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Alleviating Stress and Living in the Present: Mindfulness Instructor Matthew Hepburn Leads Workshop

Matthew Hepburn, a mindfulness instructor based in Cambridge, Mass., has taught in prisons, schools, and residential areas. Mindfulness seekers can also find him on the 10% Happier app, a digital platform that offers a series of meditation courses specifically designed for “fidgety skeptics,” according to 10percenthappier.com.

On Friday, November 2, Hepburn presented in Kemper Auditorium on the usefulness of mindfulness in everyday life. His presentation, “Going Beyond Mindfulness,” was the first installment of the Mindfulness and Meditation Speaker Series, which is sponsored by the Office of the Head of School and the Tang Institute.

Hepburn began the session by instructing attendees to forget the outside world and experience the following time for themselves. He noted that establishing such an attitude could impact the results of their meditation.

“One of the things that I tried to do at the beginning of this meditation was to set you up with this attitude, reminding you, ‘Okay, you don’t have to be anywhere else. You don’t have to be a certain kind of person or a certain kind of way. You’re taking this time just for you.’ This element of goodwill—being the intention that makes mindfulness more powerful—is an essential understanding,” said Hepburn during the presentation.

“The results of how a meditation will affect us will vary widely depending upon the intention that we bring to it. If we’re oriented with a sense of seeing our own goodness, what is going to happen is very different,” continued Hepburn.

According to Hepburn, meditation has provided him with a new perspective on life and has allowed him to experience the world with more understanding.

“I used to interpret the world in a way that just reinforced my own misery, and the world was everything out there and me, and those two things were separate, and I had to problem-solve how to navigate it. Meditation has given me a new way to understand life such that it’s not creating misery for me anymore,” said Hepburn in an interview with The Phillipian.

Hepburn acknowledged that time can be a constraint that prevents people from meditating regularly. He recommends incorporating meditation into daily tasks to alleviate time pressure.

“Pick something that you do regularly where you don’t have to answer to anybody and attach a short meditation period to it. So it could be when you shower every day, and you could decide that you’re going to attempt to have a mindful shower and actually just continue to come back to feeling the body, warm water, actually just living in the present as opposed to thinking about what’s going to happen after the shower,” said Hepburn.

Freddie Kim ’19 uses meditation to center himself in the present, allowing himself to be free from the everyday distractions of student life.

“Mindfulness helps me calm my thoughts and lets me appreciate present experiences. I think that the workload and everyday life causes people to live in a sort of fog, like being on autopilot, where one is always thinking about the future or the past. We can end up ignoring a lot of great experiences because of this. Meditation reminds me that the only time that will ever be is the present,” said Kim.

A day prior to Friday’s presentation, Hepburn met with the Brotherhood, an affinity group for male students of color. According to Trey Brown, Admission Counselor and faculty advisor for the Brotherhood, the session’s calming mood helped the students to allay their various stresses.

“It’s great to just breathe…  I think a lot of students of color on campus have a lot riding on their back, whether that’s stuff back home or even just being in a predominantly white institution. I think moving forward it feels good to just breathe and let go of everything and just relax, just to remind you to, not necessarily to live in the present, but right now matters, and everything else will fall into place,” said Brown.

Brown hopes to reach out to Hepburn in the future and see if he can use some of his tricks in Brotherhood meetings. According to Brown, he was very impressed by Hepburn’s advice.

“A lot of these young men talked about personal stuff and to be able for a lot of us to relate, even if you didn’t relate, to hear someone else put their self out there, it feels good. It goes against all social aspects of masculinity and what that means, what that looks like. So I think they really had a lot to say, but they also did a great job listening to Matthew Hepburn and what he had to say about his own experience,” said Brown.

The Mindfulness and Meditation Speaker Series will feature Alexis Santos in January and Sebene Selassie in March. Andy Housiaux, Currie Family Director of the Tang Institute and Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, noted the importance of hosting mindfulness events.

Housiaux wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “We believe that Andover should be a private school with a public purpose, and hosting these events — where students, faculty, staff, alums, and community members come together to learn and grow — is one way in which we can offer meaningful programming free of charge to promote wisdom, self-reflection, and compassion.”

Nov 9, 2018