Keeping Up with… Mindfulness

This edition of Keeping Up With...was written by Julie Artman.

Julie Artman is Chair of Collection Management at the Chapman University Leatherby Libraries, email: artman@chapman.edu.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has become the de rigueur everywhere you look, including academic libraries. At its core and quite simply, mindfulness is being present and aware moment to moment with ease. What does it mean for librarians and why should we consider its positive transformative potential?

In numerous academic institutions, mindfulness certification and mindfulness meditation practice have been around for some time now. Witness its usefulness in health and wellness with programs at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and UC San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness. Many universities offer mindfulness meditation hours for students, faculty, and staff (including, our own Chapman University with Dr. Gail J. Stearns, a professor in religious studies and dean of the university’s Wallace All Faiths Chapel). Students have incorporated the study of mindfulness to include new majors and minors and degrees from the baccalaureate to the masters. It has become a secular practice to enhance what it means to stay in the moment and be attentive. From its Buddhist foundation and tradition to more philosophical and secular ideas, there are additional practices that encourage gratitude and ‘loving kindness’ to extend a fuller and engaged presence. So, how can we as librarians take some of these notions and practices to help us day-to-day in our interactions with students and faculty?

Mindfulness and Academic Librarians

Information seeking and information guiding have become a rushed interaction between students and librarians. First, as meditation and mindfulness practice are integrated into your day-to-day activities, a ‘settling of the mind’ occurs which, in turn, increases your ability to center yourself and maintain calmness. You are ready to receive what may come your way from anxious and harried students. Daily meditators report a kind of slowing down of time even in the most stressful of situations. Like other relaxation techniques or exercise such as Yoga or Pilates, it becomes a way to enhance your emotional well-being. As a librarian, you become clearly attentive and focused to truly hear, listen, and respond to each student’s need with nonjudgment and authentic interest.

These mindful techniques and interactions can extend to your faculty collaborations, too. “Loving kindness” meditations may help to create a more empathetic listening environment, guiding your communication interactions during faculty collaborations. Providing avenues for students to take a ‘mindful’ break within the library have been suggested with designing walking labyrinths to help students (and staff) destress. [1]

Simple techniques such as sitting and allowing the breath to freely enter and exit as you focus on the sounds around you or a word softly repeated in your mind or simply being in the moment and as thoughts enter your mind to allow them to pass through as you return to the breath are several ways to begin.

Learning More

There are many books and audio support from websites to begin this practice, including guided meditations found on the UCLA website. [2] Just peruse a few new books that are enticing our own profession to join in this mindfulness revolution. The Mindful Librarian: Connecting the Practice of Mindfulness to Librarianship [3] explores some of these ideas to practical application. The book contains instruction on some of the techniques of mindfulness, including mindful eating, walking meditation, and the body scan to increase ‘letting be’ during meditation. Other chapters address applying mindfulness to undergraduate research, leadership techniques for librarian supervisors, and mindful verbal and nonverbal communication considerations with faculty. How to connect the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education to mindfulness is also addressed by using various mindfulness concepts to increase an integrative perspective and establish a strong reflective practice during the exploratory research phase.

Another recently published book Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice [4] offers journaling and self-reflection as tools to become more self-aware and self-improve in order to connect more fully and spaciously to the demands of librarianship. Perhaps, in your reading and listening and incorporating some of these ideas and techniques into your library practice, you may, indeed, bring a sustainable, joyful, and enlightened state of mind that remains refreshed, energized, and transformative.

Notes

[1] See examples from the University of Oklahoma Libraries in Cook, Matt, and Janet Brennan Croft. “Interactive Mindfulness Technology.” College and Research Libraries News 76, no. 6 (2015): 318-322.

[2] Free guided meditations are available through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website at http://marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations and include: Breathing Meditation, Body Scan Meditation, and Loving Kindness Meditation. These meditations are narrated by Diana Winston, director of the Center.

[3] Moniz, Richard, Joe Eshleman, Jo Henry, Howard Slutzky, and Lisa Moniz. The Mindful Librarian: Connecting the Practice of Mindfulness to Librarianship. Waltham, MA: Chandos Publishing, 2016.

[4] Reale, Michelle. Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice. Chicago: ALA, 2017.

Additional Reading

Anzalone, Filippa Marullo. “Zen and the Art of Multitasking: Mindfulness for Law Librarians.” Law Library Journal 107, no. 4 (2015): 561-577.

Davis, Dannielle Joy. “Mindfulness in Higher Education: Teaching, Learning, and Leadership.” The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society 4, no. 3 (2014): 1-6.

Goldstein, Joseph. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2013.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2012.

Salzberg, Sharon. Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. New York: Workman Publishing, 2014.

Williams, Mark, and Danny Penman. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. New York: Rodale Books, 2012.