“Our entire goal as the Career Center right now is just that students know we’re available to them or here for them whenever they’re ready to engage with the Career Services aspect of their career at CC,” says Communications Fellow Amelia Atencio ’18.
Some students will participate in virtual internships this summer, and some seniors still have job offers. Atencio says they received over 60 responses to the annual #hired and #gradschool social media campaigns designed to celebrate CC students and their newly landed jobs or plans for graduate school. And for those still searching, the Career Center is here to help and “meet students where they are” with their current needs and priorities.
“We just want students to know that there are jobs,” Atencio says. “And if they don’t find an internship, that’s okay — we’re going to equip them with other ways to use the time. And the best thing they can do if they’re feeling really stuck is just start having conversations with us.”
To schedule an appointment with a coach or RSVP for upcoming events, students can find the Career Center on Handshake.
Colorado College continues to operate smoothly, thanks in large part to the important, behind the scenes work that so many do. Here is a quick look at seven of CC’s “hidden caretakers.”
Justin Porter, Central Plant supervisor
Porter has been working at Colorado College for 19 months with a team of four plant operators — Edward Wojakowski, Doug Campbell, Jonathan Bernhard, and Steven Pattillo — who help maintain the infrastructure of the college. The team’s job includes monitoring and adjusting the heating and cooling for Colorado College buildings as well as the ice rink chiller for Honnen Ice Arena. “A large part of that is maintaining a strong and resilient Central Plant which ensures everyone is comfortable and important projects and artifacts are at the proper temperature,” he says. That includes monitoring the entire campus, from gallery temperatures in the Fine Arts Center to the rat lab in Barnes.
Porter and his team are working to conserve energy by finding spaces with no occupancy such as theatres, pools, gyms, etc., and putting the campus on a holiday setting (lower temperature set points). However, when the campus first went to distance working and learning in March, the weather was still cold, and they couldn’t lower the temperatures too much for fear of freezing water lines. Currently Porter and his team are conducting all cooling through a plate and frame heater exchanger run in reverse, that is, a swamp cooler, and thus not using any mechanical cooling in an effort to save money. How is working on campus different now? “The largest difference working on campus right now is the missing presence and energy of the students, faculty, and colleagues.” Random fact: “Most people don’t realize that we’re staffed 365 days a year, 24/7.”
April Scriven, Mail Services supervisor
Scriven has been at CC for two years. Her job entails supervising and supporting the Mail Services staff, which includes Rick Hessek, Kelly (Steven) Wilcox and Sarah Mascotti, and partnering with other departments on campus with regard to mail, packages, and shipping.
“A typical day in Mail Services starts with one or two members picking up mail and packages from the downtown Post Office. We then sort the student mail into their Worner boxes. Right now, most of the student mail gets forwarded with the help of Banner. Faculty/staff mail is sorted by department. While this is happening, we also receive package deliveries from UPS, FedEx, DHL, OnTrac, and Amazon. All packages are routed to students or departments. Around noon, two members of Mail Services deliver mail and packages to departments on campus and we open the Mail Center counter. At the Mail Center, we release packages to students, sell stamps, and process shipments. We helped a lot of students mail their personal belongings home in the beginning of March. The students seem to really appreciate that the Mail Center staff offers a friendly face on campus. Initially, we were here five days a week, because we were still receiving so many packages and had so much mail to forward. Students were contacting us every day for assistance. Recently, we reduced our schedule to every other day and now we are on campus.” How is working on campus different now? “It feels so strange to walk into empty buildings and across an empty campus Working on campus now feels almost post-apocalyptic. I keep waiting for a zombie attack.” Random fact: Last semester, Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, Campus Mail Services received 38,261 packages. This semester Jan. 1to April 30, 2020, they received about 17,578 packages. Scriven says mail numbers have stayed consistent but rather than sorting it into Worner boxes, they process it via computer to generate a forwarding label and resend it.
Frederick Gatling, Campus Safety officer
Gatling, who works the 2 to 10 p.m. swing shift, started working at CC in October 2018.
His job includes patrolling the campus and surrounding areas and properties, both on foot and by vehicle. “I keep the safety and security of every person on campus, visitors included, first and foremost and as my highest priority. I ensure building doors and windows are secured, especially ground level. I conduct medical transports and recreational transports for CC visiting staff and mostly students. I conduct preventive measures for safety by remaining highly alert and maintaining expectations and enforcing violations of posted campus and student standards. The most important aspect of my job is consistency, availability and approachability.” How is working on campus different now?
