Rule of Law

Federal Employees Attend 'Forest Bathing' and 'Mindfulness' Retreats

Federal employees across the government have been attending “mindfulness” retreats, complete with “forest bathing” and lectures by Soros-funded speakers. These events started during the Obama administration but have continued, even as recently as a United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service “Mindfulness and Resiliency Summit” in August of 2019.

The two-day “National Mindfulness and Resiliency Summit” occurred at the Department of Agriculture’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Speakers at the USDA-sponsored event include ABC News reporter Dan Harris but also Gretchen Rohr, an official with the Soros Open Society Foundations.

Similar events have taken place in the Pentagon, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and at the Internal Revenue Service.

The multi-day USDA mindfulness conference agenda included lectures dedicated to “Collective Transformation” taught by Harris from ABC News. Ashanti Branch closed out the first day speaking about “The Mask We Live Behind,” a topic common to his community activism. Branch is a Bay-area community organizer.

Day one was broken up by a two-hour lunch and “stretch and self-care breaks.”

Day two of the Department of Agriculture Mindfulness and Resiliency Summit was dedicated to the “Science of Mindfulness and Practice Workshop.” It kicked off with Amishi Jha providing a primer on mindfulness and USDA employee Michelle Reugebrink filling most of the rest of the day. She was later joined by Soren Gordhamer, a mindfulness and meditation expert whose Twitter feed is full of leftist content, as are those of most of the speakers.

Open Society’s Rohr spoke at the USDA summit about the role of “mindfulness” in restorative justice. Rohr is an activist in the Soros world of grantmaking. Her role at the Soros foundations is extensive:

Rohr manages US grantmaking on community accountability, harm reduction and diversion resources to end arrests for drug involvement, sex work and street economies. She also contributes to the design of rapid response initiatives and OSF’s annual selection of the Soros Justice and Equality Fellows. Gretchen most enjoys working on a participatory fund alongside field and funding activists, developing infrastructure for a transformative justice movement led by survivors failed by policing, imprisonment and state surveillance.


She also serves on the Board of Directors for the faith-based activism of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and mindfulness retreat programs under Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. Gretchen is one of 120 Buddhist leaders nationwide called to participate in the first Whitehouse Buddhist Leadership Conference in 2015. She is a graduate of the Insight Community Dharma Leadership Program (CDL5) and the Generative Somatics Transformative Leadership Training.

Rohr’s role with the Open Society Institute was on programming materials and was part of her presentation at the Department of Agriculture event.

It is unclear how much, if anything, Rohr was paid by the Department of Agriculture to speak.

Reugebrink is a federal employee and is the “Mindfulness & Resiliency Program Manager” with the Work Environment & Performance Office at the United States Department of Agriculture. Her job is, in her words, “to teach mindfulness and compassion practices that enable all of us to not just survive but also grow from exposure to stress.”

Reugebrink’s presentation quoted Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Reugebrink also speaks at for-profit seminars sponsored by Forest Bathing International and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides. The certification program for this organization says “the forest itself is the therapist. We don’t train therapists; we train guides. By slowing people down and facilitating sensory experiencing, guides open the doorways through which the forest can accomplish its healing work.”

Tuition for a six-month “Guide Training and Certification Program” is $3410.

In 2018, Reugebrink’s federal salary was $101,794 per year. She teaches “mindfulness” and forest bathing to thousands of federal workers each year at agencies such as the Secret Service, IRS, TSA and more.

The organizers of the “Mindfulness and Resiliency Summit” said a goal of the August program for federal employees was to find and support “leaders in each department who can help organize and support” the “Mindful Movement” in an ongoing way.

No word if the Department of Agriculture will host a prayer summit in the future.