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Mindfulness goes digital

Katherine Reedy

As the country adjusts to new work- and learn-from-home routines and increasingly practices social distancing, the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience at Arizona State University is finding ways to help people reconnect and create community online.

This week, the center launched an online mindfulness initiative called “Caring and Connection in the Time of COVID-19.” Led by Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer and the founding director of the center, the initiative seeks to bring people together in an online setting to connect, reflect and recharge. 

“The present moment of uncertainty and disruption offers us an opportunity to strengthen our ability to be present and focused, generate sincere care for ourselves and others, and tap into the opportunity not only to get through this, but to become stronger together,” Pipe said.

The heart of the “Caring and Connection” initiative is a live, hourlong mindfulness and meditation session that takes place online, Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m. MST. Each session includes a guided meditation or two, a discussion of the day’s central topic — such as connectedness, compassion for self and others, the benefit of rituals and the power of community — and a chance for participants to ask questions and engage with one another.

The midday mindfulness sessions are streamed live via YouTube, and are open to students, faculty, staff and the public, at no cost. Instructions for accessing the live stream can be found on the center’s website. For those who are unable to join live, video recordings of the daily sessions will be made available on the website.

“We know that health care workers, service workers, families with small children, our older population and those who can’t take time off from work are still important to this ‘culture of care’ community effort,” said Tiara Cash, program manager at the center who specializes in equitable mindfulness. “We want to make sure they can share in this work too.”

Before each mindfulness session begins, Pipe reviews the ground rules with participants. She explains what the intent of the session is, and what it is not: “This is not a support group or therapy session. We are not here to air our personal grievances.”  

Instead, she hopes to create a welcoming, safe space online where people from all backgrounds can connect for an hour of shared contemplation. “I invite everyone to practice with an open mind, without expectation,” she said.

In addition to daily, livestreamed mindfulness sessions, the center is offering mindfulness resources to the public through their website, Facebook group and Instagram. Inspirational articles, practical tips, words of advice and videos are being added to the platforms daily.

Nika Gueci, executive director for university engagement at the center, has been leading the “Caring and Connection” initiative with Pipe. They were inspired to create the initiative after the COVID-19 outbreak necessitated they cancel the center’s annual conference, “Planting Seeds: Rooting in mindfulness for thriving communities.” 

“We realized that people were still craving connection and community to support them through this uncertain time,” Gueci said. They quickly mobilized their efforts around an online platform.  

“These sessions are intended to maintain that idea of the conference: to build community, to share this information with one another, and to come to practice as equals in order to help strengthen and build communities,” Gueci said. 

The messages and practices offered through the initiative are based in principles of mindfulness, which Pipe describes as “the ability to pay attention, with intention, to the present moment.” They are accessible to anyone, regardless of religious or spiritual background, belief system, age, ability, nationality, gender, education or experience with mindfulness. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.

“In this moment, we have an opportunity to expand, extend and include in ways we may not have considered before,” Pipe said. “Let's see how much better we can become as individuals and as a community.”

The Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience was founded by Pipe in 2017 for the purpose of connecting researchers, scholars, teachers, practitioners and learners around the concepts of mindfulness, compassion and well-being. At the center, ASU students and researchers examine the impacts of mindfulness across a wide range of areas, including social relationships, social justice, neuroscience, aging, well-being and immune function.

Additional mindfulness resources

Top image courtesy of pexels.com.