UVic Torch -- Spring 2009
Autumn 2009,
Volume 30, Number 2

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 Calming Influences Cont'd
Counsellors O’Brien and Mason: mindfulness can help students to be better at managing time and distractions.
Photography by JULIE NIXON, BA ’99

It may also be that UVic has a sophisticated method of finding out what’s bothering students. Anyone who asks for help fills out a detailed survey. It’s an exhaustive questionnaire of personal and academic concerns. Everything from body image to gambling, sleep problems, breakups, drug use, work stress and even perfectionism is covered.

Mindfulness, O’Brien says, is a holistic way to deal with a whole host of problems that students face. Kabat-Zinn developed the mindfulness technique decades ago to help combat depression and anxiety in his patients. His mantra, also the title of his best-selling book is, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” The founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School has summed up our society’s mental state this way: “It’s like driving a car with the brake on. Huge amounts of burning goes on, worrying, worrying, worrying.”

Whatever the causes of student angst, elements of mindfulness can be taught using yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and body scans. It’s a way of tuning into the world and accepting it, which Kabat-Zinn has pointed out is non-existent in our culture.
“From the perspective of the meditative traditions, our entire society has attention deficit disorder. Big time,” Kabat-Zinn said in a 2005 speech.

O’Brien and his colleagues have noticed that a large number of students who seek help have problems with time management and procrastination. “I wonder about the degree of distraction that students face: cell phones, Facebook, the Internet.”

Mindfulness, he says, helps sweep away such distractions.

For him, mindfulness takes the edge off the day-to-day stresses as he confronts the challenges that students face. “It’s an open-minded and non-judgemental awareness. These are skills that we would say are simple. Simple, but not easy.”

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