"BE HERE NOW"

Mat Chandler believes in the power of healing. He converted his home into Aurora Healing Arts, a donation-funded center that hosts classes like yoga and ecstatic dance. For Chandler, healing arts are a way of life — and he’s on a mission to share them with the community.

For a few months, I shadowed Mat in every aspect of his life to create this photo-story: "Be Here Now."

Mat Chandler, 30, locks his gaze on the ceiling while practicing yoga in Aurora Healing Arts center. The mural behind him is based around Chandler’s guiding life mantra – “Be Here Now.”

Each week, Chandler teaches a free Kundalini yoga class to people in the Gainesville community. “Healing others is the best way to heal yourself,” Chandler said. 

Ecstatic dance is one of the most beloved and anticipated classes offered at Aurora. Chandler describes it as a 90-minute session where people release their stress through wild dancing, chanting and screaming. “You leave your worries, struggles and judgment at the door,” he said. 

Chandler, a self-proclaimed hugger, embraces a friend after a morning meditation session.

After finishing up with meditation, Chandler climbs a rope in his backyard to help start his day feeling inspired and strong. Sometimes, he records a Facebook live video of himself climbing or dancing to share with friends and invite them to join. 

Chandler eats a late breakfast with his good friend Jeremy Koelmel, 28. “Our entire relationship is built on meditating and ecstatic dancing,” Chandler said. “We’ve never done anything else together.”

Most days, Chandler dances freely in his backyard to a high-energy music playlist that he’s perfected over the past few years.  

Though Chandler owns Aurora and pays for the essentials to keep its doors open, his ultimate goal is to transition the space into a completely community-run center – where anyone can sleep, learn or teach as they please. 

Until Aurora becomes that community space, it is home to Chandler and his cat, Fluffy Princess Athena. “Aurora will belong to everyone,” he said. “That’s my dream.”