CLARKS SUMMIT – Sitting inside her Clarks Summit office, Bernadette Kozlowski is only about seven miles from the Scranton Preparatory School. But the journey that took her from teaching biology to coaching meditation was less direct, involved the death of her mother, a retreat in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and hundreds of hours of study.
“It changed my life enough that I knew I had to leave a career I loved to get this out to people,” said Kozlowski, owner of Light Your Fire Meditation, which opened offices at 109 E. Grove St. in November.
Nearly four years ago, while searching for a way to deal with the grief from her mother’s passing, Kozlowski attended Kripalu, a yoga retreat in Stockbridge, Ma. While there, she was exposed to the teachings of Lorin Roche, Ph.D., whose work on instructive, freestyle meditation altered the student’s stereotypical view of a meditator as being someone sitting in a trance.
“He took some of the Eastern tradition and combined it with the Western world, which is what we need,” Kozlowski said. “We don’t need to practice meditation like a monk. We need to practice it like people with crazy, busy lives.”
Kozlowski was certified in meditation through the Yoga Alliance, and continues to study with Roche. Meditation is frequently the opening and closing portion of a yoga class, but sessions at Light Your Fire Meditation don’t involve mats on the floor. There are chairs in the office and the entire session involves meditation.
“The very first step is learning how to give yourself permission how to rest because, in our culture, we don’t allow rest,” Kozlowski said.
She did meditation coaching part-time until June 2015 when the school year ended and she left her job at Scranton Prep. As a full-time coach, she conducted meditation classes in churches, nature centers, yoga studios and private homes. She held sessions over the telephone and online, though video conferencing.
Opening an office allowed her to book more private sessions and expand her classes without having to obtain facilities provided by a third party. She found a vacancy in space previously leased by a chiropractor.
“Clarks Summit just seemed like a really nice central location, and it’s such a beautiful space,” Kozlowski said, sitting behind her desk next to a fireplace as calming music played at a low level from speakers. She does private sessions in the office and holds classroom sessions – which seat up to 15 – in an adjoining room.
Private sessions cost $25 for 30 minutes or $50 for an hour. A 30-minute class on Wednesday nights, which the owner said had recently sold out, costs $5. The fee for an upcoming two-hour class, which covers the seven steps to start meditating, will be $25.
“Step 7 is about welcoming everything with a wide-open embrace,” Kozlowski said. “People think meditation is this narrow, hard focus that shuts everything down. But when you meditate, you take it all in.”
When Kozlowski began coaching, about 90 percent of her customers were women. She’s seen a change in clientele recently, with men now making up about 60 percent of the attendees at group sessions. One gender does not make a better meditator than the other, according to Kozlowski, but she has found that members of a certain demographic seem to produce excellent practitioners.
“Working parents tend to be the ones that can get into meditation the quickest because they really need it and they don’t have a lot of time,” she explained.
Some students master the meditative techniques after only a few sessions. Others prefer to meet with the teacher at regular intervals.
“My goal is not to have a student here for 10 years,” Kozlowski said. “My goal is to have them here for as many classes as they need so they can start to tap into it on their own.”
Kozlowski spent 25 years teaching biology in private schools, including nine at Scranton Prep. The biological underpinnings of the form of meditation she practices made it easier to leave the classroom for an office. She considers the coaching to be a continuance of her educational duties.
Former students and colleagues are now clients.
“Doors keep opening for me and people keep showing up and the word keeps spreading,” Kozlowski said. “And people who’ve become clients are now becoming advocates and spreading the word.”
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