ASU professors encourage mind over matter

ASU's Equitable Mindfulness Initiative leads efforts to open the doors of mindfulness to everyone

Today’s perception of college is associated with stress, and the addition of financial, social or physical problems that have a lasting impact on one’s health. The Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience has created the Equitable Mindfulness Initiative to make sure these resources are accessible to everyone at ASU. 

A year and a half ago, members of ASU's Undergraduate Student Government pushed for efforts that ultimately led to the creation of the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. 

This past summer, Tiara Cash, the program manager for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI) created the Equitable Mindfulness Initiative, an effort to bring more conversations about equity and access to ASU’s mindfulness-centered programs. 

Chief Well-Being Officer Teri Pipe said though mindfulness was a focus for her before taking this position, the grassroots efforts of ASU undergraduates made the center a reality.

“The whole idea came from students," Pipe said. "They saw that health and well-being was impacting the learning environment, and they wanted a leader that could be a spokesperson for that within ASU. You’re focusing on the present moment with awareness and intention."

She said this can look and feel different between individuals, but there are methods taught for creating the cognitive habits considered to evoke mindfulness.

Mindfulness means being highly aware of one's sense of self and of one's surroundings. 

People can practice mindfulness by creating a space to think, breathe and be present in an environment. This can happen by finding a calm, quiet place to rest to breathe and allow one's mind to wander. 

Jeffrey Woolley, a faculty associate and practicing psychotherapist, was first introduced to mindfulness in the '70s.

“Mindfulness comes from the word vipassana, which translates to 'mindfulness' or 'insight,'" Woolley said.

He said that insight gained from practicing mindfulness is essential for building patient rapport, which effects the outcome of treatment.

Woolley said he believes that when a healthcare provider practices meditation or mindfulness in their own lives, they can create more comfortable spaces for their patients. 

This can also lead to more awareness in providers about the emotions or attitudes of their patients.

When it comes to how mindfulness can impact health, the biggest contribution is in the attitude of the patient and the provider. 

"It’s a very scary thing to be a patient, and so to be able to help bring someone into the present so that they're not worrying about what will happen in the future or what has happened in the past, it can help them to let go of the anxiety," Pipe said. 

She said that this allows patients to deal with pain and stress easier, ultimately helping them make better decisions about their care.

Mindfulness practices have also been proven to improve mood, performance and emotional intelligence for students. 

Whether you’re a patient or just going through a stressful time, mindfulness can start to counteract the negative impact those experiences have on your health. 

Woolley said that mindfulness can be beneficial to almost everyone, but because implementing these concepts into stress management and healthcare was not always mainstream, educational resources can sometimes be expensive or hard to access. 

Cash’s initiative wants to make sure ASU students have the access to mindfulness resources and then translate what they learn into community action. 

"The intent of the initiative is presenting this concept of mindfulness in a way that speaks to each and all people in a way that leads people to use mindfulness to be active in the community," Cash said.

For students hoping to take advantage of these resources, the Equitable Mindfulness Initiative has a social action based Koru mindfulness training seminar in January

The Center for Mindfulness as a whole holds weekly meditation sessions as well as a variety of programming like a holiday stress management workshop and more, which can been seen on their events page


Reach the reporter at gmlieber@asu.edu or follow @G_Mira_ on Twitter. 

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