UW Mindfulness Project encourages students to 'connect and reflect'

Students of UW Mindfulness from left to right starting with back row: Danny Stofleth, Bryan Swaffield, Julia Olsen, Hannah Gerson, Anna Johnson, Kyle Beavert and front row: Emily Schrick, Sara Kivikas, Alex McCarthy, Olga Rublinetska, Amanda Robins.

When asking Bryan Swaffield, vice president of marketing and outreach at the UW Mindfulness Project, to define mindfulness, he resorted to a single, summarized quote that is familiar amongst mindfulness participants.

His answer? “Mindfulness is paying attention, in the present, on purpose, and without judgment.”

With this answer in mind, a group of UW students established the UW Mindfulness Project, in hopes of creating a place to “slow down, connect, and reflect.”

The project was formed in 2013 by Alysha Greig, a senior majoring in philosophy. Currently 15 students making up three committees staff the UW Mindfulness Project.

As of late, the project has initiated a “Mini Mindfulness Center.” Students can take free classes over the course of the quarter in Room 287 in Mary Gates Hall. Registration is not required and the sessions are first-come, first-serve.

According to Swaffield, a senior majoring in oceanography, nine more students have decided to take part in molding the project, a good handful of whom are passionate freshmen.

“Our end goal, if we could have our dream played out right in front of us, would be to have a big center,” Swaffield said. “A building built specifically not for us, but for our purposes, and to have rooms available for other organizations to come in and use those.”

Swaffield said he was initially “not too fond” of doing just yoga and meditation at the Mini Mindfulness Center, especially because Greig had always said she wanted to get away from the idea that mindfulness, outside of its practice in meditation and yoga, doesn’t apply to any other aspect of life.

“So I’d say that, and I talked to her about this, that there is room for changes in the future,” Swaffield said. “We’re just going to go as simple as we can first, and just gauge interest level, and see where we want to take it. Don’t always expect us to be solely meditation and yoga. We do have plans to expand and incorporate other things.”

Some of the ideas floating around among the UW Mindfulness Project members are services like peer mentoring, nutritional counseling, drawing classes, and a designated rest and relaxation room.

Previously, Greig was president of the Yogis at UW club, an essential stepping stone in her mindfulness journey, she said. When she realized a club couldn’t handle the amount of people who wanted to take part, Greig transformed the idea of a club into a project. As a club, the Yogis had limits on registration, so when Grieg moved forward with the UW Mindfulness Project, she looked for outside funding in order to include as many people as possible.

Grieg’s leadership, however, goes beyond just job titles.

“Mindfulness, yoga, meditation don’t change what happens to me, I have a lot of school work to do and a lot of difficult choices to make as a student, they change how I react to those situations,” Greig said. “I’m more calm, I’m more centered.”

Danny Stofleth, the project’s vice president for project analysis and a UW graduate student in communication and education, found himself expounding upon his own journey with mindfulness practices.

“One of the things that’s made a huge difference for me and how I deal with other people is being aware of how distracted I get with Facebook, my cell, texting,” Stofleth said. “It’s just killing time by wasting time on your phone rather than engaging with the world around you.”

Mindfulness, according to the team, isn’t restricted to a yoga mat. It is an outlook, a very deliberate sense of awareness that can relieve stress and make school a bit more bearable. Perhaps it can even create an all-around clearer mind.

For more information about the UW Mindfulness Project, visit uwmindfulnessproject.com.

Reach reporter Kelsey Hamlinat news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @KelseyHamlin_UW

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