“It’s peaceful. There is a law enforcement adage which doesn’t allow officers to say ‘quiet’ (the Q word!) That would be considered jinxing the remainder of the shift for all shift members. But it is peaceful, and time moves slowly. Swing shift is the usually the busiest shift because of traffic in and around campus. This normally lasts from 3 to 8 p.m. Students are walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, and zooming across campus. We would conduct transports in conjunction with conducting perimeter checks and service calls, which include contacting citizens who are knowingly/unknowingly trespassing campus, drivers who are stranded on and near campus and who may not be CC affiliated. We would normally assist with unlocking and locking buildings and classrooms for evening or weekend events, scheduled or unscheduled. First responders to traffic accidents on or near campus, medical emergencies and any other form of activities that may arise. So, with that as compared to now, it is very peaceful.” What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now?
“The most unusual thing I see is a lot of people walking dogs and exercising. Also, vehicle traffic is almost nonexistent after 7 p.m. And it is a bit unusual for students to try and sneak back on to campus after being dismissed, but it does happen. We caught unauthorized students climbing through a residence hall window during this ‘Stay at Home’ time. Finally, it is very unusual for the Fitness Center and gym to be completely empty.” Random fact: Gatling regularly walks through Shove Chapel as part of his security rounds, and when he’s in there, he sings.
Marcos Patino, Sodexo custodian
Patino has worked at Colorado College for 40 years. “A lot of people don’t believe it, but it’s true,” he says. “I have been here 40 years. I am dedicated to my job. You guys are like my family. You have to like your job. Forty years later I am still here.” Throughout his time at CC Patino has worked all over campus, but mostly recently in Armstrong Hall and Spencer Center, where he is a familiar figure. His job entails vacuuming, dusting, emptying trash and recycle bins, and general custodial maintenance, among other duties. How is working on campus different now? “There are not as many people. I used to see a lot of people, sometimes parents, asking me directions, where is this, where is the President’s Office?”
Allison Pacheco, Campus Safety officer
Pacheco has been working at CC for two and a half years as a full-time employee, and three additional years as a student.In addition to her Campus Safety duties that include checking buildings, patrolling campus, and working with students, Pacheco also is in charge of the Safe Ride Program and student workers. She coordinates the Parking Office and coordinates scheduling for our office and staffing officers for events as well as event planning. How is working on campus different now? “It’s definitely strange! Being in a role that is very responsive to students, it is interesting to be doing all of our interactions from afar. My role has definitely changed, but it has just morphed into being responsive to students in different ways. We have a group of students on or near campus that we check in with. We also have been running a food pantry, so we have some interactions with students that we might not have during the year.” What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now? “Facilitating the buying and delivery of food, medication, and clothing for students remaining on and near campus and making sure their needs are also being met.” Random fact: She graduated in 2017 with a degree in education.
Eddie Siow, Bon Appetit, assistant general manager
Siow has been working at CC for almost a year. His job entails overseeing the day-to-day operations of all food service locations on campus, and he’s involved in financial planning, implementation of marketing and special events, safety and well-being, client relations, facility maintenance, and product procurement. How is working on campus different now?
“Life was never a dull moment prior to COVID In January, we upgraded our food program at Rastall and elevated standards across campus. We were gearing up for a robust marketing campaign after spring break. Although the work pace has slowed a little, there is plenty to keep me busy. The slightly slower work pace allows me to connect with the students to learn how they are coping with the COVID crisis. Through the conversations, I am able to find out their needs and custom tailor our operations to better serve them. What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now? Since many people are not able to get a haircut, I am seeing some interesting hair styles and some creative ways to keep their hair in check. Random fact: “Before the shutdown, we served about 3,500 meals a day. Now we serve less than 100 meals.”
Jennifer Golightly, academic applications specialist
Come September, Golightly will have been working at CC for six years. She works to help lead and support the Digital Liberal Arts initiative at CC, and administers Canvas, which is the software where online classes are held. Her job entails the back-end management of Canvas, in addition to providing support for faculty using Canvas. This has been vital during the transition to distance learning as faculty have adapted their courses to an online format. How is working on campus different now? I’m not working on campus right now but working from home for me has included working with more faculty and seeing the really cool things that they’re doing in their online classes, even under the immense pressure to get online for Block 7. The most unusual thing you’ve encountered working at CC right now: “Between March 10 and the start of Block 7 on March 30, I hosted two to three workshops a week focusing on online pedagogy and Canvas functionality in addition to working with faculty individually, and by my rough count, I worked with close to 100 faculty in about 20 days.”
