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Mindful Mondays

by Lizzie Stephani '18

The Wurtele Center and the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life have collaborated to create the new series, Mindful Mondays. This semester, the Mindful Monday series has consisted of four lunchtime meetings where food is provided and a member of faculty leads a discussion on a topic relating to mindfulness in the midst of academic rigor. A short contemplative practice, often lead by the Interim Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, Matilda Cantwell, is also incorporated during the bookends of the meeting.

I had the privilege of attending two Mindful Monday meetings throughout the course of this semester. On September 29, I listened and participated in a discussion lead by Kate Queeney, Professor of Chemistry posing the following questions for discussion. Do we "have time" for this, or do we "make time" for things? How do we prioritize and decide what is important? Queeney lead an exercise for the group which asked attendees to write down three things they wished they spent more time doing and three things they wish they spent less time doing. Discussion followed the exercise and those in attendance were able to talk through their priorities, stress, and exchange ideas on how to make their desires a reality. On October 24, I attended a Mindful Monday led by Zaza Kabayadondo, Co-Director of the Design Thinking Initiative who presented on design thinking your way through disequilibrium. Kabayadondo solved a Sudoku problem with the group, demonstrating how to use design thinking to solve real problems. Two of the keys to design thinking highlighted throughout the demonstration were deliberately making mistakes and being willing to change your strategy often. I found both of these meetings enriching as a student and pertinent to share as a reporter.

As Director of the Wurtele Center Jess Bacal puts it, the mission of Mindful Mondays is to "have the conversations that students don't usually get to have in class." Understanding the stress that many Smith students endure, Bacal explained that Mindful Mondays is designed to introduce students to contemplative practice and provide a low stakes environment where students can think about stress in healthy ways. Bacal also mentioned that one goal of Mindful Mondays is to develop a community among students who regularly attend.

Speakers were chosen from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines but all shared in the mission of opening up a space for students to explore mindfulness and normalize stress. Cantwell noted that the professors chosen are each "intentional and deliberate in how they create their classrooms" and actually "create contemplative spaces in their classrooms." We can all share in the wisdom, no matter our interests or major, of contemplative practice described by Cantwell as "noticing, reflecting, pausing" and intentionally addressing areas of stress.

Mindful Mondays will continue next semester. Bacal and Cantwell are eager to hear the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of students as they plan future lunchtime discussions.