Students have a lot of responsibilities on their plates — and Mindful Denison is an initiative that teaches and incorporates practices to make that daily routine a little easier. Mindful Denison is led by Linnea Pyne, a Certified Mindfulness Facilitator (CMF) at the University of California, Los Angeles and the owner of A Mindful Life, LA a consulting and coaching business that helps larger organizations identify where mindfulness best fits with their emergent needs.
Mindfulness is a keyword at Denison — practicing mindfulness is part of the Wellness Center’s ongoing campaign to foster healthy life habits.
Pyne defines mindfulness as “the art and practice to be in the moment with openness and curiosity in mind while having a non-judgmental stance.” She believes in the power of mindfulness because of its effects on participants. “There are amazing byproducts from practicing mindfulness,” she says. “Increased feelings of joy, well-being, ease, and resilience. It also increases empathy and compassion and, as a result, has a big impact on the community.”
During one practice to help bring attention to the program, Pyne rings a Tibetan singing bowl. She’s both creating awareness for Mindful Denison programs and associating the sound with an opportunity for mindfulness on campus. She’s also interacting with students in a surprising way.
“I am excited by the energy and enthusiasm that Linnea’s initial visits have generated across campus,” Denison President Adam Weinberg says. “A liberal arts education should prepare students with the habits of and skills for wellness. Mindfulness is a powerful way to approach developing these habits and skills.”
Pyne is working with Phoebe Bentley Myhrum ’11, the chaplain and director of the Open House, as well as Dustin Brentlnger, the new Wellness Director, to strategize and create goals for how the students receive mindfulness practices and teaching student, staff and faculty workshops. She also hired Elizabeth Toigo ‘20 as Mindful Denison liaison to keep the pulse of Mindful Denison going on campus between her visits, and Taylor Wiliams ‘20, to give Mindful Denison a social media presence.
“Throughout the walk, I gained an appreciation for all the things I have to be thankful for as I walked around campus”
Toigo, a psychology major with a concentration in neuroscience, is the first liaison and has made the position her own. She has created the Mindfulness Club, along with Meg Chandler ‘20, to support students who are looking for a mindfulness routine. As a club, they practice Mindful Monday — a day where they do group activities like taking a walk together. They also are involved in outreach and helping the community understand the broad definition of what mindfulness means.
In the fall of 2019, Toigo undertook the largest project since Mindful Denison has been created, Day of Mindfulness, a student-planned, led, and facilitated day of workshops modeled after the college’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Among the many activities Toigo planned, students drank “mindful tea” with the president, pet therapy dogs, watched student performances, painted a beautiful mindful pattern on the graffiti wall and, at sunset, enjoyed floating their worries (flowers) on Ebaugh Pond to end the day. The day was a community effort bringing together students, faculty and staff, a weaving together of advocacy across different areas on campus that is also at the heart of Mindful Denison.
Shivani Patel ‘20 participated in the mindfulness walk, one of the activities led by Lisa Rusch, a visiting instructor for Health, Exercise & Sport Studies. “Throughout the walk, I gained an appreciation for all the things I have to be thankful for as I walked around campus,” Patel said. “… and realized how valuable taking a few moments out of the day for myself is. The activity helped me understand the importance of gratitude and self-care.”