About Awaken Pittsburgh

About Us

Live fully. Mindfulness in action. Putting powerful tools into the hands and minds of those most in need. These are the goals of Awaken Pittsburgh.

Awaken Pittsburgh is a secular organization that draws on the wisdom of mindfulness and meditation to serve the public. Our programs are specially designed for students, educators, social services and mental health professionals, corporations, and any person or organization seeking to reduce stress and gain clarity and focus in their daily lives.

Mission, Vision, and What Guides Us

Live fully. Mindfulness in action. Putting powerful tools into the hands and minds of those most in need. These are the goals of Awaken Pittsburgh.


To foster well-being, empathy, and compassion for all by teaching and encouraging mindfulness and meditation practices.


An equitable and just society where diverse peoples live in harmony with each other and their environments.

Guiding Principles

We are committed to:

  • Providing leadership in mindfulness education in our region
  • Offering services that uncover the basic goodness, innate kindness, resilience, and dignity in individuals, organizations, and communities
  • Communicating the strength of mindfulness in ways that honor its spiritual roots
  • Engaging in business practices that maintain the highest ethical standards and are grounded in mindfulness, generosity, humor, and joy
  • Diversity, inclusion, and working to build healthy and just communities within an anti-racism framework
  • Fostering collaboration that responds compassionately to challenges and invites diverse voices to participate in awakened change
  • Promoting social justice, non-aggression, environmental awareness, individual self-care, and collective healing
  • Creating enlightened communities that are gentle, inquisitive, warm, and fearless
Awaken PIttsburgh acronym


In mindfulness, awareness is the cornerstone. It is the faculty that allows us to be mindful, and it is what we are developing. Mindful awareness involves being fully present in the moment, observing thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the environment without judgment. Cultivating awareness allows individuals to understand themselves better, make conscious choices, and respond more skillfully to life's challenges.

Numerous studies in neuroscience and psychology have demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness on increasing awareness. Functional MRI studies have shown changes in brain regions associated with attention regulation and self-awareness in individuals who practice mindfulness regularly. Additionally, research indicates that mindfulness-based interventions can improve attentional control, emotional regulation, and cognitive flexibility. (See for example: Sumantry, D., & Stewart, K. E. (2021). Meditation, mindfulness, and attention: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness12, 1332-1349.)


Welcoming is about embracing whatever arises during mindfulness practice with an open and accepting attitude. It involves letting go of resistance and allowing experiences to unfold naturally. By welcoming every thought, emotion, or sensation without judgment, individuals can develop a sense of inner peace, compassion, and acceptance.

Research in mindfulness has highlighted the importance of acceptance and non-judgment in promoting psychological well-being. Welcoming experiences without judgment has been linked to increased resilience and emotional flexibility. (For example see: Whitehead, R., Bates, G., Elphinstone, B., Yang, Y., & Murray, G. (2019). Nonattachment mediates the relationship between mindfulness and psychological well-being, subjective well-being, and depression, anxiety and stress. Journal of Happiness Studies20, 2141-2158.)


Mindfulness encourages individuals to appreciate the simple joys and experiences of life. By cultivating gratitude and acknowledging the positive aspects of the present moment, individuals can shift their focus from what is lacking to what is already present in their lives. This fosters a greater sense of contentment and fulfillment.

Gratitude practices, often incorporated into mindfulness interventions, have been extensively studied in positive psychology. Research suggests that regularly expressing gratitude can enhance well-being, satisfaction with life, and positive emotions. Gratitude interventions have been associated with improved mood, better sleep quality, and increased resilience to stress. (See for example: Boggiss, A. L., Consedine, N. S., Brenton-Peters, J. M., Hofman, P. L., & Serlachius, A. S. (2020). A systematic review of gratitude interventions: Effects on physical health and health behaviors. Journal of Psychosomatic Research135, 110165. And 


Kindness towards oneself and others is a fundamental aspect of mindfulness. Practicing self-compassion involves treating oneself with warmth, understanding, and acceptance, even in moments of difficulty or failure. Similarly, showing kindness towards others fosters empathy, connection, and a sense of belonging within a community.

