Municipal story by Laura Berger and Barb Lanser

Ms. Berger and Ms. Lanser recall their memories of the Municipal Building, which involved a meditation group made up of City staff members who would gather for quiet, self-guided meditation practice in a room on the fourth floor of the building.

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    Interviewer: Jacki Lawton, with two guests to speak today.

    LB: Laura Berger. B-e-r-g-e-r.

    BL: Barb Lanser. L-a-n-s-e-r. We both worked for the city and have a memory about a meditation group that, um, Laura started when we worked here. And, um, Laura now, um, how did it get started?

    LB: I think it was about 15 years ago, and, um, maybe 20. God, it’s hard to say. I found out someone else in my meditation group, Tony Fernandez, worked in Engineering. And so he and I talked about just having a lunchtime place in the city where we could just—anybody who wants to just can come and be quiet for half an hour and go back. And Employee Assistance—

    BL: Well, I was working in the Office of Human Resources as the occupational combination specialist, and I had met Laura and Tony through the meditation group, and we all figured out that we worked for the city. And so I had a connection in HR with the Employee Assistance office, and so they sent out an email to the city employees inviting people to this mindfulness half-hour. And we were able to get a room up here in the Madison Municipal Building on, I think it’s the fourth floor, um, and we started it. It’s got to be at least 15 years ago, because I’ve been gone 12 years from working here.

    LB: So it’s probably longer than that.

    BL: Yeah.

    LB: But it kept going. There weren’t a lot of us that showed up. We would just come, pull the chairs in a circle, sit. When it was over we’d get up and go. But we got to know each other. Beth Rissett came from the Overture, which is where she worked, and so we’d all become good friends.

    BL: And we had someone that came from 1 West Wilson, too, I think another Tony.

    LB: Yep.

    BL: He would come over. And it was just a great time in the middle of the day, to have some quiet and have support for mindfulness. It’s like, knowing that a lot of the work that we did was challenging, and, uh, a way to connect with people. And I know when I left, the group kept going. Um, and I left in 2006, in December.

    LB: Yeah, we continued for, I don’t know, 10-plus years. Chris Keenan continued it, and I don’t know if it’s still going, but—

    BL: Yeah. So that’s our memory about this building, among others, that we wanted to share today.

    Interviewer: So this is Jacki with a question. Did you have guided meditation at all, or it was just a moment of just sit and be quiet? And then you met each other more from chatting after you were on the way in or way out, recognizing each other.

    LB: Correct. No guidance. People had different practices, actually. I mean, it really could be anybody doing anything. It was just a half-hour to be quiet and sit together, and Employee Assistance really supported it and periodically sent out an email to employees inviting them to participate.

    BL: Yeah. I think that we did get to know each other at kind of the start and end. And we would share our names in the beginning. You know, just go around the circle, so, um, you know, got to know each other that way. Here comes the band. (laughs)

    Interviewer: This is the Forward Band, a longtime Madison institution. Started, I think, by [unintelligible]. Thank you, so we're going to thank you very much.