I think this moment at CC has highlighted for me how good we are as a campus at working together and supporting one another, particularly when there are challenges that we’re facing. That may not be unusual, but I think the degree to which it happens at CC is unique. Random fact: Golightly has a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature, has published a book and a chapter in an edited collection on the radical novels in Britain written during the 1790s, and researches and publishes in that field as often as she can.
The holy month of Ramadan began at sundown on Friday, April 23, over block break, and runs throughout Block 8, ending around May 23 in North America. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, extra prayer, reflection, and increased charity and generosity. It is also a time of community, celebration, and joy. A commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation, the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and lasts for a month, from one sighting of the cresent moon to the next.
During Ramadan, some Muslim students, staff, and faculty will be fasting from sunrise to sundown. According to Chaplain Kate Holbrook, this can be a very spiritually centering, rewarding, and also demanding time for students, as well as for staff and faculty.
The Chaplain’s Office at Colorado College offers support and resources for members of the campus community who are observing Ramadan, just as they do for those who celebrate and follow other faith traditions.
“In partnership with faculty within the CC Muslim community, we will be hosting a dessert gathering late one night, post Iftar meal; students are in all different time zones now, which means they are breaking fast at all different times,” says Holbrook. Contact Chaplain Holbrook for more information (email@example.com).
The CC Muslim community is invited to join the Yale Muslim community for “Friday Reflections” (a virtual Jumma reflection) at 12:30 p.m. EST. and “Ramadan Reflections” which will happen on Mondays and Wednesdays. Email Holbrook (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested and she will send you the links.
Eid al Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, will occur at sunset around May 23.
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 Molly Seaman ’21.
What does mindfulness mean to you? Mindfulness may evoke meditation, yoga, art therapy, and other anxiety-reducing therapeutic techniques, but to me mindfulness means awareness of the present moment and consciousness of that awareness. Meditation, yoga, and art therapy may help some people achieve this state of mind, but every person must search for the unique activity that works for them. Mindfulness must be worked toward; mindfulness is a reward. I achieve mindfulness through making sculptures, writing poetry, and hiking, though every person I know who focuses on mindfulness has their own methods.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation? Practicing mindfulness means facing the reality of the present, which does not necessarily yield relaxation. I don’t think I need to be calm nor relaxed while practicing mindfulness. In fact, I think it can be better to be the opposite. In order to be aware of the present moment, I must face the negativity in the present. Mindfulness does not require me to fight that negativity, but it does require me to be aware of it, to feel it. Mindfulness can be a wake-up call for me if I haven’t been facing my demons. Sometimes I’ve found it important to be conscious of the present before making decisions.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry? It is easy to chronically worry about the future in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak; I know I’ve been worrying. That is why it is more important than ever to practice mindfulness, to experience the present moment instead of worrying about the future, even if just for a short while. The COVID-19 outbreak is largely out of our control, and the most we can do is continue to practice social distancing and to wait. In the meantime, it is important to reflect on the joys of the present as well as the negatives. I take time to appreciate the amount of time I have to spend with my roommates and to start projects I’ve been putting off for weeks, months, and even years in some cases. The free time that social distancing has allotted all of us gives us a chance to strengthen our relationships with our housemates and/or families and to engage with hobbies. However, this free time can only be taken advantage of if we are able to appreciate the present instead of worrying about the future.
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time? Art has become extremely important to me during the pandemic. Art projects give me purpose, an outlet for creativity and energy, and, when I finish them, a sense of accomplishment. I’ve never seriously studied studio art, but I’ve realized recently that, of course, no one has to see any product of which I’m not proud. This realization gave me full creative release, and I’ve been creating many pieces of art since, both bad and good.
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now? Everyone achieves mindfulness differently. Any activity that can help you escape worries about the future has the potential to help you to achieve mindfulness. Don’t worry about relaxing; trying to relax can be anxiety-inducing in and of itself. Engage with activities that focus your attention onto the present.
What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness?
Aside from reaching out to the Counseling Center, the chaplain, the Employee Assistance Plan, the Butler Center, the Advising Hub, and/or the Wellness Resource Center, it is important to remember that professors are also a resource that CC students can reach out to with concerns/anxieties about the virus and with questions about mindfulness. One of my favorite aspects of CC is the strong relationships between students and professors, and it is important to remember that those relationships exist both on and off campus.
