On education in Europe and the USA

Clever Magazine
United Kingdom Mental Health Editor-in-Chief's column Kristina Lebedeva

My Weekend at the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation Annual Gathering: Where Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology

In a world that often feels fast-paced, demanding, and full of distractions, the concept of mindfulness emerges as a gentle yet powerful tool for navigating the complexities of modern life. For those unacquainted with the practice, mindfulness is more than a hype or a trend. It is a profound approach to living that invites individuals to be fully present in the current moment.

At its core, mindfulness involves cultivating a heightened awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and surroundings with curiosity and without judgement. By anchoring our attention to the present, mindfulness offers a pathway to increased clarity, improved focus, and a greater sense of well-being. It's a timeless practice, rooted in ancient contemplative traditions, now embraced by individuals worldwide seeking a calmer, more balanced way of engaging with the world around them.
It was Friday, October 27th. On my way to St. Hugh's College, the University of Oxford, my anticipation for the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation Annual Gathering was heightened by a chance encounter with none other than Professor Willem Kuyken. Our discussion, moments before professor inaugurated the event, marked the beginning of an exploration into mindfulness amidst Oxford's academic environment.
Day 1: Bridging the Gap Between Ancient Wisdom and Modern Psychology
The gathering kicked off with a warm welcome from Peter Yiangou, CEO of OMF, who set the tone for a weekend of exploration, introspection, and connection. Over the course of the next three days, his gracious presence extended beyond the event organisation, transforming the atmosphere into a space for shared exploration and personal revelation.
The opening session by Willem Kuyken, "Mindfulness for Life - Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology in the Contemporary World," masterfully connected timeless practices with the needs of the contemporary world. Professor Kuyken's lecture laid a philosophical and practical groundwork for the weekend, highlighting the significance of mindfulness in managing our modern life. His engaging presentation on mindfulness as a living tradition, blending ancient insights with modern psychological perspectives and education systems, prepared us for a weekend of deep learning.
Our morning continued with research updates by Ruth Baer, offering a window into the cutting-edge progress in the mindfulness field. Keen to expand my knowledge, I approached professor Baer with questions, diving into the subtleties of her work and striving for a deeper understanding of the evolving role of mindfulness.

The engaging discussions and partnerships update by Sharon Hadley illuminated the collaborative spirit of the mindfulness community, underscoring the significance of integrating the practice into the diverse fields' tapestry.
Day 2: Immersive Practices and Optional Exploration
Saturday dawned with a shift in focus toward learning and practice, guided by Chris Cullen and Alison Yiangou. The day was divided into four immersive mindfulness sessions, each building upon the previous one to deepen the participants' engagement with mindful sessions.

The inclusion of breaks between sessions provided us with cherished moments of reflection and connection. These interludes allowed us to share experiences, exchange insights, and foster camaraderie among more than 90 participants from around the globe.

What inspired me the most was the Trauma-Sensitive Zoom Talk by David Treleaven. His evening lecture explored the connextion between mindfulness and trauma with thought-provoking depth.
Day 3: Community, Reflection, and Integration
The final day began with an optional morning practice led by the OMF Team, offering us a serene space for personal reflection. Claire Kelly then welcomed everyone, introducing the OMF Membership Programme and emphasising the importance of fostering a sense of community within mindfulness practice.

During the breakout groups, expertly facilitated by Liz Lord and Claire Kelly, I found myself in a unique position as the designated speaker for the subgroup representing the field of education. As we disucssed the mindfulness practices within the context of education, I had the opportunity to elaborate on their transformative impact on students, educators, and the overall learning environment. While sharing personal experiences and professional observations, I highlighted how mindfulness can enhance focus, emotional regulation, and well-being within educational institutions. The platform provided a focused space to share reflections, experiences, and insights related to mindfulness in various settings.
In Conclusion: A Grateful Journey
I departed with a heightened awareness, a deepened understanding of mindfulness, and a sense of interconnectedness with a community of like-minded individuals. OMF has succeeded in creating an environment where ancient wisdom and modern psychology converge, providing a roadmap for those seeking to navigate the terrain of mindfulness in the modern world, and fostering interconnectedness within the community.

As the echoes of this transformative weekend resonate, I am left with a profound appreciation for the organisers, speakers, and fellow participants. The lessons learned and connections forged will serve me as a guiding light, inspiring continued exploration and integration of mindfulness into my daily life.

My hope is the spirit of mindfulness cultivated at Oxford Mindfulness Foundation and within the Oxford University community will continue to flourish, spreading its roots and influencing positive change in the lives of those touched by its wisdom. Indeed, the mindful path does not end with the closing remarks. Instead, it becomes a continuous exploration of self-discovery and growth. The journey, it seems, has only just begun.

Visit official OMF website to learn more about its activities and upcoming events.