“Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what's the use of seeing?"Thich Nhat Hanh
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."Nelson Mandela

Our Mission Statement
To develop and implement mindfulness-based interventions for under-served populations and individuals serving these communities.

The Mission Statement

To develop and implement mindfulness-based interventions for under-served populations and individuals serving these populations.


Building Empowerment And Resilience


Blending my passion for healing, mindfulness, and martial arts, I recently started offering the BEAR (Building Empowerment And Resilience) 10-week curriculum in the Madison community. The BEAR curriculum has been developed over the last 12 years by Dr. Jennifer Keller at Stanford University, and its intention is to empower women with a history of interpersonal trauma and to promote healing and resilience through education, mindfulness, and empowerment self-defense techniques.

Women martial arts
Prison Cell Bars

Path of Freedom

The main goal of this project is to continue to offer Path of Freedom (POF) classes in parallel, in a prison setting and in the community. The POF class is an 11-week class based on the Prison Mindfulness Institute's Path of Freedom® curriculum developed by Kate Crisp (lead author) and Fleet Maull. This curriculum includes training in mindfulness meditation, principles of emotional intelligence, communication skills, conflict resolution, and resilience building skills. These are skills and qualities that can contribute to more effective relationships, leadership, and collaboration, regardless of our living circumstances.

In this training, participants engage in an innovative and unique learning opportunity, where two POF classes are offered in parallel as mentioned above:

1) One class at a correctional facility here in Wisconsin, and
2) Another class within the Madison community.

All participants receive the POF workbook, and the intention is to have both groups enrich each other as they go through the curriculum, and to realize that - underneath it all - we are all in the same boat in this messy business of being human.

Due to COVID-19 and our inability to offer mindfulness groups in prisons, we have been recording the POF sessions and have sent the DVDs to Fox Lake Correctional Facility.

This is a picture of our very last recording session:

As you can see, we had a great team for the last POF offering (recorded Zoom sessions):

  • Carmen Alonso - Founder of Just Mindfulness, Licensed Psychologist, Mindfulness and Martial Arts Instructor.
  • Roderick “Rudy” Bankston - Founder and President of the I am We organization (www.iamweclassics.com).
  • Aaron Hicks - Reentry Specialist, Nehemiah, Man Up Group Facilitator, and Staff member at Focus Coalition Interruption.
  • Heidi Ropa - Yoga and Meditation Instructor, Restorative Justice practitioner, and former international development worker.
From March 2020 until August 2021, we not only offered the POF recordings to two different groups of incarcerated men, but also Carmen - along with three other volunteers from Wisconsin Mindfulness Prison Initiative - continued to contribute via the recording of mindfulness practices and lessons so that incarcerated men at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility could receive mindfulness instruction during that time of very limited physical interaction due to COVID-19.

Mindfulness Groups

I have been offering mindfulness practices to residents of a maximum security prison to reduce inner violence and violence amongst residents for several years. These groups also support healing from the traumatic lives experienced before and during incarceration.

Supporting Staff

Just Mindfulness has been supporting staff members of different organizations that attend to under-served populations in developing and maintaining a mindfulness practice. Most recently, we have partnered with the Dane County organization Focused Interruption to support its staff and the individuals/families they serve who have been impacted by gun violence.


Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Maximum security prison
(Segregation Unit)

I have learned to be mindful of all the things around me and to think outside my normal way of thinking. I have learned not to assume, to identify triggers and what I am feeling, and how to use what’s transpiring around me to distract and redirect my focus when angry.”
- Mr. W

“I have learned firmer discipline and the ability to step back in heated situations and think of what I have at stake.”
- Mr. E

“I really loved this program. It has changed my life.”
- Mr. C

“I have learned that I don’t know myself as good as I thought. I learned how to communicate with others, and I learned how to get things done without drama.”
- Mr. W

“I have learned that I can overcome adversity and change my impulsive ways, but it takes time.”
- Mr. W

Columbia Correctional Institution
Maximum security prison

“I learned how to meditate. I learned how to slow my breathing and pay attention to my surrounding with just listening. I learned how to think before reacting.”
- Mr. W

“I learned that I am a good person and that my last crime doesn’t define me or is not really me.”
- Mr. W

“I learned a lot about myself, how to forgive, how to transform pain, to let go of the Drama and feel empowered, who I am as a Human Being, to take responsibility, how to change for the better, how to hold my seat through difficulty, how to properly communicate my thoughts and feelings, and much changing conflict can make life better.”
- Mr. L

“I have learned not to sweat the small stuff I cannot change. And, most of all, to be humble.”
- Mr. N

“I have learned that I am a good person at heart!”
- Mr. Y

Fox Lake Correctional Institution
Medium security prison

“Ms. Alonso has shown me that inner power is real, and with diligence and love, I too can be as strong.”
- Mr. K

“I have learned how to ease my anxiety, stress, and anger, and my racing thoughts ... I learned about self worth and self acceptance, and it's alright to let go of my past ... Meditation is a a lot better at managing my PTSD and depression than medication.”
- Mr. A

“I want to thank all of the volunteers and the community (group) for helping me to open up and allow myself to change and grow with happiness, while allowing myself to see who I really am. Thank you.”
- Mr. F

“Path of Freedom will forever be part of my everyday life.”
- Mr. H

“I have learned how to hold my seat. Prior to this class I was so incredibly terrible at it. I've also learned the power of forgiveness and how to stay out of the drama triangle.”
- Mr. M

“The most important skill I have learned is how to hold my seat and not let my emotions or other people control what I do, say or think in a negative way.”
- Mr. D

“I have learned that, although in different environments, we all have similar issues and feelings. Come down to it, we are more the same than we are different.”
- Mr. P

