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The Holistic Life Foundation is a Baltimore-based 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization committed to nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities. Through a comprehensive approach which helps children develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care HLF demonstrates deep commitment to learning, community, and stewardship of the environment. HLF is also committed to developing high-quality evidence based programs and curriculum to improve community well-being.
We get asked this a lot and wanted to share our definition here for all to read, hear, and embrace.
Mindfulness is the combination of awareness, centering, and being present. It is the awareness of your thoughts, emotions, actions, and energy. It is the ability to get centered and stay centered in all situations. And it is the ability to be present, not letting internal and external distractions take you from the current moment. This leads to the development of empathy, compassion, love, balance, and harmony.
Brothers Ali and Atman Smith met Andres Gonzalez at the University of Maryland College Park. During their last semester there, the trio spent a lot of time reading books on spirituality, philosophy, modern history, religions, ancient history, politics, astronomy, and other related topics. They all saw some things wrong with the world, but it was not until Andres said, “So what are we going to do about it?”, that they all knew they had to do something. What that something was, they had no idea. During this time they also began their journey on the path of yoga practice. They began learning more yoga and developing their practice under the guidance of Ali and Atman’s godfather. As young children, Ali and Atman actually grew up with yoga in their home, with their father having them meditate every morning before school. As Atman says, “Our parents were big hippies. They were into yoga, vegetarianism, and all that kind of stuff.”
One summer afternoon, after graduation, the three were sitting in Atman’s apartment watching television when they saw a Matthew Lesko’s commercial; he was selling a book telling you how to use government grant funds to help you in doing almost any type of work. They heard him say, “Doing what you want to do in life is like being on vacation every single day! Now here’s your chance to get the government to pay for it.” They knew they wanted to help people and the planet, and now a book could show them how the government could pay for it, they had the answer to their problem. They immediately went online to look for grants. They figured with Ali’s degree in Environmental Science it would be easiest for them to get a grant in the environmental field. They found a request for proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency for a ground level ozone detection system and decided that was the first grant they were going to get. Air pollution was a major problem, so why not do something to help. They printed out the grant application and started fill out, but ran into a major problem on page one. The government doesn’t give out grants to three random University of Maryland College Park graduates, you need a non-profit organization. Their Matthew Lesko inspired plans would have to be put on hold.
At the end of that summer, they moved back into the house that Ali and Atman grew up in, in West Baltimore. Ali and Atman immediately noticed that the sense of family that was present in the neighborhood when they grew up there was gone. The Smith brothers remembered when they were living there as children, the neighborhood was like one big family, and the “older guys” in the neighborhood served as mentors and big brothers to all of the younger kids. They saw that as important factor in their growth and development. They knew that they wanted to do something to help bring that feeling back to their neighborhood.
During this time they began the planning and development for the formation of a non-profit organization. They also began to delve deeper into their practice and study of yoga. After months of hard work, on December 19th, 2001, the Holistic Life Foundation was officially incorporated.
To the three Co-Founders, the Holistic Life Foundation symbol represents the unity and interconnectedness in all things on the planet. It is their unique spin on the Aum symbol. The Aum symbol represents the universal vibration that everything and everyone gives off. To them this showed the interconnectedness of all things. They changed the symbol and put a globe on the top, where traditionally there is a dot, because they wanted to remind people of the relationship each person shares with the planet and the things living on it.