Integrating a mindfulness program into the life of a school involves a lot of experimentation, at the macro and micro levels. It’s been crucial for me to have access to the judgment and advice of an experienced mindfulness teacher along the way. Whenever I run into a fork in the road—which, in the initial years, seemed to happen every week—it’s been so valuable to be able to call Doug Worthen and talk things through.
The Mindfulness Director Initiative (MDI) was founded in 2019 by Doug Worthen and Marc Waxman for the specific purpose of facilitating the genesis and growth of integrated mindfulness programs in schools using the Mindfulness Director Model. MDI supports schools of all types—public and private, urban and rural, well-funded and under-resourced—in bringing mindfulness to children, teens, and school communities throughout the United States.
The creation of MDI harnesses Marc’s strong entrepreneurial acumen and his experience in education and nonprofit leadership with Doug’s vision and expertise as Founder and Director of Mindfulness Programs at the Middlesex School in Concord, MA. MDI is the realization of Doug and Marc’s shared commitment to supporting mindfulness in school communities and their vision for a more just and aware society—one in which mindfulness contributes to developing citizens who are prepared to address complex personal, relational, and global challenges.
Now, more than ever, our world needs people who have the skills and abilities mindfulness supports, and what better place to introduce mindfulness to children and teens than in school. MDI was established as a nonprofit organization to take the already successful model program piloted at the Middlesex School—a model in which a school commits to hiring a Mindfulness Director who is devoted to supporting mindfulness in ways that work best for the school culture and community—and expand it to schools throughout the country. It is an idea that has been brewing for a decade.
The seed for MDI was planted in 2009 with a talk on mindfulness Doug co-delivered before a school assembly at the Middlesex School. That talk precipitated a hunger for mindfulness education at Middlesex that led to mindfulness classes and the beginnings of a mindfulness program. As the impact of mindfulness on student well-being became apparent and interest grew in the school community, Doug worked with school leaders to identify other ways to weave mindfulness seamlessly into school culture. Ten years after Doug’s initial talk, the robust and fully-integrated Middlesex Mindfulness Program, headed by a full-time Mindfulness Director, has become a model for schools across the country.
That model was successfully replicated in the last several years at a K-12 school in Austin, TX, St. Andrew’s School, where Adam Ortman is Mindfulness Director. St. Andrew’s School leaders relied heavily on the Middlesex experience as they worked with Adam to develop an integrated mindfulness program that is synergistic with the daily rhythms of the school. The mindfulness education program at St. Andrew’s has become a second model.
MDI was formed by Marc and Doug to take the next step—replication of the Mindfulness Director Model on large scale, with the goal of developing a network of partner schools that will support each other and their larger communities. MDI screens and matches schools and Mindfulness Directors, supports implementation of programs, and ensures schools can afford to implement the Mindfulness Director position in the in the short- and long-term. The network builds upon itself.
Our growing awareness of the importance of mindfulness in youth development creates the urgency and opportunity for this important work. As MDI embarks on our exciting mission, we welcome schools, mindfulness teachers, and fiscal sponsors to join us in making the transformative power of mindfulness a reality for students, staff, and families in school communities everywhere.