Studies have shown that practices such as Loving-Kindness Meditation can increase feelings of compassion towards oneself and others, as well as improve social connectedness and prosocial behavior. Research also suggests that acts of kindness and compassion can buffer against the negative effects of stress and promote overall happiness. (See for example: Hui, B. P., Ng, J. C., Berzaghi, E., Cunningham-Amos, L. A., & Kogan, A. (2020). Rewards of kindness? A meta-analysis of the link between prosociality and well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 146(12), 1084.)


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In mindfulness, cultivating empathy involves developing a deep sense of connection with others by truly listening and being present with their experiences. This fosters compassion, cooperation, and mutual support within relationships and communities.

Neuroscience research has shown that mindfulness training can enhance neural mechanisms underlying empathy and perspective-taking. Studies using fMRI have demonstrated changes in brain regions associated with empathy and social cognition following mindfulness-based interventions. Additionally, mindfulness practices have been linked to improvements in interpersonal relationships and communication skills. (See, for example: Hu, Z., Wen, Y., Wang, Y., Lin, Y., Shi, J., Yu, Z., & Wang, Y. (2022). Effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on empathy: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 992575.)


Nurturing oneself and others is essential for overall well-being. Mindfulness encourages individuals to recognize their needs and prioritize self-care practices that promote physical, emotional, and mental health. By nurturing oneself and fostering a supportive environment for others, individuals can thrive and flourish in all aspects of life.

Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to promote self-care and overall well-being through various mechanisms. Research suggests that mindfulness practices can reduce symptoms of burnout, enhance self-compassion, and improve overall quality of life. Additionally, studies have found that individuals who engage in regular mindfulness practice report higher levels of self-care behaviors, such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress management. (For example see: Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and education in professional psychology1(2), 105. Or Orellana-Rios, C. L., Radbruch, L., Kern, M., Regel, Y. U., Anton, A., Sinclair, S., & Schmidt, S. (2018). Mindfulness and compassion-oriented practices at work reduce distress and enhance self-care of palliative care teams: a mixed-method evaluation of an “on the job “program. BMC palliative care17, 1-15.)

Our Story

In the Beginning

In 2015, educator and meditation practitioner Dr. Stephanie Romero, Ed.D. founded Awaken Pittsburgh after experiencing two profound awakenings.

The first was in 2013, when Stephanie learned that her teacher, Dr. Adam Lobel, had participated in a peace conference in Chicago where mindfulness and meditative practices were taught to help prevent violence and extract young people from lives of violence.

From Chicago Streets to Pittsburgh Schools

The news that mindfulness could help at-risk youth had a profound impact on Stephanie, who was then developing a dissertation proposal in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. It affirmed the importance of incorporating her own personal practice of mindfulness into her professional life as a scholar, teacher, colleague, and educator. It moved her to revise her dissertation to focus on the topic of mindfulness in education.

We-PEACE Comes into Being

Stephanie’s second awakening grew out of a 3-day conference she attended in May 2014 entitled “Being Brave: Is Enlightened Society Possible?” Stephanie returned to Pittsburgh and worked with another educator, Michelle King, at the Pittsburgh Shambhala Center, to create We-PEACE (Western Pennsylvania Educators for Awareness, Compassion and Empathy). For four years, We-PEACE hosted monthly meetings for interested educators, administrators, and support staff to bring the transformational power of mindfulness to education systems in Western Pennsylvania.

Awaken Pittsburgh is the perfect convergence of people, places and methodologies for the world we live in today.

Awaken Pittsburgh fosters well-being, empathy, and compassion for all by teaching and encouraging mindfulness and meditation practices.




5738 Forbes Ave,

Pittsburgh, PA 15217


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