The 7 Day MBSR Retreat

From my screen porch . . .

In the summer of 2013, I completed the 7 – Day MBSR  (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Retreat at the Omega Institute as part of my continuing training through the Oasis Institute at the Center for Mindfulness.  I remain deeply thankful that my University supported this training. The teachers for this retreat were Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli, the founders of the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass.  Wow!  Such an amazing experience to study under these masters,  to retreat with fellow practitioners from all parts of the globe and hear about the many ways that professionals are integrating mindfulness practices into their work and daily lives.

MBSR Training at the 9 – Day Practicum

From my screen porch . . .

I am grateful that I have been able to garner financial support from my University to explore training in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) through the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

This training has helped me tremendously in enhancing my teaching and counseling at Ole Miss with mindfulness-based contemplative practices.

This particular training occurred in the summer of 2012 when I attended the 9 – day Practicum at the Omega Institute in New York.  My teachers were Florence Meleo-Meyer and Melissa Blacker.  Another extraordinary experience on the journey.

Magnolia Grove and a Retreat with Thay

From my screen porch . . .

In September of 2011 and again in 2013,  I continued deepening my mindfulness practice by attending a five-day mindfulness retreat at the Magnolia Grove Monastery and Mindfulness Practice Center.  Interestingly, this monastery is located just outside of Batesville, Mississippi and is only 30 miles from where I live in Oxford.  The beloved teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay as he is affectionately called, came to America on tour and led these retreats.  He was assisted by a number of the nuns and monks from his monastery at Plum Village in France.

Insight Meditation Society

From my screen porch . . .

In January of 2011, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 7- day silent retreat focusing upon the practice of lovingkindness at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.  My teachers were Sharon Salzberg, Gina Sharpe, and Marc Coleman.  They were absolutely wonderful.  The experience of spending a week in silence was extraordinary for me.  The week was particularly impactful for this Mississippi boy, since there was several feet of snow on the ground and I was able to allow my introvert to settle into the winter stillness as if I were enveloped in a safe and loving womb.

Our silent, contemplative hike

One of the most popular mindfulness practices that we do each year in my EDHE 105 freshman class is take a silent, contemplative hike along the trail that leads through Bailey’s Woods to Rowan Oak on our campus.  This is a beautiful, secluded and easily hiked trail that leads through the woods to the restored home of our most famous local author, William Faulkner.  It takes about 20 minutes to hike the trail one way, and it is especially lovely in the fall when the foliage is changing.

We hike the trail single file in complete silence . . . no back packs and no cell phones.  I invite my students to give themselves permission to be fully present with the beauty of nature in the stillness and silence and to reflect upon their personal experience. It is a wonderful way for them to be introduced to walking meditation.  EDHE 105 Silent Hike - 2012 003 Rowan Oak and students 026 Rowan Oak and students 025 EDHE 105 students on hike 004

Format for a Silent, Contemplative Walk in Nature Through Bailey’s Woods

EDHE 105 – First Year Experience

  1. Come into complete silence and stillness.  Take a few slow, deep breaths, grounding yourself in the present moment.
  2. Begin walking intently and mindfully, keeping your awareness on your immediate surroundings or on your own breath and body as you walk.
  3. Walk slowly and deliberately, savoring each step as a gift.  Enjoy simply being alive in the freshness of nature.
  4. When your mind begins to wander, and you begin to plan for the future or worry about the past, draw your awareness back to the present and the here and now.
  5. As you walk, allow creation and nature to speak to you. Notice the trees, sky, flowers, birds, stones, colors, sounds and smells.
  6. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  7. Silently wonder and reflect with childlike curiosity.
  8. Come out of the silence and dialogue about your experience.


Mindfulness in my Classroom

I am fortunate to be able to teach a 3-hour course every fall semester at Ole Miss called First Year Experience (EDHE 105).  It is open to incoming freshmen only and is an elective class that focuses upon assisting these students in successfully adjusting to college life.  My class is intentionally small and intimate, never more than 20 students.  I began teaching this class five years ago, and each year I have gradually increased the emphasis that I place upon integrating mindfulness practices into my pedagogy and into the assignments on my syllabus.  We begin every class session by ringing the mindfulness bell and 3 – 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation in silence in which I invite my students to settle in and give themselves permission to just be fully present in my classroom.

I have also been given the privilege of authoring the chapter in the textbook for this class on Mindfulness and Stress Management.