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!
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 Isabel Lanzetta Marshall ’22
What does mindfulness mean to you? In my mind, mindfulness is the embodiment of my most authentic self. To me, this necessitates a certain depth of understanding both my inner and outer worlds: how my physical, spiritual, and mental health are impacted by the external and how my inner world, in turn, affects those around me. Mindfulness is not only a choice to be conscious of the way we make ourselves a part of the world around us, but also one to tune into the world inside of us — to pay heed to our very human experiences. It necessitates slowing down, reflection, and most importantly —kindness.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation? For many of us who live in an environment hyper-focused on “what comes next?”, the practice of mindfulness sometimes does go hand in hand with calmness or relaxation, if only to give us enough space to absorb the moments in our life that are already fleeting. However, mindfulness asks that we do more than binge watch “Tiger King” or take a long bath (although both of these can be remedies in their own right). Mindfulness asks for us to practice presence in our lives. To be mindful, many of us need not only to slow down, put away our phones, and take care of ourselves, but we must also make a conscious effort to pay careful attention to the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors we are exhibiting. Not with judgment, but in an effort to understand the very complex and profound experience of being human in a sometimes joy-filled, sometimes painful, world.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry? How can we process suffering in the world? Not only during a time when COVID-19 has impacted communities across the globe, including our own, but especially during the times when we find our communities safe from the crossfire. I’m still trying to figure that out myself, but I do know that we all experience uncertainty and worry differently. And right now, some of us may be undergoing especially difficult challenges. It’s important to remember that we don’t have control over what is happening or what may happen in our lives because of the COVID-19 crisis, as with many other upheavals we may face in our lives. Practicing mindfulness allows us to focus on what we can control, and to shape the people we will be when this is over. It is the greater awareness of ourselves and our interactions with others that mindfulness cultivates which will help us bring compassion into our communities. Remember that your physical, mental, and spiritual health is important, even during a global pandemic, because taking care of ourselves gives us the strength to take care of others. What’s more — mindfulness in all moments of our lives brings awareness to the suffering of others, so that we can hold space for their experiences with compassion, let go of trivial matters, and heal. I would summarize this with the help of the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh:
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time? As a writer, journaling is one of my favorite mindful practices. Reflecting on not only the events that happen each day, but also the emotions and thoughts that follow has taught me to be attentive to the conversation happening inside and to recognize that my voice is valued. Movement is also what sustains my practice. Yoga, dance, running are all meditative for someone like me, who tends to be stuck in my head. I don’t think I really realized how the strength of my physical body could empower my subconscious mind until Heather Horton from the WRC made that connection for me. Really honing into the strength and perseverance of our bodies can remind us of our fortitude, especially in our most vulnerable moments. That knowledge has been transformative for me.
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now? Be gentle with yourself! Mindfulness is not a perpetual state of happiness, nor is it a cure-all. Maybe you are feeling frustrated at yourself because of how you are coping with this crisis, maybe you are feeling bitter about the turn your life has taken, and maybe you’re feeling lonely and terrified. Mindfulness is not trying to eradicate these emotions to create a somehow superior state of consciousness. Mindfulness is making the conscious choice to sit with yourself, no matter what you are enduring or experiencing in this moment, to really uncover what is going on inside of you and embrace it with compassion.
What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness? The WRC hosts a virtual Mindful Stress Management every Wednesday at 4 p.m. MDT and a journaling series on their YouTube page CC Wellness Resource Center. The Chaplain’s Office hosts a virtual morning meditation every Thursday at 8 a.m., MDT, as well as a Qigong practice and other mindfulness workshops you can look out for on their Facebook page. And finally — asking counselors, chaplains, and campus support for help is an exercise in practicing compassion to ourselves.
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 Cosette “Coco” Turvold ’21
What does mindfulness mean to you? Mindfulness is grounding, appreciative practices that help you connect your mind and body. The most successful way to practice mindfulness is breathing and sensory awareness activities.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation? Mindfulness is not being calm/relaxed, because you are still breathing, using your senses without paying attention to them. Mindful practices emphasize conscious sensory practices, ones that you focus on breathing or senses while deliberately controlling or noticing them.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry? Mindfulness can help at a time like this, because it feels really good to forget about everything going on for a few moments. It helps me take my eyes off of electronics too, which has been a struggle for me during this time. It can change your mindset for the day, putting a bit of positivity in your life when you’re having a bad day.
