In this series we ask people around campus what mindfulness means to them and how they are surviving and thriving in the new circumstances we find ourselves in. Here, we talk to Kara Thomas ’21.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
To me, mindfulness means being present, which includes being aware of changes in your emotions. This also means each task you do is with a purpose. This can mean something as simple as being aware when you sit down, or stand up. It can also mean acknowledging when you feel sad, or angry — not trying to shove the emotion away, just recognizing that it is there.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation?
Calmness and relaxation are an aspect of mindfulness for sure, but I would put them more in category of meditation. Meditating, which typically puts one in a state of relaxation, can help you be more mindful through the day while completing simple daily tasks.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious during this unpredictable time. Being mindful can help you not let these emotions completely wear you down. Mindfulness helps us realize that some things are out of our control, and we just need to stay present, active, cognizant of how our reactions and emotions may be affecting those around us. Additionally, being mindful may help us find new outlets for our frustrations, anxiety, or worry that we may be feeling during this time.
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time?
I got really into yoga and meditation a couple years back, but find it hard to keep to a consistent schedule at school. So I’m really trying to meditate at least 15 minutes a day, and do yoga at least every other day. Both are great activities to do during this time because for yoga, all you need is access to YouTube, where there are plenty of free videos, and meditating you just need yourself and a quiet space. I also find coloring and doing puzzles to be very therapeutic, as your mind gets completely distracted and focused on the task at hand.
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now?
Being mindful does not come easily — I’ve been struggling for years to implement mindfulness into my daily life. Just as any hobby takes time to learn, so does being mindful. I would suggest starting with meditating for five minutes a day, then slowly work your way up to 10 minutes, 15, etc. But no rush! We have plenty of time right now, and practice will make mindfulness pay off in the end. It also may be hard to see “progress.” Sometimes we are so focused on seeing results, we lose sight of the goal. Being mindful is about being OK, and accepting, not “seeing” anything change in you. Over time, you will realize you listen more to your emotions and recognize when strong emotions overtake you. But the process is not the same for everyone, and may not be linear. Try not to stress too much about being mindful in the “right” way. If you miss a day of meditation, or yoga, that’s OK. Pick it back up tomorrow.
What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness?
There is a great new adjunct course being offered for Block 8, Mindfulness and Social Action in the Context of COVID-19, which I think is a great class for anyone who wishes to be more mindful during this pandemic. I also believe the Bemis School of Art is offering online (Zoom) art classes, which could be helpful for certain students, if art is how they embrace being mindful. Additionally, the Wellness Resource Center is always coming up with new creative ideas that they are taking online, such as their journaling series. I also believe “Morning Meditation and Muffins” (Thursday mornings when school is in session) is still going on via Zoom. Creativity & Innovation and the WRC I would say are the two go-to places for mindful resources for students, but I would honestly also check the Daily Digest, because the school comes out with different creative activities every week!