Madison Community

“I have gained a lot of insight about myself but the best part about this class was learning alongside those in prison. That is what made it most meaningful for me.”
– Mrs. P

“I've learned that it can be my choice to put down the burden of carrying regret, anger, and negative self-assessments. I have also been reminded of the importance of the pause or gap between (an) event and my response.”
– Mrs. B

“I loved the Hold Your Seat concept. It helped me realize I don’t need to jump in to react/fix things all the time.”
– Mrs. T

“I have learned I need some more practice with forgiveness, especially for myself.”
– Mr. F

“I have gained awareness of Drama Triangle and Empowerment Triangle. Awareness of my default patterns and my ability to choose to be free of them.”
– Mrs. L

“I have learned that I can learn and change in ways I didn’t think I could.”
– Mrs. W


Carmen Alonso

Carmen Alonso, PhD

Carmen is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience. She is dedicated to serving adults in both individual psychotherapy and group settings. Carmen has taught mindfulness-based interventions to alleviate stress and decrease suffering to a wide variety of groups such as:

  • Patients with clinical depression and anxiety
  • Veterans with and without PTSD
  • Spanish-speaking populations
  • Medical residents
  • School personnel
  • Athletes
  • Police officers
  • Residents in maximum and medium security facilities (including men in the segregation unit in the most secure correctional facility in Wisconsin)

Some of the mindfulness-based interventions Carmen has offered throughout the years are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Path of Freedom, and Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training.

She has also combined her mindfulness teachings with Tae Kwon Do, a martial art she has practiced for over 30 years, including nearly 25 years as the head instructor of the Choi Tae Kwon Do School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



Compassion Works for All - First Tuesday with Dan Grupe
and Carmen Alonso, November 2, 2021

Prison Mindfulness Summit, October 27-29, 2022

Our Advisory Council


Connie Anderson

Connie Anderson has practiced law in Madison for 35 years, and enjoys long-term relationships with governmental, institutional and individual clients.  During law school, Connie interned at the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Program (LAIP), assisting people incarcerated at Winnebago Mental Health Institute, Corrections Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program, the Wisconsin Resource Center and Dodge Correctional Institution.  Connie has been a close student of the beloved Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön for the past 25 years, and has developed a committed practice of meditation, study and retreat in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.


Dan Grupe

Dan Grupe moved to Madison in 2008 to pursue graduate studies in psychology and has made his home here ever since. He is an Associate Scientist at the UW-Madison Center for Healthy Minds, where his research includes work at the intersection of contemplative practices and the criminal justice system. He is a fervent believer in a role for contemplative and restorative practices in bringing about individual transformation and systemic criminal justice reforms. Outside of work, Dan can be found gardening, biking, curling, fermenting various foods and beverages, and spending time with his wife and two pups.


Aaron Hicks

Aaron’s desire to help people in the community started while he was incarcerated. Aaron started to notice a lot of the struggles people were having that were similar to some of his own experiences, so he would share with the men in prison how he was able to overcome some of his issues. At the same time Aaron was learning the Bible.  Aaron has been able to use those two components as tools as they have been influential to his life and the lives that he had the privilege to be a part of. 

Aaron has received training and received certifications for two nationally accredited curriculums called Walking the Line and Within My Reach dealing with relationships.   He also has received a certificate for life coach training through Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership.  Other certificates received are Crisis Intervention Partner (CIP) collaborative through National Alliance on Mental Health Illness (NAMI), Attic Correctional Services, and the UW-Madison Police Department as well as training through University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute inCore Correctional Practices (CCP). In addition, Aaron is a member of MOSES as well as EXPO, a group of formerly incarcerated people who help to lead WISDOM’s ROC Wisconsin Campaign to end mass incarceration in WI. 


Laura Pinger

Laura Pinger moved to Madison in 1976 to pursue graduate studies at UW-Madison.  Over 35 years she has worked within three organizations, often simultaneously: the Madison Metropolitan School District, the UW Health Mindfulness Program, and the UW-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (currently known as the Center for Healthy Minds). Her focus has been on improving quality of life for students, parents, teachers, and the general adult population through teaching and contemplative practices.  In her advisory role she hopes to continue to support offering contemplative practices to underserved populations and building inclusive communities.


Engage in some of these practices to experience an example of the type of life-changing work we do.

(Available in both English and Spanish)


3-Step Breathing Space:
Self-Compassion Practice:
22-Minute Body Scan Practice:


La Pausa:
Observación del Cuerpo:
Contando las Respiraciones:
Práctica de la Bondad:
Presencia Compasiva:

ContactLet's Keep In Touch.

Our Supporters

Just Mindfulness offerings are made possible by the generosity of the following individual supporters:

The Hedberg Foundation

Endres Foundation Grant
Peggy Hedberg

$1,000 to $4,999
Sarah and Greg Muthler
Carolyn Zahn-Waxler

$500 to $999
Don Katz
Phillip Ross

Under $500
Heather Abercrombie
Kathleen and Brian Rulka
Patrick Slavens
Morgan Ayres
Jeff Bissing
Cathy Caro-Bruce
Diana Grove
Joy Jordan
Jeff Kirchman
Peter Marshall
Laura Pinger
Lezli Redmond
Heidi Ropa
Jennie Ross
Peggy Wallace 

Under $500 (cont.)
Bruce Barrett
Kate Behrens
Isa Dolski
Kathy Germann
Bob Gillespie
Simon Goldberg
Harvey Honig
Sachin and Kirty Jain
Jini and Lynne MacAdam
Chad McGehee
Janet Pugh
Kamal Srinivasan