Many nonprofit organization’s fundamental goal is to have a positive social impact, to get results and to hopefully sustain the effects of these results. Often for the people who are working in those organizations it is much more about the mission than climbing the corporate ladder or receiving a comforting paycheck. The focus is often on giving, which is true for the Alive and Shine Foundation, based in Bellevue, Washington.

The foundation, formed in 2008, was created with the mission to provide unprivileged and underserved populations, from all age groups, class status or gender, with the practice of Heartfull Meditation™. It uses meditation as a pathway to help people who are struggling emotionally, physically and mentally to find purpose, self-motivation and, most importantly, internal peace. The foundation provides only meditation services, believing that this is exactly what their clients need most of all.

”There are so many more ways to take care of the physical body than just stretching or straightening the muscle,” said Erin Honeycutt, Alive and Shine’s president.

Since the beginning, the foundation has provided Heartfull Meditation™ workshops for many organizations in the Greater Seattle area, such as the Washington Corrections Center for Women and the Cocoon House, which has been serving homeless youth in Snohomish County since 1991. Today, the foundation continues to work with local partners and hopes to expand and change more lives through Heartfull Meditation™.

The meditation workshops have many different effects for participants, said Marchella Yokoyama, the foundation’s program coordinator and a certified Purna instructor.

Some “people calm down” instantly and feel less stressed, she said. Others just “burst into tears,” because self-reflection is very new to them. They learn how to let go and be more aware of their feelings.

Savitri, creator of Heartfull Meditation™, started the cocooning practice which was specifically designed to create an environment where people feel safe. This meditation process uses the synergy of breath, hand movements and feeling that brings the energy of love and calmness around the physical body; all illustrating the shape of a cocoon.

Often the foundation serves homeless shelters where some people just needs a quiet moment.

“Working with kids is different from working adults,” Yokoyama said.

Kids are often looking for direction, since they do not have present parents or support resources in their lives, Yokoyama said, and so meditation helps them find direction, or at least makes them think about it.

Yokoyama gave an example of a young girl who wasn’t sure that she wanted to continue her life; she didn’t know there was any other option than her current state of mind, but during the workshop, the cocooning practice allowed her to “feel as there were new possibilities.” Meditation allows people to understand that they may have lost everything on the outside, but once they look within they’ll find love, hope and opportunities inside.

Today, Alive and Shine serves hundreds of people in need,  and it is hoping to expand its work, locally and internationally. This year, the foundation offered over 30 workshops in the Greater Seattle area and they are now starting to provide meditations workshops in Los Angeles and Vancouver, BC.

Savitri, who founded the Alive and Shine Foundation, is still at the heart of the foundation, Honeycutt said. “She didn’t just built a ship and let it sail on its own.”

Savitri is deeply involved in the development of the foundation and her vision keeps growing, he said.

Some of the biggest challenges the Alive and Shine Foundation faces are “building and sustaining a momentum,” Honeycutt said. The foundation has different functions, such as fundraising and services coordination, and being able to balance everything can be challenging, but it is something that they pay close attention to.

Honeycutt is proud of the work that the Alive and Shine Foundation does because they help people to find inspiration within themselves. Their work helps those in need to better understand their current life circumstances and to actually see options for the future, rather than increasingly feeling sad, anxious or depressed. Often people look at their situation and they start to self-judge and to criticize themselves, Honeycutt said. The foundation’s goal is to help people see that there is something very special about them, as individuals.

Nancy Gellos Busse, a board member for Alive and Shine Foundation, also added that everyone is affected through their work, not only the participants receiving the services, but also the people who work with them, including the board members.

“Everyone on the board practices those techniques in their daily life,” Busse said. “There is a deep believe and knowingness of the power of what we are sharing.”

As a board member, Busse finds that the work within the foundation is like a united community, “like an orchestra,” and each member always strives to help their colleagues.

Busse said the most rewarding experience for her has been her direct work with the participants, because she was able to see the direct benefits of what they do.

The culture and the values of the Alive and Shine Foundation reminds Yokoyama of older cultures, where families and communities were more united. You had the perspective of a grandparents, parents, children and cousins; this is how she envisions the culture of the foundation. Everyone has a different background, family status and age, which means more perspectives. The diversity of the team allows the foundation to function with a wide range of perspectives and energy.

Today, Yokoyama is very grateful that she is able to help people change and transform their lives. The Alive and Shine Foundation has a positive social impact through the work that they do, thus they effect not only those in need but everyone and everything that surrounds them, Yokoyama added.

To support them you can attend their Silent Auction taking place on Saturday, November 1 at the Impulse Ballroom (2273 140th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98005) For more information contact marchella@aliveandshinefoundation.org


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Simona Trakiyska

Simona is an experienced journalist and an avid yogi. She was introduced to yoga as a child by her grandfather. She is the founder of Seattle Yoga News where she combines two of her passions: Yoga & Journalism. You can find her on Twitter @SimonaTrak