That’s all the time that Sabine Grunwald said University of Florida students, faculty and administrators need to take for a break from their hectic lives.
To many, those five minutes are hard to come by because of classes and demands of “the system.” For Grunwald, this is the root of numerous issues on campus and the inspiration behind her new “UF Mindfulness” project.
The university community had its first taste of this meditation recently, as the project held it’s very first Mindfulness Day at Smathers Library East.
“There is all of this disconnection among many people I know: faculty members, administrators and students, everybody,” said Grunwald, leader of the project. “And there are ways that mindfulness can really counteract that and serve as an antidote to connect to ourselves, to our bodies, to our minds, our soul and our spirit.”
Mindfulness, she said, means staying in the present moment, deliberately and consciously, choosing to do so non-judgmentally.
Grunwald applied for a UF Creative Catalyst grant with a plan to bring together practitioners and teachers of mindfulness and figure out a way to deliver it to the whole community.
To spark this mindfulness, Grunwald invited Nancy Lasseter, a mindfulness practitioner for UF Health, to lead a meditation mob last Thursday at UF Library East. About 50 individuals gathered in a room at noon to share in the peaceful experience.
“I’m really inspired to spread the word because I see in my own life what a huge difference it makes to be able to let go of the wild thing, the monkey mind, because it gets in our way,” Lasseter said. “It creates a great deal of stress in the body, tires us out, causes illness and makes it difficult for us to find happiness.”
For one UF environmental engineering student, mindfulness has been successful in relieving this type of stress.
Liam Lathan, who participated in the meditation mob Thursday, said any form of meditation is good for the body’s health, especially yoga.
“I got interested in it first when I broke my ankle a year ago, and I think it really helped me recover,” Lathan said. “It helps with stress because it helps the body, and stress comes from the body. You’re just one big circuit board.”
These mindfulness practices that relieve stress are almost essential in the 21st century to be able to deal with the chaos, suffering and busyness of people’s lives, according to Lasseter.
Michael Murphy, a clinical associate professor at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, said anxiety is another campus-wide issue that would benefit from the mindfulness program.
“What I always tell people is mindfulness is to notice that when you’re studying, you’re worrying instead of studying,” Murphy said. “If you can know your mind and know when it goes to worry mode, then you can bring it back and you can focus on the test. That’s the value of being in the present moment.”
This confusion that students and teachers alike tend to get stems from the competitive environment. Mindfulness meditation, Murphy said, is all about breeding a sense of collaboration, cooperation and compassion for others rather than competition.
Grunwald wants the “UF Mindfulness” project to also benefit the busyness of individuals’ lives on campus and beyond.
“This can kill off our liveliness, all the positive feelings, joy and equanimity,” Grunwald said. “We don’t even notice it. We numb ourselves.”
Lasseter said p
eople today do things quickly and have gotten fairly proficient at multi-tasking, but the reality is they are not good at it. American Psychological Association research shows multitasking can hinder productivity.
Mindfulness has the potential to enhance our liveliness and connectivity and that of others too.
“This is just the beginning for us,” Lasseter said. “Monday is going to be great.”