Erin Schoen Marsh
A Mindful Habit (Toledo City Paper)
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Jay Weik, founder and executive director of Toledo Mindfulness Institute (TMI), discovered meditation as a young child. He doesn’t recall his exact age, but he reminisces, “I was so young that my feet didn’t touch the floor.”
Jay continues, “My mom put me in a timeout facing the wall...and I started spontaneously practicing meditation and sunk into a really deep place. I can still remember this. My mom forgot all about me, and an hour later found me still in the chair and facing the wall.”
Jay’s mindfulness journey continued throughout his childhood. He practiced Aikido and willingly read books on zen meditation, even as young as 8, and pursued the study of mindfulness all throughout his schooling and adulthood.
Jay and his wife, Karen Weik, who is the associate director of TMI, eventually returned to Toledo after living in Boston for many years, and started the dojo Shobu Aikido of Ohio. Aikido, Jay explains, is really “the study of the art of life.”
A music professor at University of Toledo, Jay established The Mindfulness and Creativity Initiative on campus to make “mindfulness and meditation accessible to students and faculty in a non-secular way,” but Jay felt there was a “gap between functioning at the university level and the general public.” That led to the creation of TMI, whose goals is to make training on meditation and mindfulness--without any sort of religious affiliation--accessible to the public.
Both Jay and Karen Weik are Zen Buddhist priests, but TMI is a “secular expression. This is the attempt to make mindfulness available to people who wouldn’t want to be involved in a Buddhist setting.”
Jay continues, “We are in it for the long haul…[TMI] is all local people who are committed to making mindfulness available in the Toledo area. There are a lot of places people can go online [for mindfulness training], but this will be local in the region to connect with one another….There’s a lot of mindfulness stuff out there without a deep understanding of the tradition. We are correcting that.”
One of the local mindfulness educators on the TMI faculty is Jenn McCullough, a long-time yoga teacher in the Toledo area.
Before becoming a full-time yoga teacher, Jenn was a special education teacher who worked with children with “emotional and learning disabilities in a self-contained classroom.”
Jenn laughs, “Needless to say, that’s when I started yoga. I started integrating yoga and meditation into the classroom back in the 90s when the community at large was not quite ready for that. Now it’s popular and mainstream…[and] people are hip to start learning about mindfulness.”
Jenn clarifies that yoga in and of itself is not mindfulness, but “yoga is mindful movement and there can be meditation.”
Research continues to support the importance of including mindfulness in the school curriculum, and Toledo Public Schools is at the forefront of this movement locally, employing Jenn to teach a mindfulness class in one of the elementary schools. Additional mindfulness classes in TPS are on the horizon.
“I saw the need in the community,” Jenn explains. “People seem to be craving mindfulness for stress, whether they’re a kid or an adult.”
“To go into school, you need to know your stuff around mindfulness and how to manage kids,” emphasizes Jenn. “I’m currently at one school and expanding to another school….[and] it’s a year-long commitment so students can learn to utilize [mindfulness] skills.”
Jenn adds, “School is a stressful environment, and [these kids] are learning to utilize social and emotional skills.”
To learn more about how you, your business, or your work environment can receive mindfulness training, visit ToledoMindfulnessInstitute.com.
*Published in Toledo City Paper December 2018