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time? One of my favorite practices is Tangerine Meditation. Before you open a tangerine, imagine the tangerine tree it came from with all the blossoms in the sunshine and in the rain. Visualize the growth process; this tangerine grew on a tree and it ended up in your hand! What a miracle! Tear off a small part, close your eyes and smell it, appreciate the energy the smell stirs within you. Is your mouth watering? Take mindful bites, noticing the texture, the shape of the fruit, the way the juice spills into your mouth, the things you enjoy about this experience. Enjoy the tangerine with your eyes closed; you can see the universe in just a tangerine. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy. This practice can be applied to any meal, be sure to turn off music/tv other distractions in the background. If you can be present with any activity you’re doing! Get into your warm bed, lay there for two minutes, close your eyes and notice your breath. A moment with yourself is always a mindful moment!
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now? My suggestion is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to practice mindfulness in a specific way! You can create your own version of mindfulness. Take a walk in the grass with bare feet, close your eyes and breathe for a minute before a lecture, close your eyes and really appreciate your food, feel into the warmth of the blanket that you have wrapped around you. Mindfulness is about being present with your breath and senses, get creative with it to find what works best for you!
What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness? CC offers the Wellness Resource Center and the Counseling Center with lots of online resources! Outside of CC, you can find endless online resources like books or websites that specialize in finding the right practice for you. My favorite book about mindfulness is “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve learned so much from it. Best wishes to everyone reading this, and I hope you find the right mindfulness practice for you!
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 Heather Horton, director of the Colorado College Wellness Resource Center.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
Mindfulness practices are about being present in the current moment — whatever that moment is. Our observations of the here-and-now offer us so many gifts that we miss if we’re too busy moving on to the next moment or worrying over the last. The old adage about stopping to smell the roses is really about mindfulness. When we are mindfully present, we might get pleasure or joy from that smell, or from the light on the rose petals. But of course, sometimes stopping to sniff the air brings less pleasant smells. Regardless of what I’m sensing, I find taking the time to really notice it is very grounding; it allows me to take perspective about what is constant and what is changing in the world, and in myself. Stopping to be in the moment and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings helps me recognize the cues my body and mind are giving me, and allows me to be responsive. I also think that mindfulness is a very important component of strong interpersonal connection. Being mindful in our interactions with other people, allows us to truly listen with curiosity so that we’re not making assumptions or judgments. Mindful interpersonal engagement allows us to be tuned into ourselves and to that other person. I find that when I’m able to do this, my interactions are more meaningful and satisfying.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation?
While the non-striving and non-judgment that are key parts of mindfulness can indeed be liberating and relaxing, mindfulness also allows us to be present for our profound grief, fears, and anger. These are emotions that we often try to avoid really feeling, but they are simply signals to us about things that are happening in ourselves and in our worlds; when we avoid them we stifle our own growth. I’ve always loved the way May Sarton puts it: “To close the door on pain is to miss the chance for growth . . . Nothing that happens to us, even the most terrible shock, is unusable, and everything has somehow to be built into the fabric of personality.” Being mindfully present to ourselves in these moments of pain and suffering helps us move forward — by allowing ourselves to be compassionate and loving to ourselves; by revealing how those feelings shift over time; and by revealing to us our own humanness.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry?
As human beings, we like to feel like we’re in control all the time. Events like the Coronavirus pandemic offer daily (many times daily?) in-your-face evidence of how little we actually control. “Letting be” is an important component of mindfulness practices. We simply bring our awareness to what is happening in this moment, and accept it as it is. There is something incredibly liberating about being able to say, “what is, is” about the things we can’t control and re-focusing our control instincts toward the things we can actually control — how we respond to our feelings, how we fill our time, proven strategies for reducing the spread of illnesses like washing hands and social distancing. If we’ve done that, at the end of the day, we can say “I’ve done what I can, and I’ll do the same tomorrow.”
How are you cultivating it at this time?
I’m finding that the current moment is offering me lots of moments to let go of things I cannot control! Whenever I hear myself saying something like “this is not OK” or “I have to make X happen,” I’m using that as a cue to stop and engage a mindfulness practice. Often when I’m responding to my own worry and uncertainty, my mindfulness practices are focused on seeing the shifts over time in my thoughts, feelings, and sensations that help me take perspective and be responsive to myself. Also, because I’m spending so much time looking at screens, I’m really trying to make sure that I’m engaging with analog, tactile things in my world in a mindful way.
