What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be summed up as “inner education.” Mindfulness practice helps us to be a scientist of our experience and supports us in:
1. understanding and training our attention
2. seeing thoughts, emotions, and feelings more clearly and learning to relate to them in a more skillful way
3. becoming aware of the habits of our own mind and intentionally cultivating particular qualities that are more aligned with our values
4. learning how to better connect and attune with others, and developing more awareness of our relationship with our environment.
History of Mindfulness
In 1979 Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (parent of two Middlesex alumni) held the first secular mindfulness course, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, at UMass Medical School. Now mindfulness has become a mainstream influence in medicine, psychology, business, and education and featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 2014. Over thirty years of research supports the use of mindfulness, which include improvements in attention, sleep, emotional regulation, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and ADHD. Recent brain imaging research, including work by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, shows that mindfulness practice positively alters the structures of the brain associated with learning, memory, empathy, and stress.
The School Community Model
At Middlesex we have a full-time faculty member dedicated to supporting our entire school community (students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni) in mindfulness practice. In all the mindfulness programs, the decision to practice mindfulness is always up to the person. It is always an invitation.
All new students at Middlesex participate in an Introduction to Mindfulness course in the fall semester that meets once a week for 40 minutes over the course of ten weeks.
Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive; 97% of those surveyed would recommend the course to others. Students report that the course helped them sleep better, concentrate on schoolwork, reduce stress, focus in sports, and improve relationships with themselves and others.
After participating in the Introduction to Mindfulness course, students have the option to attend several Level 2 Mindfulness courses, such as Improving Your Practice, Mindfulness in Sports, or Mindfulness and the Brain to continue to explore mindfulness and deepen their practice. Students can also choose to participate in the Mindfulness Club or have the opportunity to practice at the beginning of our weekly chapel.
Over 70 faculty and staff have been through the Introduction to Mindfulness course and many participate in the level 2 Faculty/Staff groups.
Since 2013, 10-week Introduction to Mindfulness courses have been offered to local parents. Parents are also welcome to attend the annual summer mindfulness retreat on campus.
The Director of Mindfulness Programs also supports alumni, including providing resources and a summer retreat on campus.
Director of Mindfulness Program
Doug Worthen MX '96 teaches the Mindfulness program at Middlesex. Doug began his mindfulness practice in 1999 as a way to reduce stress and enhance his athletic performance as a member of the University of Virginia national championship lacrosse team. Since he began practicing, he has seen the benefits in athletics, relationships, business, and overall happiness. In 2007, Doug was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma; treatment included a bone marrow transplant. Doug credits mindfulness as key in his survival and healing. He came out of that experience committed to sharing mindfulness with youth. Doug has attended many mindfulness retreats and trained as a mindfulness educator at such places as the UMass Center for Mindfulness, Brown University, the Mindful Education Institute, and the Mindfulness in Schools Project.
Leading neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Siegel spoke at Middlesex about the benefits of mindfulness and the developing teenage brain.