Vinny Ferraro, training director of the Mind Body Awareness Project in Oakland, California, and a cast member of MTV’s If You Really Knew Me, is a meditation instructor and a nationally recognized leader in designing and implementing interventions for at-risk, gang-involved, and incarcerated youth.
The child of incarcerated parents, Ferraro was in the probation system by the age of 10 and went on to spend the majority of his teenage life hustling and living on the streets. In 1987, after recovering from drug addiction, he began leading youth groups in drug rehabilitation centers, juvenile halls, schools, and half-way houses through the Hospitals and Institutions Program of Narcotics Anonymous.
Ferraro continued this work for nearly a decade before transitioning to a more intensive focus on mindfulness-based rehabilitation and emotional awareness work. In 2001, he began teaching for the Challenge Day organization, a transformational change organization that helps adolescents overcome internalized and external oppression, cultivate emotional well-being, and create healthier communities. He eventually became Challenge Day’s director of training, leading workshops in four different countries to more 100,000 youths.
In 1998, he spent a year sitting bedside with the dying through the Zen Center Hospice Program in San Francisco. A graduate of Spirit Rock Mediation Center’s Community Dharma Leader Program. Ferraro also has extensive experience training probation officers, teachers, and community leaders who work with at-risk youth, how to utilize mindfulness-based practices to deal with their own stress, anxiety, and secondary trauma.
Vinny Ferraro also leads meditation retreats for adults nationwide. “All my work revolves around the same conversation,” Ferraro says in a profile about him in Tricycle magazine. “What is freedom beyond conditions? Beyond this school, this prison, this hood, whatever your conditions are? Do your conditions lead inevitably to suffering? No, they don’t. Only a being’s perspective leads to suffering.”