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A Moment with Aki Hirata Baker, Co-founder of MINKA Brooklyn

#INSPIREDBY #INSPIRATION

 

Image credit: Monica Felix


Steps from Prospect Park sits MINKA brooklyn - a serene, healing space designed for workshops, acupuncture and overall wellness. We met with co-founder Aki Hirata Baker to hear all about how the unique studio came to be, and what's next for their community.

AM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your typical day.

AHB: I usually wake up around 5am, meditate for 30 minutes, then get to breakfast and lunch making. It is important for me to makes sure that our family is nutritionally taken care of - what we feed our body is what we put out! By the time my kids get out of bed, (ideally) I am done with making food and showering, so I get to spend some time with them. It does not always happen; still it’s really awesome when I can squeeze in some cuddle time at the beginning of the day!

After the kids are dropped off, I usually head to MINKA brooklyn to work with my clients, or do some work at the COMPOUND COWORK. My ideal day consists of seeing clients for flower essence, energy work, and receiving a session from one of my practitioners. My current favorite modalities all include working with my subconscious - hypnosis and multi-dimensional kinesiology are so much fun! Since I rely a lot on my intuitive sense when I work with my clients, it is important for me to keep this side of me in check! Coupled with my meditation practice, doing work to get in touch with my subconscious has been tremendously helpful in my sessions, and life in general.

After picking up my kids, I usually head home to make dinner, cuddle with them, read some books, and then head to bed by 9:30 pm or 10 pm - I love my sleep! It’s paramount for me to get enough sleep, since my days are usually very hectic. People ask me all the time how I manage to do it all - here it is folks: SLEEP!

AM: Tell us more about MINKA Brooklyn. What makes it unique, and what inspired you to create such an amazing wellness space? What does 'MINKA' mean?

AHB: MINKA means ‘home of the people’ in Japanese. We built this ‘home’ out of our desire to have a space for all - all of whom are willing to shed the old to re-discover who they truly are.  This place is built upon the idea that we all need a safe place to be still, nurtured and supported, so we can be responsible, productive, and expansive in the world. 

In the world of health and wellness, we often talk about the mind and body connection and how important it is. What I believe is missing from this conversation is the idea of ‘soul and spirit’ to be wholly well as human beings. From my own experience of working with my generational depression and chronic illnesses, I have learned that the health of our soul and spirit plays a huge role in our overall sense of wellness. This is the reason why we offer a variety of modalities and workshops, ranging from traditional psychotherapy, acupuncture, etc. to tarot and astrology readings, among other intuitive services.  

Most people might not think reading their astrological natal chart or getting a tarot card reading has any effect on their health - mostly because our popular culture has taught us that these are fringe, occult sciences that have no bearing on our ‘reality’. Contrary to that, we continue to observe that utilizing these tools do have a significant impact on our ability to be in tune with self, and effect healing and transformation, as we journey on our path. From this perspective, I think we all need to start pulling tarot cards, daily, so we can better understand what our subconscious - which occupies 95% of our mind - can advise us, ha!

Of course, there is no need for anyone to believe in all that we do, and many people who frequent MINKA brooklyn do not. Still, they seem to all be open to the fact that we do not know everything, and there are so many possible ways for us to be better than we might know right now. We are not here to convert you to think in any particular way; we just offer things that personally work for us, and maybe, these tools, modalities and perspectives are the missing links for some other people to attain self understanding, too.

 MINKA
Image credit: Monica Felix

 

AM: You believe in community, working together and raising our children in a planet where love is the currency. How do you think we can all apply this mantra to our daily lives to create a better quality of life for generations to come?

AHB: Oh yes, indeed! MINKA brooklyn is a reiteration of the concept of ‘inclusive community’ that I have been working with for quite some time. ‘Community’ is a word du jour, right?  It’s a sweet and awesome word, and an important one, especially right now. Then again, often enough, we use this word to create yet another divide, like: ‘I am from this community and that means I am not in that community’ etc. Most of us do not consciously do this; still, the fact is that human beings are very tribal, and our mind is always seeking to create containers for ourselves that we feel safe being in. 

