How can we create a more contemplative culture? This challenge will be the topic of a symposium, “Fully Present: The Art and Science of Mindful Engagement,” that will take place September 22–23 at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies as part of the annual Clifford Symposium at Middlebury College in Vermont. The “Clifford West” symposium at the Institute will explore the meaning of mindfulness—the practice of calmly focusing attention to the present—and how it touches all aspects of the academic community, from faculty teaching to students’ fulfilling their aspirations. Experts from the Institute and other institutions will also discuss the benefits of mindfulness and how to develop its practice.
“We’re interested in broadening the conversation about living our lives fully and doing our work with meaningful intention,” said Julie Johnson, a professor of translation and interpretation and one of the organizers of Monterey events. “This symposium ties together the many exciting ways the Middlebury community as a whole is already engaged exploring this territory.”
Organizers on both campuses see the symposium as the launch of ongoing discussions on mindfulness. “The events should encourage faculty, staff, and students to ask themselves what would a fully mindful Middlebury look like?” said Erin Quinn, director of athletics at Middlebury College.
The two-day event at the Institute will include a talk, a film screening, and a panel discussion.
Thursday, September 22
Keynote Speaker: Amishi Jha
“Strengthening the Brain’s Attention System with Mindfulness Training”
Livestreamed to Monterey in McGowan 100
Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, will kick off the symposium on Thursday, September 22, with a talk titled “Strengthening the Brain’s Attention System with Mindfulness Training.” Jha is also the director of contemplative neuroscience for the university’s Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. She will discuss a growing body of data that finds protracted periods of high stress degrade cognitive functioning and weaken the capacity to regulate emotions
Film Screening of “A Small Good Thing” and discussion
“A Small Good Thing” is a feature documentary that tells the stories of six people moving away from a philosophy of “more is better” toward a more holistic conception of well-being − one based on a close connection to themselves, their families, the natural world, and to the greater good.
Friday September 23
Join staff member Katie Dutcher for a 30-minute guided meditation with awareness of the body, breath, thoughts, and emotions.
“Engaged Teaching and Deep Learning: Using Contemplative Practice to Support Intellectual and Personal Growth,” featuring Institute faculty and staff, moderated by Professor Johnson, with Professor Peter Shaw, Adjunct Professor Sarah Springer, Professor Fredric Kropp, and Assistant Dean Patricia Szasz. The panel discussion on the Monterey campus will mirror a discussion moderated by visiting lecturer Melissa Hammerle at the College. Both discussions will be video recorded.