Gathered in a semi-circle at the center of a long room lined with spiritual artifacts, 10 teenage girls from Community Bridges gazed upward Wednesday afternoon. All eyes were on Sister Jenna, seated in silence in a chair before a stage.
After she arose from her perch, one by one, the girls took turns walking up to the chair and sitting. Sister Jenna applauded and offered words of approval.
“Something as simple as walking to a chair and sitting in it says a lot,” said Sister Jenna, founder of the Meditation Museum in Silver Spring.
The museum is run by Brahma Kumaris, a female-led spiritual organization based in India. Brahma Kumaris has more than 9,000 meditation centers in 130 countries, including around 35 facilities in the United States.
The organization has just a pair of museums, with another in Tysons Corner, Virginia, joining the Silver Spring location.
The unassuming building just off Georgia Avenue features several spiritual exhibits pertaining to personal growth and a sense of community across various populations.
The museum offers meditation courses a few times a week, along with individual courses focused on various beliefs and teachings.
Wednesday’s course focused on female empowerment, as Sister Jenna and her team welcomed teens from Community Bridges, a Silver Spring-based organization serving girls from grades 4 to 12 in the county.
The first week of the summer program centers on mindfulness, said Community Bridges Program Director Marianne Hope, so the organization chose the Meditation Museum for a field trip.
“Some of the girls that we work with admit to struggling with stress and frustration,” Hope said. “Growing up as a young woman of color, the challenges can be overwhelming. Learning how to channel it can be empowering.”
Sister Jenna had the girls complete simple actions such as sitting in a chair or saying hello, but doing so in a confident manner. They were told to speak clearly and sit with good posture, an approach that would be helpful in a job interview or other important setting.
“We learned how to be confident about ourselves,” said Kalidan Letibelu, a 16-year-old from Silver Spring.
The girls also sat in silence for a period, then wrote letters to themselves about what they had learned during the course, something they could hold onto and revisit every so often.
Sister Jenna closed the class by showing the girls an interview between Oprah Winfrey and former first lady Michelle Obama, who discusses the work of young women? on staff while her husband was in office.
The museum also features courses targeted to young men, politicians and business leaders, Sister Jenna said. She hopes to develop a class for police officers soon.
“We just want people to come in and feel themselves, find out who they are, what their strengths are, what their limitation are,” Sister Jenna said. “Our message is more to pay attention, listen to what your thoughts are saying, and if it’s not healthy, just redirect it.”
The museum has spent nine years in Silver Spring, though the organization has been active in the Washington region for more than two decades, Sister Jenna said. She estimated that more than 1 million people have passed through its local facilities.
Charlie Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org