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Have you heard about mindfulness lately? It seems inescapable, appearing in nearly every magazine, podcast, or seminar. But what is it exactly? Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneering voice in the study of mindfulness, defines it as “…paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”1

A growing field of literature even documents the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into the library workplace. With that in mind, the University Libraries’ Professional Activities Committee sponsored a session titled, Mind(fulness) at Work, on September 20, 2021. 

Dr. Heinz-Dieter Meyer presents Mind(fulness) at Work

Dr. Heinz-Dieter Meyer, Professor of Education Governance and Policy at the University at Albany, hosted the hour-long workshop. He opened the program with a poetry reading, using that as a vehicle to introduce the concept of mindfulness. Dr. Meyer then walked the group through a beginner’s session of Qigong, the ancient practice of mindful movement. He placed particular emphasis on the concept of non-identification, that is, what one feels, whether physically or emotionally, is just that: a feeling, not a core piece of his or her identity. 

“That’s what we are cultivating in these kinds of forums,” Dr. Meyer said of this non-judgmental approach. “That we allow the whole body to experience itself on its own terms, not just as it is translated through the cognitive mind.”

The message resonated with the Libraries’ staff. “We’re trained to be very focused from the cognitive point of view. We’re all trained to be so busy, busy, busy, and thinking about those to-do lists, and getting things done,” said Ann Gunning, Library Personnel Director. “I really appreciate the simplicity of this, as something we can all do now.” 

Tich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and scholar, once said, “If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.”2  That message captures the whole point of mindfulness and sums up the insights taken away from Mind(fulness) at Work. The Libraries thank Dr. Meyer for sharing his expertise and look forward to putting these insights into practice. 

1Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life (New York, NY: Hyperion, 1994), 4.

2Tich Nhat Hanh, Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life (New York, NY: Bantam, 1922), 21. 

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