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.