Meditate the stress away at Monday Mindfulness

The image caption followsView print quality image
Mark Minglin, from left, executive director of the Bepko Learning Center; Landon Brothers, associate director of the Bepko Learning Center and Matthew Ferguson, third-year dental student, participate in a June edition of Monday Mindfulness. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

On Monday afternoons, a quiet room in the Dentistry building is transformed into a restful respite complete with soft music and a diffuser calmly piping a hint of lavender into the air.

The lights are still on, but it doesn't matter; most of the participants of Monday Mindfulness meditation close their eyes during the 30-minute session aimed at reducing stress and getting the week off to a soothing start.

What started as a refuge from Dentistry students' demanding schedules has been extended to all at IUPUI. Dr. Vanchit John, chairman of the periodontics and allied dental programs department, and the school's director of communications, Leslie Flowers, had each received instruction in mindfulness meditation. They found it so useful in their own lives that they started leading a weekly practice session for students, staff and faculty at the dental school. Flowers has since received additional training and teaches mindfulness meditation at the dental school and for Healthy IU.

Description of the following video:

[Video: A man wearing scrubs is meditating with his eyes closed.]

[Video: A male and female are sitting next to each other, both meditating with their eyes closed.]

[Video: Two women are sitting next to each other. Both are meditating with their eyes closed.]

[Video: Leslie Flowers, director of communications at the IU School of Dentistry, appears on camera.]

 

Flowers speaks: We started Monday Mindfulness at the IU School of Dentistry because we wanted to help students, in particular, deal with the stresses of dental school.

 

[Video: A man wearing a blue shirt is meditating with his eyes closed during the Monday Mindfulness meeting.]

[Video: Close-up of a woman’s hands while she is meditating.]

[Video: Flowers appears on camera.]

 

Flowers speaks: Meditation is one tool to practice mindfulness, and it helps us connect with the present moment.

 

[Video: Flowers leads the Monday Mindfulness meeting and talks to the group.]

[Video: The group attending Monday Mindfulness is sitting at a large table, listening to Flowers talk.]

 

Flowers speaks: We are really blessed to have people from all over campus come to it, as well as our own students, faculty and staff.

 

[Video: Flowers appears on camera.]

[Video: Flowers leads the Monday Mindfulness meeting and talks to the group.]

 

Flowers speaks: First, we just check in. Where’s the stress? Is it in the clinic? Is it in the classroom?

 

[Video: Flowers appears on camera.]

 

[Video: Two men are sitting next to each other. Both are meditating with their eyes closed.]

 

[Video: Three women, including Flowers, are sitting next to each other. All three are meditating with their eyes closed.]

 

[Video: A man and woman are sitting next to each other. Both are meditating with their eyes closed.]

 

Flowers speaks: And then we do some breathing techniques. And it is incredible how just one slow, deep breath can bring you into the present moment.

 

[Video: Flowers appears on camera.]

 

[Video: A man is meditating with his eyes closed.]

 

[Video: A woman is meditating with her eyes closed.]

 

[Video: Flowers appears on camera.]

 

[Video: Three women, including Flowers, are sitting next to each other. All are meditating with their eyes closed.]

 

Flowers speaks: After we do a breathing exercise, then we move into a guided meditation. It’s a very scientifically researched tool to help us relax and respond to life rather than react to the stresses that we all experience.

 

[Words appear: IUPUI]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]

 

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

IU School of Dentistry at IUPUI hosts a weekly meditation session for faculty, staff and students to unwind from the daily stresses of life.

"There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and meditation is one tool," Flowers explained. "It helps us connect with the present moment, what's happening in the body, what's happening in the heart, what's happening in the head."

Mindfulness meditations start at 12:30 p.m. Mondays in the Dentistry building's quiet rooms, usually in Room B31. Sessions are over by 1 p.m. Flowers guides participants through breathing exercises and a guided meditation. Most of the session is completed while seated.

Flowers introduced the program in 2016 and hosts about a dozen students, faculty and staff members each week.

The image caption followsView print quality image
Leslie Flowers, director of communications for the IU School of Dentistry, leads Monday Mindfulness meetings for staff, facutly and students at the IU School of Dentistry. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

"We have a lot of regulars," she said. "They just come out feeling relaxed and ready to face the day."

'Welcome to this moment.'

At a recent meditation, Flowers began the session with a check-in. Several participants chimed in with where they were experiencing stress or what had been bothering them. Flowers shared her own challenge to maintain calm during a challenging conversation just that morning.

4-7-8 breathing technique

This breathing practice is used at Monday Mindfulness sessions.

  • Inhale to the count of four.
  • Hold for a seven-count.
  • Exhale through the mouth for a count of eight. The mouth should be in the shape as if blowing a kiss.

The exercise is meant to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, taming the stress hormones and feelings of anxiety and panic. It moves practitioners out of the fight-or-flight mode and into the relaxation response.

"Mindfulness helps us respond rather than react to the stresses in life that we all experience," Flowers said. "There's always going to be a flat tire, a sick parent or a kid going off to college. Mindfulness gives us tools to choose in the present moment to respond with awareness and compassion rather than react by our emotions."

Flowers then encouraged the participants to maintain a "posture of dignity" -- seated with both feet on the floor, spine erect, neck long and jaw spacious.

Also the co-chairwoman for the dental school's Faculty/Staff Wellness Committee, Flowers led her group through some breathing exercises. She spoke throughout the session in a soft and calming voice.

"Bring to mind someone in your life who has been unconditionally kind to you," she told the group. "Imagine them in front of you: how they look, how they sound and smell."

'May we live at ease.'

Flowers finishes each session with some inspiring parting words.

At this meeting, Dentistry student Matthew Ferguson said he felt refreshed after the meditation. He has come to almost every session since the beginning.

A Mindful Way

Leslie Flowers will lead an eight-week course for faculty and staff at the Campus Center with the goal of helping the IUPUI community cultivate mindfulness in everyday living. The program is free, and registration can be made through Healthy IU.

"This gives us a chance to reset our day, since it's right in the middle of the day for us," said Ferguson, a third-year dental student. "I use meditation often to refocus. When I go into classes after meditation, I can focus a lot longer than when I don't meditate that day."

Mark Minglin, executive director of academic support programs for the Bepko Learning Center, invited Flowers to one of his program's recent Exam Jam weeks. Flowers' mindfulness meditation techniques were so effective that he and some of his colleagues began attending the sessions in the Dentistry building.

"I really like the chance to come here and be in the moment," Minglin said. "We're really busy during the day, but this gives us a chance to get centered and start the week off right."