In The Spotlight

Math Professor Teaches Mindfulness Over Matter

John Mitchell speaking at the Mindfulness event May 3. Mitchell’s event was part of the Faculty Speaker Series. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

Most students recognize the traditional academic advice of studying, time management, attendance and meeting deadline.

However, Clark math professor John Mitchell has another suggestion: mindfulness.

Mitchell explained how this skill can help students succeed at Clark during “Mindfulness: Mind Training for College Life,” an hour-long workshop May 3 at 4 p.m. in the Ellis Dunn Community Room.

Dean of STEM Peter Williams introduced Mitchell.

Mitchell, who was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, received his master’s at University of Dublin before joining Clark full-time in 2004, according to Williams. He received tenure three years later.

Mitchell defined mindfulness during his presentation as “being present in the moment with your experience.”  He explained how mindfulness can be accomplished by focussed breathing, recognizing patterns of thought and targeting specific personal or interpersonal challenges.

“Coming back to the present moment is a skill that tends to be underdeveloped,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell then led a simple body check by requesting everyone sit up straight, pay attention to the sensations of their head, sensations in the left thumb and to the sensations and sounds of the room.

Then Mitchell instructed the audience to focus on sensations of the left thumb and the room at the same time. He then pointed out that people’s capacity for mindfulness is there shown by this quick demonstration.

Steven Mitchell and Nova Gump (left to right) at the PokemonGo! themed Student Involvement Fair last fall quarter. “The mindfulness club is on a hiatus right now,” Gump said. (Special to the Independent by John Mitchell)

Mitchell also stressed the importance of sharing your experiences with others.

“You start understanding other’s experiences and you find out you’re not alone,” he said. “[Mindfulness is] a practice you can return to over and over as you meet new life challenges.”

After that, he gave a brief lesson on the history of mindfulness research, starting from the ‘70s. Mitchell also explained how there are thousands of K-12 teachers teaching mindfulness and just as many at four-year colleges.  However, only six community colleges nationwide, including Clark, have mindfulness programs.

“A mindfulness club is the foundation of a mindful college,” Mitchell said.

Students Steven Mitchell and Nova Gump are currently co-facilitators of the Mindfulness club that John Mitchell advises.

“I think it’s important to bring mindfulness to every facet of life,” Gump said. “Mindfulness is a way to find your way through overwhelming feelings and simplifies things.”

Gump also explained how Steven Mitchell helped kickstart the mindfulness club.

“Steven really wanted to reach out and create more opportunities for students on campus to explore mindfulness,” she said.

John Mitchell concluded the event by saying, “Life is a series of moments and you want to be present for as many of them as possible.”

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