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time?
These days I mostly find myself using a body scan practice, or sensory-focused practices like alien object, which is where you engage with an object as though you are an alien who has just landed on earth. You explore the object through your senses (sight, smell, sound, touch, taste). It’s great for practicing approaching objects (and other things) without assumption or judgment. It allows me to recognize that even with something that I might have seen and interacted with many, many times, there are often aspects that I have overlooked or forgotten about. It opens me up to curiosity and creativity, and it helps ground me in my sensory world.
What resources does CC offer that can help students, faculty, or staff right now who want to cultivate mindfulness?
The Wellness Resource Center is offering a weekly Mindful Stress Management workshop (Wednesdays at 4 p.m.), and we’ve been building more online resources on our webpage https://www.coloradocollege.edu/other/wellness/ and YouTube channel, too. We continue to be available to consult with folks and connect them to resources and skills that will help them thrive. The Chaplain’s Office offers many mindful meditative and contemplative practices each week, and they have also developed an online resource repository. Chaplain Kate Holbrook is a wonderful resource for people trying to build meaningful mindfulness practices into their daily life. Our colleagues in the Counseling Center are a great resource for students. The folks in Outdoor Education are great resources for engaging mindfully with the natural world. Creativity and Innovation has Mindful Thursdays as well as some fantastic online resources. It’s wonderful to be a part of a community that offers so many opportunities and supports!
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now?
It’s important to know that mindfulness practices don’t have to be big. We can build mindful moments into our lives in so many ways. For instance, as you take your shower, you can spend just a few moments noticing all the sensations — the smell and texture of your shampoo, the warmth of the water hitting your neck, the feeling of your feet planted on the shower floor—and you can say to yourself, “I’m grateful to myself for taking this time to ground myself in this moment.” It is a gift you can give yourself, and you are worth that investment.
Thanks Heather, for taking the time to answer our questions, and may you be well.
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 Professor of Creativity and Innovation and Schlosser Professor in the Arts Jane Hilberry.
What does mindfulness mean to you? Mindfulness basically means paying attention, knowing where you are and what you are doing. If I’m lost in my thoughts, miles away from the current moment, I’m probably not being mindful! I spend a lot of time in that faraway place — I’m having an imaginary conversation or reliving a moment from class or thinking about what to make for dinner. And now, with the Coronavirus happening, it’s easy to be swept away on a wave of fear: one night I woke up coughing and within seconds I was imagining myself dying alone in a hospital for lack of a respirator.
Our minds travel all over the place, and that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, that ability to think ahead and imagine hypothetical scenarios is part of our brilliance as human creatures. But getting lost in my head separates me from my actual, immediate, physical experience. It generally feels better to be embodied and connected to what’s actually happening, if I can manage it. But it also doesn’t help to get angry or frustrated when we can’t manage it. Right now, kindness toward ourselves is the most important practice of all.
I’m also a proponent of occasional mindlessness. At times, the best thing you can do for yourself is to wrap up in a blanket, break out the Doritos, and watch Netflix. We just need a break sometimes.
How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation? That’s a complex question, because sometimes being mindful means becoming aware of how uncomfortable you are. It can mean noticing that your back hurts or that you’re really tired or that you’re upset about something. Being mindful means noticing whatever is actually going on with you, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and trying to make room for those sensations or emotions.
So it’s not necessarily calming or relaxing. At the same time, though, I have to say that I usually do feel better if I’m able to get in touch with what is going on. If I’ve got some buried fear or grief and I can actually feel it, I usually feel relieved and calmer. It’s like when you finally have a good cry about something you’ve been carrying — afterwards you can feel very peaceful.
How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry? I remember something a CC student, Ananda Gear, told me once after traveling abroad on her own for a long stretch. She said that when she would get scared — maybe she was lost or in a situation that didn’t feel safe — she would ask herself, “Is anything bad actually happening right now?” It’s so easy to get lost in worry and fear, and it can be reassuring to come back to what is actually happening. For example, if I’m getting anxious listening to the news about Covid-19 deaths in New York, I can come back to the fact that I’m actually sitting in my backyard on a beautiful spring morning watching my cat. Seeing that, rather than being swept up in fear, makes it easier to do something constructive.
If you are ill or someone you love is ill, it’s harder, of course, to stay with that reality. If you can be mindful and connected, even for a minute, that’s good. If not, just be kind to yourself about how hard it is.
