Mindful At Foothill

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Today, more than ever it seems, students are most in need of ways to cope with anxiety and stress. Mindfulness is an excellent tool to help them. But unfortunately, it has also become somewhat of a fashionable term and everyone is into it in one form or another. There is a ton of information about mindfulness on the Net, and not all of it is accurate. In any case, reading and knowing about mindfulness in its myriad forms has almost become a barrier to its practice. But the practice itself remains remarkably simple, worthy of all the words that can ever be written about it, yet requiring few to exposit its sublime beauty and relevance. It can only be experienced, not intellectualized or known, in the conventional sense of the word.

The critical word above is practice. Like swimming, one may read all they can about mindfulness, enough fuel to sound wise and profound at every social they attend, but unless it is practiced (with surprising ease, I might add), it adds little of substance to a person’s life.

theravada-buddhism-1769592_1280I have been holding mindfulness meditation practice sessions during the 10 minutes before each of my 8am lectures (usually twice a week) since Week 2. When we started, we didn’t talk about mindfulness at these sessions, but actually did it. Any mindfulness related discussions were to happen on the blog I had set up for us. But I found that, just as in class, many students turned up before having read preparatory materials I had pointed them at. So after about Week 4, we decided to convene a minute before the session starts, at 7:49am. During that minute, I provide brief instruction and a reminder about what we ought to be doing. And then the session proceeds in noble silence and dimmed classroom lighting until a gong sounds at 8am and my subject class starts. We do not talk about the practice during or after class. We focus on Computer Science. Any discussion about the practice happens only at https://MindfulAtFoothill.wordpress.com.

To participate, I requested that students commit to attending all sessions of the quarter, be on time every time and promise not to disturb their co-meditators. If the classroom door had shut by the time they arrive, they were not to enter until 8am when the subject lecture would start.

In view of the relatively early hour and the many challenges our students face in getting to campus on time, attendance at these sessions was understandably low (about 5 students on average on a good day). Nonetheless, I’ve now had requests from a few students in neighboring classes that they’d like to attend too. To accommodate one such group which can’t make the 7:45 sitting because of a class at 8, I am currently trying to hold two sittings on each of the days – one at 7:30 and another at 7:45. Students are free to attend either or both.

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The kind of mindfulness we work on is ana pana meditationan introductory primer to the non-sectarian technique of vipassana.

Sitting times for Winter 2017 are on Monday and Wednesday mornings as follows:

  • First sitting: 7:35am – Need to be there by 7:30
  • Second sitting: 7:50am – Need to be there by 7:45

Meditators who have made some progress and can maintain posture for the entire 30 minutes can feel free to come at 7:30 and sit right through into the second session. I will arrange for the second set of students to file in and take their positions as non-disruptively as possible.

If any of your students are interested in attending, please let them know that they’re welcome. If they haven’t read the primer on the blog and/or have questions they’d like addressed before the sitting, they should let me know to give the quick 1-minute overview before the sitting starts. I try to do that any time there is a new student in the sitting.

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About andatfoothill

I teach at Foothill
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3 Responses to Mindful At Foothill

  1. bayareamath says:

    Patience, perseverance, and practice (from the primer). Good advice for deep learning. So seemingly obvious. So often prescribed. As needed as breathing? Conscious or unconscious? Necessary? Sufficient? Me observing myself; me changing myself; me apart from myself; me one with myself? Who (what) is this me and myself? Maybe an algorithm, maybe a theorem; maybe a single execution of an inextricably intertwined memory, processor, programmer. I think I’ll go lose myself in my mathematics and hide myself from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sasgary says:

    I loved reading this post. How something as simple as opening your doors 30 minutes ahead of class to carve out a specific space would spill over into the classes next door. Something that is open to so many people and from so many perspectives of life. I wonder if you have also noticed a difference in performance and engagement from those students who attend the meditation sessions. I would love to recommend this to my students next quarter –as I was teaching mostly online this quarter. Thank you for such an offering!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your kind words. Yes! The students who attended repeatedly told me how the practice has helped them cope with their hectic student life. They also did much better on labs and tests, and likely took the feedback they received in good spirit too. So it was a win-win.

    Your students or anyone else that’s interested is absolutely welcome. We will meet at the same place at the same time (7:45am) on the same days next quarter starting Week 2 (Apr 17).

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