Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Mindfulness at Work

By on October 1, 2008

I am the Library Director at a large community college in Santa Barbara, California. For the past three years I have been leading a weekly, and for one semester daily, meditation on campus. It is called “Meditation in the Library” and all students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate. The purpose is two fold: provide a space to introduce mindfulness practice into the community, and secondly, to provide me with a time of sitting in the middle of the workday.

Typically we meet once a week for twenty minutes in my office. Fortunately, I have a large office and can easily accommodate up to eight people sitting in chairs or on the floor – though our numbers are usually around 2-4 people per week. Each semester I invite the community to “Meditation in the Library” by sending out a campus-wide email describing mindfulness meditation in a non-sectarian manner. Though many cannot attend due respective schedules, I often receive messages back from staff and faculty expressing a desire to participate and/or thanking me for providing the opportunity. In addition to the email, I usually place flyers up around campus and put an “ad” in the student web-portal. Since this has been happening for three years, the community is coming to expect the meditation.

The room is setup with chairs facing in one direction, though there is space to sit on the floor as well. We keep the lights off, but plenty of light comes in from the windows so it is not completely dark. If new people are present, I may start with suggestions on sitting posture and then begin a guided meditation focusing on the breath. We sit for 20-minutes and end with one sound of a bell. A person or two may engage in causal conversation at the end, but we generally have not sharing. There is one or two regulars and the rest of the participants are pretty transient due to the coming and going of college students and their schedules.

On occasion we have students participate for extra credit in their Personal Development course. This course is designed to help students be successful in college and one element of that deals with stress management. The classes with extra credit typically are those who have also invited me to come speak in class. Again, I attempt to keep the conversation non-sectarian but, when talking for 30-minutes to a classroom full of students, the questions of my personal practice often arises. In these class sessions, I present my experience with meditation and concrete examples of how meditation supports me in my work and in my relationships with other people. I provide details on sitting and breathing plus other opportunities to practice mindfulness. We end the class presentation with a 5-minute guided meditation.

Having the “Meditation in the Library” has been very nourishing for my practice overall. Reminders in the work environment, especially since others know that I have a regular practice of meditation, helps my energy level as well as bringing awareness to how I interact with others on campus.