And mindfulness of course also means having awareness of what’s happening on a large scale too. It means recognizing that the virus disproportionately affects those who can’t work from home and those who have lost jobs. And it affects racial groups unequally. For example, I read that in Michigan, 40% of the people who have died from Coronavirus are African Americans, while the state’s population is only 14% African American.
What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time? I feel like I need more shoring up than usual, so I’m doing yoga online and watching workshops with the qigong teacher Mingtong Gu, which always restores me. And I’m spending a lot of virtual time with my Heart Centered Meditation group.
Creative practices are another profound way to connect with mindfulness. If I’m making something, I’m not worrying — I’m just immersed in the process. And I always feel ridiculously happy when I have just made something, whether it’s a birthday card or a poem or a blind contour drawing. Staying at home can make the world seem small, but getting connected with creative energy makes me feel expansive.
What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now? Practice with others. I’m not always great about practicing every day on my own, but if I take a class or join a group, I do it.
There’s a virtual mindfulness event almost every day of the week at CC now, thanks to Spiritual Life, the Wellness Resource Center, and Creativity & Innovation. You can attend Creative Mondays and Qigong Sound Healing on Mondays; Tranquil Tuesdays; Mindful Stress Management on Wednesdays; Morning Meditation and Muffins on Thursday mornings and Mindful Thursdays in the afternoon. These are all great ways to get support for mindfulness and connect with a larger community.
What resources does CC offer that can help students, faculty, or staff right now who want to cultivate mindfulness? Creativity & Innovation offers two regular events.
I lead “Creative Mondays” from 3 to 5 p.m. on Zoom and everyone is welcome to join. We hang out together online while drawing, painting, knitting, etc. It’s like an old-fashioned sewing circle or something — we’re working with our hands, just being together and talking at the same time. It’s a nice, nurturing way to be together. https://zoom.us/j/943553629
Creativity & Innovation’s Mindfulness Resident Barbara Bash offers “Mindful Thursdays” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Zoom. Barbara draws on a variety of practices, including a deep check-in in the form of circle work. The sessions are very grounding. https://zoom.us/j/331552859
For staff and students continuing engagement through the Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement, the term “community” is taking on new meaning.
Civic leadership paraprofessional Sophia Pray ’19 says the CCE staff has been working to accommodate student schedules and help find them meaningful remote engagement opportunities.
“These times are completely riddled with uncertainty, so we are trying to prioritize making sure that students have financial security for those who work for us, ways to meaningfully connect with their communities and our staff and peer groups, and ways to show up remotely for their values right now,” Pray says.
Students in the Community Engaged Fellows program are wrapping up their credit with Facebook discussions and a cumulative reflective essay, and graduating students in the Community Engaged Leaders program are still working remotely on their capstone projects with CCE staff. And for others looking for ways to continue engagement remotely, the CCE staff compiled an 11-page document of engagement and learning opportunities.
Pray says some students have even been finding new communities in this time. The CC chapter of Sunrise Movement, a national organization advocating for political action to combat the climate crisis, has amped up their engagement at this time, Pray says. The group has been hosting biweekly Zoom meetings to connect and coordinate activism efforts, and The Colorado Sun recently ran an article by member Isabel Hicks ’22 about the group, headlined, “When coronavirus prompted my college to quickly close, it brought me to tears. Then I found my community.”
Examples of other individual students continuing their work through the CCE are wide-ranging. To name a few, Community Engaged Fellow Heba Shiban ’21 has been making paintings to be delivered to her local nursing home. Fellow Tamar Crump ’23 is continuing tutoring with the Refugee Alliance, teaching English via Zoom to a family from the Congo. Community Engaged Leader Natalie Sarver ’20 is working on the front lines as a nurse in Colorado Springs.
“It’s definitely been a hard transition for a lot of folks feeling like they’re losing community, but also I think more than ever, our students are feeling a call to action,” Pray says.
Pictured, Heba Shiban ’21 displays some paintings she has made for her local nursing home.
Colorado College’s Collaborative for Community Engagement creates and supports community-engaged learning experiences for CC students as they apply their liberal arts education and connect with our campus community and beyond. Hear from Director Jordan Travis Radke, Community Partnership Development Coordinator Niki Sosa, and Civic Leadership Program Coordinator Sophie Pray ’19 as they reflect on community engagement during the Coronavirus pandemic.