This retreat takes place October 31, 2015 to November 1, 2015. Click for more details.
Sam Green has a tangible presence with you in the present moment—when he laughs, his entire face crinkles in delight; when he speaks to you, you know you have his full attention—an effect of his mindfulness practice, which began 16 years ago with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. MBSR encourages practitioners to observe their experience moment-to-moment with non-judgmental awareness to develop the mind’s attention to the present. Having practiced for well over a decade, Dr. Green explains that “practice is all day, every day. Practice is not about sitting on a cushion; it’s about carrying that mind-state around all day, every day. There isn’t a single thing we do that we can’t do more mindfully.”
Dr. Green, an associate professor in the Medical School, brings this passion for mindfulness to his role as an educator; for the past four years he has offered an undergraduate course called Introduction to Mindfulness, where he guides twenty students in mindfulness practice. In the rigorous environment of the University of Virginia where academic stress runs high, Dr. Green sees mindfulness practice as a crucial life maintenance activity available for harried students and faculty: “Most of our stress is caused not by the conditions we encounter, but by our reaction to the conditions. We can’t change the conditions very much, but we have a choice about the reaction.”
Dr. Green’s class is organized a little differently than the majority of other classes at the university. Eschewing the traditional plan of reading, writing, and research, Dr. Green tells students, “I don’t want you to spend time thinking or reading about someone else’s experience, I want you to sit down on the cushion and meditate, and observe your own experience. And then come to class and we’ll talk about what we learned when we meditated.” Students take the class pass/fail, demonstrating what Dr. Green explains is the impossibility and contradictory nature of judging someone’s practice of mindfulness. He finds that this course format is particularly important for students because it allows students to explore tools to help them live authentically and joyfully, which is not always the emphasis of courses at the University of Virginia: “In our university with so much academic excellence, there is not as much focus on how to live as a person and how to be a person. Practically none, but the students want it. They really want it.”
Dr. Green dreams of offering a section of the course specifically for first-year students, whose practice would have a ripple effect on the UVa community. He values the opportunity to teach undergraduate students, explaining, “I think young people learn faster than older people, including practice.” In the fall, Dr. Green will be co-teaching the course with Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu in the Nursing School in the hopes of reaching a greater number of students, as well as incorporating possibilities for research. Dr. Green is excited to continue teaching, explaining that for him “the best thing about teaching mindfulness is that I’m reminded every day what a beginner I am.”