Category Archives: Center News

Students get their zen on at mindfulness fair

From Pittnews.com

About 400 Pitt students and community members attended the event, which offered talks, family-friendly mindfulness activities including sculpting lotus flower tealight holders, yoga and tai-chi demonstrations as well as free food and various informational tables. The fair also included meditation lessons, a mindful eating workshop and a panel discussion between parents about how to teach children to be mindful.

David Givens, a Ph.D. candidate in Pitt’s department of religious studies and the associate director and co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies, sat behind one of the informational tables distributing information about the CMCS.

Given the increasing proximity of finals week at Pitt, it’s a good time for students to learn to exhale.

According to the American Psychology Association, meditation is the most well-established form of mindfulness. A novice meditator might sit for just five minutes a day, eyes closed and focus their full attention on breathing in and out.

Concentrating on the simple, natural process of inhaling and exhaling diverts attention away from anxious thoughts and depressive rumination. It should come as no surprise that mindfulness and meditation can help those with mental illnesses.
“People find mindfulness personally and practically fulfilling,” Givens said. “A lot of evidence and reports indicate that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress and helps boost energy levels, focus and concentration.”

Read the full article.

CMCS to provide scholarships for Pitt students who want to attend a mindfulness stress reduction course offered by UPMC

The Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies will provide 5 full scholarships to University of Pittsburgh undergraduate and graduate students to attend the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course at UPMC’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

scholarshipTo apply for a scholarship, students are first required to attend an orientation session and be accepted into the MBSR course.

After acceptance into the course, send CMCS an “Ask Letter” which includes a statement of need and intention. In short, let CMCS know how/why this class or retreat will beneficial you specifically. Also include a statement of financial need (do not disclose financial data such as social security number).

Scholarships are granted on a first-come first serve basis. Please email lcn6@pitt.edu with questions or to submit your Ask Letter.

The Center also provides other scholarships for Pitt students. Check out our “Scholarships” tab on this Website.

Recommended articles just posted on our resources page

Am I Doing This Right? on Mindful.org – Answers to the top 10 questions that everyone asks about meditation by  and .

Are You a Creature of (Bad) Habits? on Mindful.org – “A few simple steps can help you break the cycle of unhealthy actions and develop the skills to cultivate good ones.” Article by .

Take Your Mind for a Walk on Mindful.org – “Meditation can seem so meaningful and significant that it becomes a great big chore. In fact, with a slight shift in attitude, it can be as simple as walking the dog.” Article by .

The Top 5 Myths About Mindfulness Meditation on Mindful.org – Elisha Goldstein debunks some common misconceptions about mindfulness meditation.

How to Practice Walking Meditation on Lion’s Roar. Article by Leslie Booker.

Pitt center promotes mindfulness on campus

From the Pitt Chronicle online

In a conference room overlooking bustling Fifth Avenue, several people gather to sit, backs straight and eyes closed, and focus on their breathing. If minds wander, these stray thoughts are acknowledged then released as attention returns to the breath. The idea is to be fully present in the moment, not thinking of the future or the past. It’s one method of mindfulness meditation, an increasingly popular modern movement with roots dating back to ancient Buddhism. A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness practice can treat a gamut of health concerns, including anxiety and addiction and can even train the brain to approach stress in new ways.

Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O'Donnell)
Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O’Donnell)

Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O’Donnell)These biweekly, drop-in meditation sessions, which last for 30 minutes, are one of many offerings from Pitt’s new Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies, which is housed in the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.  Led by center director Anthony Silvestre, a professor of microbiology, the free sessions attract professors, staff, and students from across the University, as well as the general public.

“Mindfulness enhances one’s concentration, reduces stress, and, in general, improves cognitive skills. Research strongly suggests that any intellectual endeavor can improve with mindfulness practice,” says Silvestre. He was ordained as a meditation teacher by the famed Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Martin Luther King Jr. called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” for his activism during the American war in Vietnam.

Development of the center began in late 2014 when several faculty members with an interest in mindfulness—including Silvestre—began to share ideas on how to enhance mindfulness on campus, in the Pittsburgh community, and around the world. They wrote a white paper outlining goals, which are to promote the practice and scholarship of mindfulness through three core areas: education, research, and service.

Read the full article.

