist meditation, mindfulness, and compassion, with a focus on activists, people of color, artists, educators, families, and youth. An ordained nun of 15 years in Thich Nhat Hanh's Order of Interbeing, she is now a lay Dharma teacher based in Washington, DC, leading retreats in the US and internationally, and offering mindfulness programs for educators and youth in schools. Kaira Jewel edited Thich Nhat Hanh's Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children and helped to start and develop Wake Up Schools, bringing mindfulness to education. She explores the interweaving of art, play, ecology, and spiritual practice and is a certified yoga teacher and InterPlay leader. She also offers spiritual mentoring to individual clients. In addition to her roots in the Zen tradition, Kaira Jewel practices and teaches in the Insight tradition and is an affiliate teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology and Social Sciences, and she speaks fluent Portuguese, French, German and Italian. Visit Kaira Jewel's website to learn more.


Marie Sheppard is a long-time mindfulness practitioner, both at work—helping people to reduce poverty, with a focus on Africa—and with her family at home. She began practicing while pregnant with her second child, and went on to co-lead a mindful parenting group and write stories to help young children be with difficult emotions. Her intense passion in her professional life made her increasingly aware that work without sufficient self-care takes a physical and emotional toll, often resulting in burnout. Today, Marie’s practice and teaching of mindfulness is woven from the wool of "being" vs. “doing.” A citizen of New Zealand, England, and the USA, Marie feels at home in several countries, including Zambia, where she lived for six years. Marie has an MBA from Harvard Business School and weaves mindfulness into her decades of experience in leadership and international development. She is particularly interested in how vulnerability and mindfulness affect how people and organizations learn. She Chairs the Board of the Opening Heart Mindfulness Community and co-taught Year of Mindfulness at Circle Yoga in 2016-17. Marie loves to be outdoors and recently moved to a farm in Dickerson, Maryland, where she lives with her family of people, dogs, cats, and—soon—horses and chickens.

Fees and Registration

***The 2017-18 Heart of Mindfulness program is now full. Add your name to the wait list to receive notification if space opens up.***

The fee for the Heart of Mindfulness is $2100. Payments will be made as follows:
$525 - Due upon enrollment (including a $350 non-refundable deposit)
$525 - Due November 3, 2017
$525 - Due January 3, 2018
$525 - Due March 3, 2018

The initial payment of $525 includes a $350 non-refundable deposit. Any participant who withdraws from the program before September 6, 2017, will receive a refund of $175. No refunds after September 6.

Circle Yoga has a limited budget for scholarships to support students who need financial assistance to register for the Heart of MindfulnessDownload a scholarship application and send the completed form to jen@circleyoga.com, or drop it off at the studio. Partial scholarships will be awarded on a first come, first served basis, so please apply as soon as possible.


If you have questions about the Heart of Mindfulness for Women program, email info@circleyoga.com.