Wellness concerns are abuzz in national media. What is Bay Path’s philosophical approach to conscious thought? Read more about Laura Mushenko’s class. Namaste!
“I am aware.”
The class took deep breaths, held them, slowly exhaled, and the phrase was meditated upon. They linked arms with the student next to them, and calmly, deliberately, clearly, and intentionally reflected upon their surroundings. The cool wooden floor under their bare feet. The subdued sounds of snow removal machinery outdoors. Sounds from a laptop, flute music at low volume. Themselves, at that moment. Their arm intertwined with the person seated next to them, also with eyes closed, paying as close attention to their own internal images.
This is “Pathways to Mindfulness,” Laura Mushenko’s physical fitness class which explores a subject by no means new: the tools and practices of mindfulness extend thousands of years. But with a recent resurgence into our national consciousness, these practices are becoming much more a means to address our increasingly complex world.
Media outlets from The New York Times to Time Magazine have caught on to the “mindfulness revolution” as it’s being called in the press. People of all ages, from students to seniors, are embracing the different tools to keep themselves of sound mind—and finding how that relates to a sound body as well.
Mushenko has long adopted the practices she teaches both as a consultant, at the world-famous Kripalu Center in the Berkshires, and right here in the dance studio in Blake Hall. Students, she said, often are taking on not only the stresses of college, but often the pressures of the adults in their lives.
“It is said that the mind has over 60,000 thoughts per day” she explained. “We live in the mind, instead of connecting from neck down. That’s what I help do, have people turn up their feel button. Start to discover who they are, what’s real for them, and the tools of how to be with that in daily life.”
She emphasizes that direct experience is of paramount importance to understand which tools will speak to your needs. Yoga, meditation, breathing excercises—all key to consider as options. In class that day, Mushenko was leading the students on a session of “conscious communication.”
After the exercise where students began their observations with the statement at the beginning of this article, they joined with another partner to engage in a process of “conscious listening,” intently focused on the voice of the person before them. It was a means to slow the pressures and concerns of the external world and to instead meditatively reflect upon the immediate human interaction before them.
“It all starts with listening,” Mushenko said, not only to yourself—but the need to feel connected with that face-to-face communication. “When you feel, when you tap into your heart, when you get to those direct experiences, whether it’s through yoga, mindfulness, or meditation—you’re turning up your feel button.”
Not many willfully strive to be outside of their comfort zone, she continued, explaining why there exists the almost-involuntary need for a listener to be distracted during one-on-one interactions. But, she added, “When you turn down your feel button to those fears, to those anxieties and uncomfortable situations, you’re also turning down your happiness feel button. For joy. For appreciating life.”
As testament to the affirmations made possible in the class, Mushenko noted that there is a student who is taking the one-credit course for the second time—such were the benefits. At Bay Path, “Pathways to Mindfulness” is but one of the many philosophical structures on campus to address this inner dialogue with one’s informed, critical, yet comforted consciousness. Giving mind over matter a whole new spin.