The last few months have been marked by unparalleled stress and anxiety for many, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the presidential election approaches. The Case Western Reserve University community is no exception. To help students, faculty and staff cope during these challenging times, a group of five faculty members has collaborated to offer Mindfulness Matters Week Oct. 26–30.

Featuring a keynote address by Mirabai Bush, a prolific author and co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, the week will include several events to help community members develop mindfulness skills. 

The group’s efforts are part of a larger project, funded by a Nord Grant, to study the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in higher education. 

The faculty involved hope the week will result in positive attitudes surrounding mindfulness, awareness of activities on campus and interest in participating in their classroom study in spring 2021.

“No matter what role each of us plays in the Case [Western Reserve] community, whether we are students, faculty or staff, we are all coping with stresses—the stress of uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, the effect it will have on our work and home life. There is also a lot of stress about current political and societal issues,” said Barbara Burgess-Van Aken, SAGES Fellow and one of the faculty leaders of the initiative. “Research supports that mindfulness awareness and techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety and we want to help spread the word about that.”

In addition to Burgess-Van Aken, the faculty team is composed of:

  • Elizabeth Click, medical director and associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing;
  • Marjorie Edguer, assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences;
  • Jesse Honsky, instructor at the nursing school; and
  • Matthew Salerno, lecturer at the School of Law.

Events will be held each day next week to appeal to a variety of interests and highlight the many forms mindfulness can take. 

The event schedule is as follows.

Mirabai Bush keynote address: “History, Benefits, and Potential of Mindfulness in Higher Education”

Monday, Oct. 26
4:30 to 6 p.m.

Mirabai Bush is a pioneer in the introduction of mindfulness into higher education and other sectors of society. Bush will share the recent history of mindfulness on campuses as well as its benefits to students, faculty and staff. As a founder of the Contemplative Practice Fellowships, she has witnessed the development of mindfulness pedagogies in disciplines from physics to poetry to computer technology. 

Her talk will consider the role of supplemental contemplative practices, the need to adapt teaching of mindfulness in the educational setting, examples of effective programs, and the relationship of mindfulness to current academic and social concerns, including distance learning, racial justice, chronic distraction, and questions of identity. 

Register for the keynote address.

Mindful parenting session

Tuesday, Oct. 27 
1 to 2 p.m. 

Laurie Cunningham and John Cunningham, an insight meditation teacher, will present a virtual workshop on how mindfulness practices can affect the ability to parent effectively. Interaction with children/adolescents may be rooted in anger, frustration or other emotions rather than on what is needed to parent effectively in the moment. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to be aware of these feelings within ourselves and gives us the capacity to not be driven by them.

This session will cover the foundations of mindfulness as applied to parenting covering basic principles as well as share resources, a short practice, and concluding with a Q&A session. 

Register for the mindfulness parenting session.

Workshop on stress reduction 

Wednesday, Oct. 28
11 a.m. to noon

Julie Schlemmer, yoga therapist, Reiki master, health coach and owner of the Atma Center in Cleveland Heights, will offer a workshop on how a consistent practice of mindfulness can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress in the physical body. By learning to quiet the mind and live in the present moment, the body, too, will quiet, become calmer, more relaxed and able to experience the joy of living.

The session will introduce the practice of mindfulness meditation, the importance and significance of working with the breath, and how the body shifts and releases tension with subtle movements.  

Register for the workshop on stress reduction.

“Living More Intentionally, Finding Peace, and Resilience”

Thursday, Oct. 29
3 to 4 p.m. 

Suzanne Rusnak, coordinator of mindfulness programming at University Hospital’s Connor Integrative Health Network, will offer a virtual session on the basics of the tenets of mindfulness and how it works to benefit us and ways to practice it in daily life.  

As a primer or a refresher, this workshop is a perfect opportunity to take a moment out of our busy week to destress, and appreciate the moment.

Register for “Living More Intentionally, Finding Peace, and Resilience.”

Session on mindful movement

Friday, Oct. 30
Noon to 12:45 p.m.

This interactive session led by mindfulness expert Rowan Silverberg will introduce mindful movement, a gentle, accessible approach to yoga that encourages people to tune into what they are feeling as they move and make choices based on their present moment experience. 

Basic seated, standing, and supine poses will be presented with variations to accommodate the uniqueness of each person’s relationship with their body. 

Register for the mindfulness movement session.