Shinnyo-en Bringing Meditation to New York City Police Officers

July 29, 2018
New York, NY

Inspired by the teachings of Shinnyo Buddhism, Qalvy Grainzvolt, an ordained Shinnyo-en Buddhist Minister and lead meditation guide at The Shinnyo Center in New York City, was recently featured in Tricycle magazine for the partnership he’s cultivated with the New York City Police Department.

Shinnyo-en and The Shinnyo Center in New York City are delighted to share their values and our respected representative as part of our social contribution to the NYPD which we hope will help many and have long lasting impact. As part of this contribution, Grainzvolt has been offering officers at the New York Police Academy basic meditation sessions and introducing them to the overall concept of mindfulness.

Careers in law enforcement are known to lead to poor mental health and stress, and numerous police departments across the country, including New York City, have begun implementing meditation practices to help officers in their well-being and to strengthen resilience. We spoke to Grainzvolt on his interest in working with the police department and the impact it has had on his and their lives.

During U.S. President Obama’s tenure, Grainzvolt was one of more than 125 faith leaders who met with government officials at the White House, and a main point addressed was the topic of police brutality.

“In Shinnyo-en we value the uniqueness of each individual, and how they want to embody what we stand for,” Grainzvolt reflected. “Instead of getting up on a soap box or protesting, I wondered what I could do, and I realized I hadn’t heard about anyone helping from the inside out.”

Curious to learn how he could help within in his New York community, Qalvy reached out to the precinct closest to his Shinnyo Center and learned of the Clergy Liaison Program – a volunteer opportunity allowing community faith leaders to have better interaction with the NYPD. In order to be a part of the program, he attended the 10-week Citizens Police Academy in the fall of 2016, joining other clergy members, city staff, retirees and more, all wanting a deeper understanding of policing. Chosen to be the class valedictorian, Qalvy gave a graduation speech in front of several top officials, including then NYPD Transit Chief Joe Fox, and the two connected after the ceremony.

Soon after, Qalvy began to offer mediation workshops to Transit Bureau officials and personnel, teaching these workers the positive impact that meditation can have on their overall health and well-being.

“Even after they retire, officers are known to have shorter lifespans. It’s the result of a lifetime of stress which can have a deteriorating effect on a person,” Qalvy said. “There is pain they must put in a bottle, and hope it does not fall off the shelf and crash while they are on duty.”

Qalvy’s goal with his workshops was to have these officers leave knowing how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their daily lives. Through this practice, he hoped they might better cultivate their responses in the line of duty than surrender to immediate reactions.

Now, he frequently sees officers coming to The Shinnyo Center to meditate and after working with the Transit Bureau for a year, was offered the opportunity to lead meditation at the Police Academy in College Point, Queens.

"It is to be engaged with the surrounding community, to become aware that there are things we can do," said Her Holiness Shinsō Itō. "Making a contribution does not only mean donating one's time or money: it also means to live actively amongst others."

Photo: Qalvy Grainzvolt with James P. O'Neill, police commissioner of the City of New York