Image from “The Fire Inside.” See listing for film screening and panel discussion, below.

Resources at Davis Family Library

Library Book Display (Davis Family Library): Recommendations from faculty, students, and staff for mindfulness and meditation readings. Browse and borrow whatever you like! Located on the main level of the Davis Family Library throughout the symposium and into October. Library hours at

Guided Meditation Station (Davis Family Library): Pick a blue chair, put on the headphones, and hit “play.” A professional will walk you through a short guided meditation exercise. Try it and see how you feel afterward! Located on the main level of the Davis Family Library throughout the symposium and into October. Library hours at

Unplug and Recharge Room (Davis Family Library): Take a break and disconnect from daily stressors. A secluded corner of the library will be screened off to create a temporary Unplug and Recharge Room with meditation cushions and soft lighting. Located on the upper level of the Davis Family Library throughout the symposium and into October. Library hours at

Strengthening the Brain’s Attention System with Mindfulness Training, Amishi Jha

Thursday, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m. in Robison Concert Hall, Mahaney Center for the Arts

Mindfulness is a mental mode of paying attention to present-moment experience without emotional reactivity. This presentation will discuss recent neuroscientific findings regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness training to strengthen attention and improve well-being. A growing body of literature finds that protracted periods of high stress degrade cognitive functioning and weaken the capacity to regulate emotions. Our research involving a broad range of groups, such as military service members, elite athletes, teachers, and undergraduate students, has found that attention, working memory, and mood improve with mindfulness-based interventions. Based on these findings, we argue that mindfulness training programs should be further examined in academic settings.

A Discipline of Looking, Tim Lilburn

Thursday, Sept. 22, 12:30 p.m., in Hillcrest 103

What do we do when we walk into a meadow or forest? Let’s suppose we are there for no particular purpose. We aren’t doing research, looking for food or rushing to an appointment. Though we are moving, we are idle, without intention. This is a crucially important moment–for us and for the world we move through. The old monks called such a space of time otium sanctum, holy leisure, and in it, our selves are being shaped, sustained, groomed, while the world is being rescued from a kind of alienation and an aesthetic state of unindividuated lumpiness. If all goes well, we are practicing a discipline of looking.

Wasting time is an extremely important undertaking. Pablo Neruda said it was the poet’s fundamental work. Your own looking in a state of leisurely, floating contemplative attention is also a deliciously transgressive—and procreative—act, which labors under no plan to be creative or helpful to your self or the world. Seeing while in this state ideally can mark the appearance of shining specificity—that maple, that reed.

Contemplative Practice Sampler Workshops

Friday, Sept. 23, 10–11:30 a.m. in Virtue Field House
Saturday, Sept. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. at Mahaney Center for the Arts

Sitting meditation with Chessy Kelley

Guidance through mindfulness meditation on the breath: Mindfulness of the breath cultivates disciplined concentration, alertness, and compassionate awareness that positively affects your physical and mental state. This basic practice helps attenuate restlessness and anxiety and promotes relaxation of both the body and mind.

Modern Qi Gong video practice with Lee Holden, led by Andrea Olsen and Nükhet Kardam

Experience a Qi Gong video series created for Middlebury College by internationally known Qi Gong instructor Lee Holden, for ongoing personal and classroom use: Qi Gong for Activating and Focusing Whole Body Intelligence and Qi Gong for Relaxation and Stress Reduction. This is a standing practice; come dressed comfortably; no special props are needed.

Yoga with Jennifer Neil

Explore the connection between body and mind, and mind to our deepest selves through yoga asanas (postures). Join certified Iyengar yoga teacher Jennifer Neil for a brief introduction to the vast practice of yoga.

Aikido with Linda White

Aikido (literally, the way of harmonizing ki energy) is a Japanese martial art founded in the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei (1883–1969) and practiced around the world today. Widely known as the Art of Peace, aikido trains us to develop our mental and physical strength so that we can redirect aggressive attacks into safe resolutions where no one gets hurt. In aikido, as in all the traditional Japanese arts, ongoing practice is the route to growth and understanding. Professor Jonathan Miller-Lane founded Blue Heron Aikido, our dojo, in Middlebury in 2004.

Walking and Being Earth with Marc Lapin

Walking meditation is a companion to sitting meditation in Zen and other Buddhist traditions. Our feet making contact with the ground is one of the sensations of our interdependence with Earth that we can be aware of thousands of times daily. We can also practice deep, meditative observation of nature and environment in both walking and sitting meditation. In this workshop we will sample several silent and guided practices that connect us to our essential inter-being with all human and nonhuman life. Like many practices, we can use these techniques throughout daily life in less formal ways, or we can immerse ourselves in them for extended periods.

Tai Chi with Sue Driscoll

Try an introductory session of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, the martial art that develops softness, strengthens internal energy and cultivates spirit. We’ll explore the first section of the traditional long form, a series of four movements called Grasping Sparrow’s Tail, truly the heart of Tai Chi.

