Sunday, April 17


I am so excited about exposing our scholars to yoga and meditation. Since I talk about this a lot, I think everyone knows how deeply I believe these practices can enhance your lives, on many levels. I am including a passage by Dr. Kabat-Zinn who is a world-renown expert on mindfulness and the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I learned about Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s work about a year ago and it has helped me greatly. For the 2011 scholars, one of the first things for our next “to do list” starting this summer will be to listen to a podcast of Dr. Kabat-Zinn explaining this idea and practice. Here is just a quick taste; Heather shared this in class this past week.

In his book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life,” Dr. Kabat-Zinn writes:

“Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice which has profound relevance for our present-day lives. This relevance has nothing to do with Buddhism per se or with becoming a Buddhist, but it has everything to do with waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world. It has to do with examining who we are, with questioning our view of the world and our place in it, and with cultivating some appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive. Most of all, it has to do with being in touch.”

“Mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.”
Here is a link to more information on Dr. Kabat-Zinn, if you are interested.

JON KABAT-ZINN, PH.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria.

Sunday, April 10

Laughter and Transitions

I thought I would reflect for a moment on this particular stage in the McNair experience. When I say McNair experience, I mean my own McNair experience which has been going on for some time now….this time of year is always exciting, a little nerve-wracking, and inspiring on many different levels. We’ve got scholars graduating, getting offers for grad school and moving on to the next phase in life. We’ve got scholars just getting started in the process, although I must say that they are probably feeling “down and dirty” in the thick of things at the moment given that draft proposals just came in yesterday and presentations are coming up in just a few weeks. Having both groups going at once is really fun, sometimes challenging to keep track of everyone’s details, but most of all – super cool. In short, everyone is in the process of exploring options for themselves and figuring out their lives. That’s what McNair is all about.

I encourage everyone to embrace this process, wherever you might be in it, and take from it what it has to offer. If you are willing to really put yourself out there, I’m betting that you’ll receive back ten-fold – in ways you probably can’t imagine right now. Again, that’s super cool. I’ll end with a tidbit from Lou Tice on laughter since I think that is something that can really help, really with everything, and at every point along the way.

Here is what Lou says:

Today, we know that humor is a vital sign of life that affects us both physiologically and psychologically. Genuine laughter signals emotional flexibility and is a common reaction to the unexpected, the unpredictable. Some folks claim that one good belly-laugh – that full-out, no-holds-barred, tears streaming down your face laugh – can give you up to 90 days of protection against illness. If that’s true, imagine what a giggle-a-day could do.

The ability to make others laugh is an invaluable quality, but the ability to make ourselves laugh is even more precious – so develop a ticklish funny-bone, and you’ll be growing in more ways than you might think!

--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute

Saturday, April 2

Advance Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams ...

I just wanted to share a fantastic quote, one that was given to me on my 33rd birthday. As I get older, I forget not only what I have achieved, but what I am still capable of. A good friend of mine reminded me with these words from Henry David Thoreau. The first sentence is my favorite.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”