It is very important to me that our space represents people from all backgrounds. I love how diverse we are when you look at the practitioners’ page - it makes me swoon. What I see happen too often is that businesses and organizations do not make a concerted effort to make sure management and leadership roles are filled diversely, and this sends out subtle, though powerful, subconscious messages to our audiences about what we believe regarding the power structure. I am always working to be cognizant of that.

I guess the fact that I have always felt like somewhat of an outsider all of my life constantly makes me think of what it means to have a community, why it is important, and in what ways we can expand this sense of community without diluting the essence of it. It’s really easy to just say, ‘Oh, we are all one human community’; yet, that really dilutes the essence of that word, does it not? All the same, what we are really trying to achieve is just that - a community of human oneness. So, how do we do it? This is basically what my little brain thinks about on a daily basis - nerdy, I know!  Anyhow, when I think of community and how to build one, these are the things I think about and try to embody - because I am not a preacher; I am a doer.

All of this started with the COMPOUND brooklyn parties, where we had inclusive fundraising events, where no one was turned down; whether they contributed money, artwork, or volunteering at various stations, they were all welcomed to come and help local organizations.  We raised funds to start a local farm (still in existence today), buy art supplies for Haitian children, create art and poetry programs for youth etc, etc. We had a great parties to get to know each other, and learn about organizations’ missions. Still, more than anything, we heard over and over from people that they felt great knowing that they can personally do something to help small organizations.

From there, we created Adopt-A-Farmbox in 2010, an organization that utilized hands-on urban farming projects for health and food education in schools and communities. Our aim was to give opportunities for inner city kids and adults to have personal experiences with their food from seed to harvest, so they can experience better relationships with healthy foods and habits. We started school gardens and trained teachers and students in twelve schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. We also built a community garden in a few women’s and domestic violence shelters. It was super rewarding working with people to do hands-on projects and seeing something ‘click’ in their minds. There’s nothing like little kids being excited about eating kale or radish! I absolutely loved being out there and seeing tangible results.

Then, we started to brainstorm about creating a space where busy New Yorkers could live a bit easier - I mean, it’s not like we can pay their rent or anything like that, of course. Still, we would make it easier in the sense that we could create a space where taking care of their mind, body and spirit could be easily incorporated into their lives. We started to plan out the idea for a coworking space, daycare, movement studio, and wellness/ healing space, all under one roof, and about six months in, we opened the COMPOUND COWORK.  

I believe that true productivity comes from being truly comfortable in our body, mind and spirit - very much unlike the typical image of the caffeine fueled, short-lived version of productivity - not that we don’t love coffee - we do! We are stocked with coffee from Brooklyn Roasters, so if you need a quick pick me up, there’s no caffeine shaming here. I am just saying that we have a great hammock and bean couch in our lounge area, standing desks and many seating options to create a comfortable environment that allows our members to work in a mindful, nurturing way. The fact that we are close to Prospect Park is great, and members go out to walk and run during their breaks all the time. Some even take advantage of Yoga Tribe and Triple Threat Bootcamp, also in this building.

We offer discounts to students, activists, educators, and same-household partners. This creates a very diverse and well-rounded membership body.  It’s important to think about how we can reach out to the populations that might not usually think of entering a space like ours; they might benefit from experiencing coworking and being in the community of other entrepreneurs, freelancers, etc; and in turn, our community certainly benefits greatly by having people from many different walks of life.

Two years into this endeavor, we decided to move forward with MINKA brooklyn, a center for Wellness and Holistic Living, which was the natural next step in physically manifesting our intention of bridging the gap between our lifestyles and holistic productivity and wellbeing!  

