An Evolution Within: Mindful Way on Campus
Sang H. Kim, Ph.D.
These notes are reflections and thoughts that I shared with the students, postdoctoral fellows, and colleagues on the practice of mindfulness on the college campus after attending The Mindfulness for the 21st Century Summer School at the University of Oxford, UK, The Mindful Way Conference at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, Sessions for Measuring Mindfulness Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging Technology at Yeungnam University, Korea, and Science, Technology and Mindfulness meetings at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. There are two parts.
Emotion plays a big part in college life. Because we are human, intellectual capacity, no matter how incredible, melts when emotion falters. This is especially true when facing transitional reality such as freshmen away from home trying to adjust to the novel environment, seniors dealing with a wide variety of issues from graduation to job hunting, and students in between trying to develop self identity while striving for academic achievement.
Studies show that, at one point or another during campus life, the majority of college students experience depression and anxiety which have negative impacts on the quality of their lives and academic accomplishment.
The practice of mindfulness has been emerging as a robust option for college students to effectively buffer stressors, redefine their challenges and outlook towards life, and be properly equipped to pursue their life dreams in and beyond campus life.
Mindfulness, meaning paying attention in the present moment non-judgmentally, is simply to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and actions as they are, embracing reality as a whole without analyzing or labeling it. Although it has origins in Buddhism and Taoism, the application is universal as a way to improve the quality of our consciousness for personal growth and enhancement.
Multiple studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness is associated with reduction in stress levels and anxiety, improvement in cognitive function and emotional wellbeing, and brain plasticity. Furthermore clinical data show that mindfulness practice has positive effects on treating depression, anxiety disorders, smoke cessation, eating disorder, alcoholism, substance abuse, chronic pain, and neurological illnesses.
Several studies show that even 3- to 15-minute daily meditation can have a positive impact on overall health, emotion, and performance.
The Mindfulness for the 21st Century Summer School at the University of Oxford, UK, the oldest university in the English-speaking world for discovering, meeting others to update personal skills, knowledge and practice of mindfulness, and make new friendships.
Examples of Mindfulness Practice in Daily Life
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation, mindful breathing, chanting, yoga, taichi, qigong, or other movement-based mindfulness practices. In daily life, everything one does can be a mindfulness practice. Examples are:
- Eating (for example, vegetable soup): Be aware of the urge to eat quickly. Take a few deep breaths. Experience the whole process: see and smell the aroma of the rising steam, taste the broth. Notice the texture of the vegetables. Chew slowly. Tune in your gustatory attention to the flavor of the soup.
- Drinking (for example, tea, coffee, chai, or hot chocolate): Notice the rising steam on the surface. See the color and patterns. Smell. Sip slowly once or twice. Feel the warmth spreading down through your throat to your stomach. Taste the flavor. Sip again with thankful mind. Be kind to yourself and swallow.
- Walking: Be aware of the sensations of touching the ground with your heels, balls and toes. Feel how your body moves. Synchronize your in-breath with leg lifting and out-breath with heel-ball-toe touching. When your mind wanders, simply bring your awareness to the walk.
Continued in Part 2