Kabat-Zinn Shares Mindfulness Wisdom with Campus, Students in WE Program
- By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn was on campus on Monday for a two-part gig.
At noon, he gave a public lecture at Ira Allen Chapel, titled “A Conversation with Jon Kabat-Zinn,” presented and moderated by Jim Hudziak, chief of Child Psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families at UVM's Larner College of Medicine and the University of Vermont Medical Center.
At 3:30, Kabat-Zinn was on more familiar turf: Carpenter Auditorium, where he delivered, for the second year in a row, a lecture on mindfulness for the Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies class.
Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies is the academic component of UVM’s Wellness Environment, a pioneering program launched three years ago by Hudziak that combines the neuroscience course with a residential experience. Students live in one of two substance-free WE residence halls, where they are incentivized to engage in a variety of healthy behaviors, from mindfulness to exercise to proper nutrition.
The WE program has grown from 120 students in 2015 to over 1,200 this year.
Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine emeritus and a creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is credited with bringing mindfulness to the mainstream over a forty-year career. He has published over a dozen books, including the landmark Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.
"Let me say to students in the WE program how radical it is, how unusual for a university to have a program like this,” Kabat-Zinn told the 250-plus assembled students in Carpenter. “This is an alternative reality that honors the value of being present. Those of you in the WE program have made a commitment, before you step on campus, that we are going to do this mindfully. That’s extraordinary.”
In introducing Kabat-Zinn, Hudziak said that Full Catastrophe Living inspired him personally – the mindfulness pioneer later became Hudziak’s mentor – and was the foundation, with Kabat-Zinn's other teachings, for WE's emphasis on mindfulness.
WE has been featured in a front page story in the Boston Globe, on CBS News, on NBCNews.com, on National Public Radio and in a national Associated Press story that appeared in outlets ranging from the Washington Post to U.S. News & World Report.