Panel Discussion-Mindfulness in Performance

Friday, Sept. 23, noon-1:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall

Andrea Olsen and Nükhet Kardam articulate views on “whole body intelligence” and collaboration/teamwork. The presentation includes a short experiential Qi Gong practice video available for personal use and in classes.

Erin Quinn and Bob Hansen will talk about their experiences with mindfulness in athletic performance and leadership.

Panel Discussion-Mindfulness in Students’ Lives

Friday, Sept. 23, 1:40–2:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall

This interactive session will be a guided discussion with students who practice mindfulness and have led efforts to incorporate mindful practices into their student organizations or activities, such as sports teams, outdoor clubs, service trips, and the arts. They will share their stories, reflect on the impact of mindful practice on their own lives, and discuss ways it has affected their organizations and other students’ lives. The session will be moderated by Health and Wellness Education Director Barbara McCall.

Student Poster Session-Fully Present in Community: Students in the Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster

Friday, Sept. 23, 2:30–3:00 p.m. in Wilson Hall

Students in the Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster share their projects investigating and responding to economic inequality.

Panel Discussion-Mindful Learning: Using Contemplative Practices to Support Academic and Personal Growth

Friday, Sept. 23, 3:00–4 p.m. in Wilson Hall

Contemplative pedagogy, which can include mindfulness practices and reflective inquiry, seeks to integrate introspective learning across disciplines. Compelling research has documented benefits from mindful learning that include an increased ability to focus and to sustain contradictions while fostering mental flexibility, creativity, and emotional balance. It can also help students integrate intellectual knowledge with other forms of knowing. In this session we will offer an overview of contemplative studies in higher education and provide concrete examples from several different disciplines.

Panel Discussion-Studying Mindfulness: Disciplinary Contexts

Friday, Sept. 23, 4:10–5 p.m. in Wilson Hall

Professors of philosophy, religion, psychology and neuroscience will combine their disciplinary perspectives to explore the promises and pitfalls of mindfulness studies and practices. They will entertain critical questions: How do the goals of mindfulness studies compare across disciplines? How important is context (personal, historical, cultural, theoretical) for defining, cultivating, and assessing mindfulness? And they will raise questions regarding what, if anything, studies of mindfulness can really tell us about the practice and its outcomes. 

Friday Dinner

5:40–7 p.m.

Join the Global Food and Farms Program for a family-style outdoor dinner. Feel free to come and meditate in this beautiful location from 5:15–5:30; pizzas from the wood-fired oven will be ready at 5:40.

If you are walking, please use the path from Adirondack View Road rather than walking along Route 125.

Seating is limited to 100. Please RSVP.

The event will be moved to the Mahaney Center for the Arts Lobby in case of rain. Questions? Email Sophie Esser Calvi.

Film Screening and Panel Discussion-The Fire Inside

Friday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m. in Robison Concert Hall, Mahaney Center for the Arts

The Fire Inside: Place, Passion and the Primacy of Nature (a contemplative, ecological documentary short film co-created with director Phil Walker of Small Circle Films)

This 35-minute film asks provocative questions and offers thoughtful perspectives on our relationship to the natural world and the ecological crises we face today. What is nature? And what is the human experience of that world? In the everyday push of our modern lives what connections have been lost and what remain? This film follows a small, diverse group on a contemplative retreat as they explore the wildness about them and the passion for place within. Panelists Rebecca Kneale Gould, Michelle McCauley, and Tim Lilburn will lead a discussion after the screening.

Designing Mindfulness-Based Programs for K-12 Students and Adults in Underserved Communities: A Workshop and Talk with the Holistic Life Foundation

Saturday, Sept. 24, 10:15–11:30 a.m. Mahaney Center for the Arts 221

The Holistic Life Foundation (HLF) has more than a decade of experience teaching yoga and mindfulness to youth classified as “high-risk” or “hard-to-reach” in urban environments. But they also have years of experience teaching youth in private schools, as well as rural and international settings. Over time, HLF has developed a unique blend of yoga, mindfulness, Tai Chi, and other self-healing arts.

In this two-part program, the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation—Ali Smith, Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzalez—will first discuss their organization, based in Baltimore, and how they founded a mindfulness-based program for inner city students. They will then explore ways to teach yoga and mindfulness to today’s youth, inviting us to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of today’s youth in diverse environments and learn new yoga and mindfulness skills to help fulfill those needs.

Through a combination of practice and discussion, we will learn centering exercises, mindfulness practices, and meditations. We will also explore youth engagement principles, teaching philosophies, and strategies for working with “problem” students, while exploring methods to make the whole approach practical and, most of all, fun.

Movement Matters: Mindful Inquiry Through Movement

Saturday, Sept. 24, 11:30 a.m.–noon at Mahaney Center for the Arts Dance Theater

In this 30-minute session, participants will engage in mindful movement explorations that offer tools for practicing self-awareness, connecting with the space, and sensing other movers. Led by Movement Matters Interdisciplinary Choreographer Maree ReMalia. No previous experience necessary. All are welcome!