Louisville's Earth and Spirit Center: Creating Community Through Mindfulness And Meditation

Feb 23, 2023 at 4:41 pm
A photo of the gathering space from the new Spirit Scape at the Earth and Spirit Center.
A photo of the gathering space from the new Spirit Scape at the Earth and Spirit Center.

Louisville’s Passionist Earth and Spirit Center wants to grow a safe space for all in the community through meditation and mindfulness. Their mission is to “cultivate transformative learning and service opportunities dedicated to mindful awakening, compassionate justice, and care for the Earth.”

The center, known locally as simply The Earth and Spirit Center, was founded in 2005 as a nonprofit, interfaith spirituality center. As Dan Galvin, who helps the center with marketing and outreach tells LEO, the center aims to be “a safe space for people of all faiths and spiritualities (or none) can learn, be transformed, form a community with fellow seekers, and serve the greater good.  

As we continue to move forward from the years of COVID and look for ways to reconnect to the world around us, meditation and other spiritual practices might provide some guidance. Recently, the center completed work on a new outdoor "Spirit Scape" education and play area which includes labyrinths, water play, sand play and gardens.  LEO spoke with Galvin about how the Earth and Spirit Center might be useful for those looking for a deeper connection to themselves and their communities. 

click to enlarge The master plan of the new Spirit Scape at Louisville's Earth and Spirit Center.
The master plan of the new Spirit Scape at Louisville's Earth and Spirit Center.

What is the aim of the center?

We are deeply inspired by Thomas Berry, an historian of religion and a brilliant visionary who attempted to put together the spiritual concerns of religion and theology with the new insights of science about our evolving universe and the ecological challenges of our current era.  Berry believed that all of humankind is called to the “Great Work” of transforming our relationship with the Earth: from a relationship that is deeply alienated and destructive to one that is connected, harmonious, and flourishing. Founded in Berry’s lineage and with his blessing, the Earth and Spirit Center uses contemplative spiritual practices like mindfulness to foster personal growth, societal healing, and ecological care. We work to help heal the great disconnects from self, from others, from the natural world, and from the Sacred (however understood), in order to contribute to the Great Work that Berry envisioned.

Do you have outreach programs that bring meditation to those outside of the center?

We understand that not everyone has the time, financial resources, and transportation to take our meditation classes at our 27-acre campus in the Louisville Highlands. Yet all people deserve to reap the many physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness practice. Our pro-bono ‘Mindfulness Mentors’ program partners with local schools, social service agencies, and other organizations to bring the benefits of mindfulness instruction to those who might not otherwise access them.

click to enlarge The Earth and Spirit Center main building on their 27-acre Highlands campus.
The Earth and Spirit Center main building on their 27-acre Highlands campus.

We also provide ‘applied mindfulness’ services for non-profit and for-profit organizations, helping to create more mindful workplace cultures.  We offer workshops, retreats, consulting, and other services, both at organizational venues and in the retreat-like setting of our campus. 

What benefits might someone reap from a meditation practice?

There are many reasons why mindfulness has become so popular. As scientific research has shown many physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness, we’ve also watched our students experience these benefits firsthand.

Put simply, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness of your experience, without attaching positive or negative judgments to it.  While mindfulness can be cultivated in various ways, two of the most common are: a regular practice of mindfulness meditation and bringing awareness to everyday activities, from doing dishes to sitting in traffic.

According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness has been proven to bring the following emotional, physical, and mental benefits (citations available here):

  • Reduces stress 
  • Reduces rumination and depression 
  • Lessens emotional reactivity to upsetting events 
  • Enhances immune functioning 
  • Improves relationship satisfaction: increasing emotional honesty and transparency and managing the stress of relationships 
  • Increases working memory capacity 
  • Increases information processing speed 
  • Increases focus and ability to suppress distractions 
  • Enhances cognitive flexibility and ability to self-observe 
  • For therapists and those who provide care for others, mindfulness has been demonstrated to improve empathy, compassion, counseling skills, emotional intelligence, patience, and quality of life 
Are your programs based in any religious context or is it a welcome place for those who do not seek religious guidance but want to connect with a higher self without dogma?

We are explicitly ecumenical and interfaith; all are welcome, regardless of religious or spiritual tradition (or lack thereof). We do adopt helpful contemplative practices from various religious traditions but without any specific reference to the doctrines and dogmas of those traditions. And of course, we seek the common ground of shared ethical commitments and actions, such as concern for those on the margins, working for equity, and care for the Earth itself. We see our work as complementing rather than competing with established religious traditions.  

click to enlarge Participants in a retreat at the Earth and Spirit Center
Participants in a retreat at the Earth and Spirit Center

Upcoming events, programs

Our broad programming offers something for everyone. Throughout the year, we offer introductory workshops and courses (4, 5, and 10 weeks in duration) for those who want to learn mindfulness meditation from highly qualified instructors. We also teach courses for experienced meditators to deepen their practice. 

We host regular monthly meditation gatherings for those seeking ongoing community and support. In line with our mission, we complement our meditation instruction with opportunities to learn about and address social justice concerns and to engage in hands-on ecological care on our property. On March 27 we will offer a 5-week ‘applied mindfulness’ course, and [add Phil Lloyd-Sidle’s meditation intro course that starts in April; title and dates pending]. For younger ones, we offer school field trips, day-long, and overnight retreats as well as our well-known Camp Odyssey summer camps, which integrate mindfulness, compassion, and connection to the Earth.