Christa Turksma will present Mindfulness for Teachers: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education March 31 at Posvar Hall

Christa Turksma will present Mindfulness for Teachers: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education on March 31, 4 pm – 5:15 pm. The talk will be held in room 5604 of Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh. Turksma will detail the CARE Program (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) and the research that supports her approach.
The CARE Program is a professional development workshop designed to help teacher-educators reduce stress and enliven their teaching by promoting awareness, compassion, and reflection – the inner resources they need to help students excel. The audience will also participate in short mindfulness activities throughout and at the end of the program.
Christa Turksma has worked as a Kindergarten teacher, a principal, and a child-clinical psychologist. Additionally, she has provided training to thousands of teachers across the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, England and Australia in the PATHS program (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies). With this experience, she co-developed the CARE for Educators program.
Christa Turksma has worked as a Kindergarten teacher, a principal, and a child-clinical psychologist. Additionally, she has provided training to thousands of teachers across the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, England and Australia in the PATHS program (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies). With this experience, she co-developed the CARE for Educators program.

Save the date: Harvard Professor James Robson explores mindfulness and mental illness March 21

Professor James Robson
Professor James Robson

Dr. James Robson, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, will present The Promises and Problems of Mindfulness: Between Mental Stillness and Mental Illness on March 21 at 5 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh, William Pitt Union.

This talk will critically assess modern appropriations and applications of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practices in therapeutic contexts.  In order to understand both the promises and potential problems of the use of meditation and mindfulness within various healing techniques it is important to track how those practices developed within the Buddhist tradition and how they have been transformed down to the present day.  Current writing on meditation and mindfulness generally celebrates those practices as a panacea for a wide range of physical and mental ailments, but the final section of this talk will discuss some emerging research that suggests there can also be some deleterious effects associated with the contemporary experimentation with those practices.

Dr. Robson is a leading scholar of Daoism and Buddhism in China, as well as an expert on Zen. He is currently researching the history of the relationship between Buddhist monasteries d mental hospitals in Japan.

For more information, check back here, on the Center for Mindfulness blog in the coming weeks.

February 15th is the deadline to submit proposals for the EIRAAR 2016 annual meeting

Faculty, students, independent scholars and professionals are invited to submit proposals (for panels and individual papers) for the Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion (EIRAAR) annual meeting.

globalizing humanitiesAlongside the regular panels, the conference will include a series of special sessions on the theme of “Globalizing the Human(ities).” With this theme, organizers hope to engage questions of how interdisciplinary and historical humanities research can be done in an increasingly global age.

Submissions for screening original documentary films and shorts on religion are also invited for the first time this year.

The conference, being held at the University of Pittsburgh, will end with a round-table discussion about how to incorporate a global perspective into research on religion.

Prizes for the best graduate and undergraduate paper will be awarded.

Conference date: May 6-7, 2016
Conference details: http://www.eiraar.net
Contact for information: EIRAAR16@pitt.edu
Center Members – both Pitt researchers and grad students – interested in submitting or forming a panel can also contact the Center’s associate director David Givens directly at dlg43@pitt.edu

Center consolidates mindfulness activities

From the University Times online…

The ancient practice of mindfulness, which emphasizes observing and focusing on the present moment, increasingly is being recognized for its value in promoting physical and mental health and as an aid to attention and learning. It’s been present in many forms on campus, but only recently became the basis for a University-wide center.

After a year of planning, with funding from the Office of the Provost and broad-based support, the Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies (CMCS) has opened with a mission to “promote scholarship, creativity and well-being through mindfulness research, education, collective practice, and clinical and community service.”

CMCS aims to foster research collaborations, support the use of mindfulness in educational curriculums and promote mindfulness practice as a tool for wellness through “cores” in research, education and service.

Housed in the Graduate School of Public Health, where center director Anthony Silvestre is a faculty member, the University-wide center is funded by the Office of the Provost with additional support from the School of Medicine, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the School of Education, Falk School and the departments of English and religious studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

Read the full article on the University Times.

University of Pittsburgh invites abstracts for a transdisciplinary conference

The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh invites abstracts for a transdisciplinary conference to be held at the University:

 “Doing the Body in the 21st Century”
March 31-April 2, 2016

If Interested, send a 200-word abstract for a twenty-minute paper on an aspect of the body/bodies to bodyconf@pitt.edu by October 15, 2015. Panels of three abstracts on a related topic are welcome.

Bodies can be collective, material, medicalized, biological, sexual, queer, trans, normative, political, racial, transnational, ecological, historical, useful, global, affective, gendered, disabled, surveilled, controlled, subjected, transformed, enhanced, engineered, empowered, organized, managed, discursive, aesthetic, translated, theorized, aging, acting, voting, merging, migrating, moving, constructing, creating, performing.

Click the link for more information about the conference:  http://www.universityannouncements.pitt.edu/body0908.pdf