I always talk about how raising my children to be responsible, strong, intelligent human beings is the most important duty to society; that way they can go out, create change, and positively affect the people around them, as they move through their lives. Raising a child is just like creating an artwork; you learn about the material you have, and work accordingly, so that you may find the best possible expression of beauty that particular medium offers. In a sense, that’s what I do at MINKA brooklyn; I am asking my clients to rediscover the intrinsic beauty that is their truth. Through working with many people over the years - whether at fundraising events, urban farms, food justice conferences, or just in my living room - I deeply sensed that we all need to rediscover our wholeness in order for us to participate fully present and effectively in the world. As a result, I learned that my purpose and service - at least right now - is to hold space for people to be able to do just that.

AM: Your space is designed so beautifully - you have created such a welcoming and zen environment. Where did your inspiration come from?

AHB: Ah, I think that’s just me being a Cancerian!  We joke that I create home everywhere I go because I just need to be comfortable - and doesn’t everyone? Jokes aside, I think we have people doing great work, everyday, in this space, and honestly, that’s what people feel when they walk in. The best description I have ever gotten from someone who came to MINKA was: ‘I felt like someone gave me a nice hug, as soon as I walked in’. And this makes me feel so great to know that people can feel that they are welcomed here.

Aesthetically, we kept it simple. I think of this place as a blank canvas, so whomever is giving a session, or facilitating a workshop can bring their own colors (energetically speaking!) to make it their own. In terms of designing the space, my husband and business partner, Ron (who has a design build company), designed the basic layout of the space with help from architect Trudy Miller. Trudy incorporated Feng shui principles into the layout, and you can definitely feel that. Not to mention we have tons of greenery, crystals, sage, singing bowls, etc to keep the vibration high, too.

AM: What types of workshops does MINKA usually offer, and where can we sign up to stay in the loop?

AHB: We have offerings of all kinds relating to wellness, healing and self-mastery. There are a bit too many to list here, though we have a few workshops relating to dreams. Dreamwork is a wonderful and essential way to get in touch with our psyche, and in those workshops, we learn how to use those tools to do so. We also offer Community Acupuncture by Lefferts Community Acupuncture, four days a week, and bunch of community meditations. You can sign up for our newsletter by sending us a message via our website minkabrooklyn.com, and be sure to check out our workshop calendar. Also, our Instagram @minkabrooklyn is chock full of information, and is visually pleasing :)  

AM: What's in the future for MINKA?

AHB: We are in the process of getting a piece of land upstate, so that’s something quite exciting.  Also, we are really hoping to start working with hospitals to bring wellness to their staff and patients; so that’s another thing we are working on that I feel quite passionate about.

AM: What are 5 of your dreams? (Can be personal or related to MINKA)

AHB:

  1. For MINKA Brooklyn to be the hub of good vibes for all people!
  2. That my children grow up and change the world for the better, in their own unique ways.
  3. To live in Woodstock, Brooklyn and Sian Ka’an.
  4. Have magic powers!!
  5. Can I say World Peace?

AM: Favorite song to work out to?  

AHB: ‘Run the World (Girls)’, of course, or podcasts - Science V.S., On Being, and Snap Judgment are my faves.

AM: One place in the world you would love to visit?  

AHB: Zanzibar

AM: Favorite good vibe quote (you can also list a few if you want - your choice!)

AHB:

  1. “It is what it is”
  2. “Be the light you wish to see in the world” - Gandhi
  3. “Lead by example”
  4. “There are no right or wrong choices in this world.”
  5. “We are all miracles in 3-D form.”

Wait, are these quotes? I think the last two might be things I just say. Ha!

 MINKA
Image credit: Monica Felix

 

AM: Top health food spots in Brooklyn

AHB: Park Slope Food Co-op, Brooklyn Greenery

AM: Favorite way to start the day  

AHB: MEDITATION ;)

AM: Top 3 things you do to keep a positive outlook

AHB:

  1. Meditate
  2. Count my blessings
  3. Work hard, because that in itself is a blessing
 MINKA
Image credit: Monica Felix

 

For more information about MINKA brooklyn and their workshops, services and mission, check out their site!

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