When I heard about the mass mindfulness meditation session being held on Parliament Hill in commemoration of the International Day of Peace being led by seminal scholar Jon Kabat-Zinn, I jumped at the opportunity to participate! Not only was this once in a lifetime experience the first of its kind, but the timing of it was also quite remarkable. Particularly impactful for me as a participant was how the very act of just being as well as being together despite differences, symbolized the epitome of peace.
My interest in mindfulness began several years ago when I first began exploring stress and anxiety as a contemporary issue in adult education. This was a topic I felt a strong connection to. As a graduate student working towards a Master of Education (Adult Education) at Yorkville University, I have experienced increased anxiety within own my own life. Also, as a nursing faculty member, I could see the impact that stress and anxiety was having on my students and their academic performance. This combination of lived experiences prompted my interest in analyzing how the inclusion of mindfulness-based strategies in undergraduate nursing programs in Canada might contribute to overall anxiety reduction impacting academic performance of nursing students age 19-25 enrolled in all levels. Through this self-directed study course, I have had the opportunity to conduct further research related to the theoretical areas of mindfulness, anxiety, and adult education resulting in several key considerations.
Mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). It is a way of being and seeing the world. Guiding this way of being includes an ethical frame of non- harm, and includes guiding principle of developing compassion and increasing awareness of the root causes of suffering (O’Donnell, 2015). Achieving mastery of mindfulness practices, and operationalizing them, requires both formal and informal training and regular practice.
There is research to support that mindfulness can be used to reduce stress and anxiety in the post-secondary student population (Bamber & Schneider, 2015). In addition, the research supports the use of mindfulness in the development of compassion and empathy (Kerrigan, Chau, King, Holman, Joffe & Sibinga, 2017). It is important to consider that this combination can not only impact the individual, but can transform society. As we learn to become kinder to ourselves, we develop an inclination to be kinder to others. The caution to this, however, is that mindfulness should not be considered as a quick fix. There are often many variables such as root causes creating stress and anxiety that need to be examined and addressed in addition to the implementation of mindfulness practice (O’Donnell, 2015).
Although I look forward to implementing a mindfulness workshop into the nursing curriculum this coming winter (which was developed through this program), I have learned that there is much to consider when it comes to the operationalization of mindfulness. To ensure program sustainability that adheres to the guiding ethical framework, a paradigmatic shift is needed. Time, patience, and dedication are required to address the external factors within nursing education and practice that continue to perpetuate learner stress and anxiety. Aligned with my ongoing commitment to connect theory to practice, I will encourage learners to look inward and together we can mindfully develop a deeper connection to our own experiences through compassionate inquisitiveness. To summarize the words expressed by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2017) on Parliament Hill, individual mindfulness is a radical act of both sanity and love. When we provide opportunities to practice mindfulness collectively, the radical acts of sanity and love increase exponentially. I encourage you to carve out time in your day for mindfulness, and invite others to join you, developing a deeper connection to your own experiences and an increasing awareness of the experience of others.
Landyn Blais wrote this blog for her Contemporary Issues in Education course in the Master of Education (Adult Education) Program at Yorkville Universtiy
Bamber, M.D., & Schneider, J.K. (2015). Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research. Educational Research Review, 18 (2016), 1-32.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2015.12.004
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2017). Mass mindfulness meditation for peace. [Presentation]. Presented by Innerspace -Mindfulness Meditation. Ottawa, On.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(12), 144-156. doi.10.1093/clipsy/bpg016
Kerrigan, D., Chau, V., King, M., Holman, E., Joffe, A., & Sibinga, E. (2017). There is no performance, there is just this moment: The role of mindfulness instruction in promoting health and well-being among students at a highly-ranked university in the united states. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2156587217719787.
O’Donnell, A. (2015). Contemplative pedagogy and mindfulness: Developing creative attention in an age of distraction. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 49(2), 187-202.