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Mindful Experience

By Molly Rossberg

Mindful ExperienceExam week is a stressful time–to say the least. Your worries about final grades, studying for finals, finishing papers, and packing up your life to go home for a month can easily consume you.

Two women at JMU want to help change that by promoting mindfulness and other relaxing practices among the student body. Veronica Whalen Jones, a health educator in the University Health Center's Student Wellness and Outreach office, and Shari Scofield, the coordinator of MAD4U in Student Activities and Involvement, and other members of the community will put on the first Mindful Experience retreat at JMU on Dec. 7, 2013.

Jones, who has an M.S. in Health Sciences from JMU, became a registered yoga teacher in 2010. Scofield realized the benefits of yoga at age 16 and hasn't looked back since. The women began collaborating on the event in Spring 2013. Together, they were awarded an Innovation Grant from the Student Affairs and University Planning department in the summer of 2013 that has allowed them to offer Mindful Experience retreat.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, mindfulness is,  "...paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment."

Both Jones and Scofield strongly believe in the benefits of the mindfulness that can come by practicing various types of yoga or meditation techniques. "Mindfulness may help with increased focus, decreased feelings of tension, and promotes being in the moment–something that as a society we don't do well with, since everyone glorifies multi-tasking," Jones said.

The retreat is purposefully scheduled for the Saturday before exam week to introduce students to mindfulness and have a calming influence on them–just in time for exams.

"While an established practice would be most helpful, even a day spent coming home to the breath and the body will help students retrieve the knowledge they've worked to retain with enhanced ease," said Scofield. Jones echoed that statement saying that, “[students who come] may be very surprised how they feel–in a good way."

Knowing the benefits that mindfulness reaps, Scofield is ambitious about the future of the practice here on campus. "My sincere hope is that JMU will one day have a Mindfulness Center available to students throughout the semester for just this kind of practice!" she said.

Early registration for the event goes through Nov. 30. Registration for individual sessions is December 1-4.