Right Here, Write Now

Part 5 in a weeklong series of blog posts written by undergraduate students from the 2017 spring-semester class, “Mindfulness & Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally” at the University of Virginia.


Because writing is listening, I am a listener first.

And long a lover of words — the way they dance off the tongue and across the page — I am a writer. Yet this birthing process of rich and honest communication can be dry, draining, a bit too cerebral sometimes. Trying to write authentically, full-heartedly, is, whether scribbling loosely in a leather-bound journal or perched behind a blue-white screen, challenging.  And more times than not, our everyday lives aren’t conducive to creativity; they aren’t particularly inviting to imaginative streams of consciousness. No, we who love words run rampantly fragmented, frazzled, unfocused, and then force ourselves to sit suddenly alone with our words, these swirling, swirling storms of thought that exhaust and overwhelm us in moments of respite. And I wonder: how might I make peace with the pre-creative process — that procedure which is the pulse of communication but at the same time turbulent, messy, and just plain loud? Indeed, the best writing comes from honest, quiet listening: that listening comes generally from the listening to the soul — and also, of course, to the body in which the soul makes its home. Might mindfulness, then, the very act of paying attention to bodily sensations over time, improve focus and fuel creativity when I sit down to write? Read More

Nature & Well-Being: Gratitude

Part 4 in a weeklong series of blog posts written by undergraduate students from the 2017 spring-semester class, “Mindfulness & Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally” at the University of Virginia.


Introduction

Sitting on the beach, hearing the waves lap gently against the sand as the stars make their appearance into the sky, it is so easy to wonder how small I must be in the vast expanse of the galaxy. The trying times I have faced, inevitable stresses of day-to-day life and my own shortcomings dissolve into the waves as they recede back into the expanse of the ocean. I find that I have time to simply marvel at the world and be grateful for this moment. Yet, I find myself thinking that such an experience with nature will not be a frequent occurrence. The pace of every-day life has been accelerated with the technology that we rely on and it almost seems impossible to disconnect myself from the “world”. With technology at my disposal, it often seems as though the world is at my fingertips, yet when I am in nature, I realize that I do not truly know what the world is. Read More

Mindfulness as a Treatment for Depression and Anxiety

Part 3 in a weeklong series of blog posts written by undergraduate students from the 2017 spring-semester class, “Mindfulness & Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally” at the University of Virginia.


Depression and anxiety are two of the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2016). Depression is one of the world’s most urgent health problems, affecting an estimated 350 million people (World Health Organization; WHO). Moreover, depression is the leading cause of disability, and by the year 2030, depression is projected to be the number one cause of global disease burden (WHO). Read More

An Exploration of Nature, Mindfulness and Well-Being

Part 2 in a weeklong series of blog posts written by undergraduate students from the 2017 spring-semester class, “Mindfulness & Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally” at the University of Virginia.


Introduction

As a second year student at the University of Virginia, I started to notice myself living in a state of frenzy. I was always moving from class, to studying, to working out, to work, to extracurricular involvements — and feeling entirely frenzied as I went through my day. This feeling of frenzy led me to take a course in Mindfulness and Compassion this semester. Read More

Mindfulness in Periods of Stress

Part 1 in a weeklong series of blog posts written by undergraduate students from the 2017 spring-semester class, “Mindfulness & Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally” at the University of Virginia.


Transitioning to new environments is always difficult, especially for young adults entering adulthood. Many students find the transition from middle school to high school and high school to college to be an especially challenging time, as many key aspects of their lives start to shift.

As a result, many students find themselves feeling stressed or anxious, not knowing how to deal with these emotions in healthy ways.The phrase “take a deep breath” is sometimes useful when dealing with an immediate issue, but most students find themselves constantly stressed or anxious. This is why increasing awareness of mindfulness practice among young adults can provide many students with the relief they need from the pressures they face in their worlds. It is important to communicate to them that mindfulness practice does not have to be a difficult, time-consuming activity, nor is it “weird” to take time for themselves to care for their mental health. Read More

Meditating Together: Tania Singer on the Contemplative Dyad

 

As part of the work that she’s leading on the ReSource Project—a large-scale multi-methodological secular mental training program—Tania Singer is studying novel forms of intersubjective mental training practices that are performed with a partner. These contemplative dyad practices are aimed at boosting social closeness and perceived interconnectedness.

In this video, Singer, who is the Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, shares some the differential effects of individual mindfulness-based practices as compared to contemplative dyad practices on outcomes such as attention, compassion, Theory of Mind, altruism, as well as social stress and autonomic body regulation. Read More

The PhenoTank: A Mind & Life Think Tank on the Microphenomenology of Contemplative Experience

What happens when an experience is described?  Does the very effort to find words deepen practice, sharpen awareness, clarify an experience? Imagining a lens through which to deepen access to contemplative experience, these were among the questions that drove the conversation at Mind & Life’s first funded Think Tank, the “PhenoTank,” held at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris this past January 23rd and 24th, 2017. Read More

An in-depth look at a Mind & Life Think Tank on Abrahamic traditions.

To date, the traditions and techniques that have been most substantively researched in the field of contemplative science have largely derived from Buddhism and Buddhist-inspired movements. While there have been tremendous advances and developments due to this collaboration—indeed there would be no field without it—a natural consequence of this specific alliance is that insights from other traditions have not yet been fully investigated and integrated into the field. This Mind & Life Think Tank was therefore dedicated to exploring such potential contributions of the contemplative streams found within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (collectively called the “Abrahamic” traditions) toward the dual aims of alleviating suffering and promoting human flourishing in accord with the Mind & Life Institute’s primary mission. Read More