A free program centered around mindfulness – for students, faculty, and staff – has kicked off at Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, California. The program, which began hosting workshops every other week during the Fall Quarter, will grow to a weekly offering every Thursday from 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. in the Student Clinic during the Winter Quarter.
It’s important to us to support the needs of the students, and “right now, we’re getting: ‘we want more of this’,” said Lori Pino, a Life West Academic Counselor and the point person on developing the Mindfulness Program. “Every response has been favorable. So next quarter, there will be more workshops and for longer periods of time.”
The program has a lot of support from Life West’s administration behind it.
Dr. Anatole Bogatski, Life West’s Executive Vice President expressed, “This is something we’ve been thinking about for a while.” The idea was to introduce something with consistency and longevity that could benefit everyone on campus. The program is meant to provide an outlet as well as to help participants develop personal tools that allow them to create an improved awareness of self and surrounding environment, all through a safe, nurturing lens.
“These are practical techniques and tools that we can all use in our own daily lives—at school and at home—to make us better people and better participants in the community,” Dr. Bogatski said, adding that the Mindfulness Program helps establish a core set of values that fit with the College’s mantra of Give, Do, Love, and Serve.
Student interest in a program like this has been flourishing for some time. According to Pino, several students approached Dr. Ron Oberstein, President of Life West, about having a healthy outlet for stress from the rigors of a doctorate program. Ultimately, the goal would be for the College to provide a dedicated space where participants could just be, breathe, do yoga, or meditate.
Life West student Kyrah Bacote was hired as the Wellness Coordinator to contribute a student perspective to the leadership of the program. Kyrah coordinates the workshops, finding talented students, faculty and sometimes alumni or other mindful-based health practitioners who are willing to share their gifts in the workshops.
Kyrah said, “The intention of the Mindfulness Program is to provide a neutral space for the campus community to acquire new practices they wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to which could be applied intra-personally, with patients, and with community.”
Student Health Center Offers Space
Counselor Pino further said the Mindfulness Program aimed for an intentional space, allowing accessibility for those who work on campus or attend classes. Participants can utilize floor space or tables for the various mindfulness practices in a location large enough to accommodate many people.
But there’s another component to the choice: The Student Health Center can be a stressful environment. “If we can change the vibration and association of the space, it will make for more conducive work, study, and practice,” Pino said.
The program “charges the space with positive energy,” Bacote said. Students who otherwise would have to wait until they are seniors can be in the space now, to develop positive associations in the Student Clinic, and hopefully minimize the intimidation factor. She added, “They can step in with greater familiarity and comfort when it’s time for them to use the space as interns.”
Deciding on the content
“We look for facilitators who can share their tools with everybody else,” Pino said. Bacote added that the student facilitators can use this as a positive platform to further refine their skill sets outside of Chiropractic.
“There are so many individuals with gifts,” Bacote said. “This is a space where we can share those gifts, release stress, and leave the session feeling fully present academically, with patients, and life.” Bacote said that as a student, she would go out to her car for a break after being in classes all day and see five people in their cars, all doing the same thing – needing a space to breathe.
“The workshops provide a regular outlet for the entire campus community to unwind, de-stress, and check-in with themselves,” Pino said. The Mindfulness Program can serve as a barometer, helping participants to bring attention to how they are engaging with life. “We can’t advocate for health and wellness if we can’t attain it within ourselves,” Bacote said.
The workshops are also intended to be diverse in the offerings of content. So far this fall, there have been workshops on SRI (Somato Respiratory Integration), which focuses attention on movement of breath; mindful meditation; sound healing; and yoga for the nervous system, among others. Storytelling and visualization workshops are also on the schedule.
Reflecting Life West’s diversity and inclusion focus
As Life West brings in these workshops to optimize health and self-expression, the Mindfulness Program coordinators are also bringing awareness about different types of mindfulness tools.
“These kinds of mindfulness practices can translate into stronger cultural sensitivity and awareness around how people identify and navigate their lives in a safe environment for all participants,” Pino stated. “The intention is to be as inclusive as possible and appreciative of other people’s backgrounds and culture.
The program also exposes participants to different modalities, and provides a window for students into the possibilities as they think about how they want their practice to work, and what they could include or pass on to their patients.
“We want to bring in other practices that people didn’t know existed,” Bacote added. “We want to break the paradigm that to be mindful, you need to be a yogi sitting cross-legged with beads.” Being mindful is just being present, she said, and there are so many ways you can do that.
“Come as you are and leave better than you came is our goal,” Bacote said. “We’re taking out the stigma surrounding what mindfulness is, and bridging the gap between teachers and students, so that we are just a community supporting each other in reaching common goals.”
What’s next for the program?
“We have a great list for this next quarter coming up, great content,” Dr. Bogatski pointed out. “The purpose is to bring a consciousness of mindfulness as an everyday practice for everyone in the community – students, faculty, and staff.”
In fact, he said, this program fits neatly into the Give, Do, Love, Serve mantra that Life West embraces. “So much of mindfulness is about expressions of openness and caring and listening to the other person – Love,” he said. “Service can be strongly reinforced with mindfulness practices, being very present, in the moment when giving service, caring for the person, listening to the person, empathizing with the person’s situation – that can all be enhanced through an understanding of mindfulness and having these practices in your life.”
The program will be weekly, running from 12-12:45 p.m. on Thursdays in the Student Health Center.
And, Pino reminds everyone, it’s also FREE and CONVENIENT.