With their feet flat on the floor, eyes closed, and arms relaxed, a pensive room of faculty and students were led through a series of mindfulness exercises by Andrew Housiaux, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies and a Fellow with the Tang Institute. This was part of a workshop called “Learning to Listen: Mindfulness and Philosophy” held last Wednesday night.
Housiaux began the workshop with a short visual presentation and discussed the importance of mindfulness.
“In moments when we are not mindful, when we are not aware, we have fewer choices. We’re running on instinct, there’s some kind of habitual response– If you’re present, if you’re aware, there are [realistically] more options that you have, more things seem available to you,” said Housiaux in his opening remarks.
He quickly segued into activities intended to help attendees practice mindfulness. The exercises began with a form of active meditation, in which participants were instructed to place both feet on the floor, relax their upper bodies, close their eyes, and simply listen to what was going on around them.
Housiaux talked about how this was meant to get people thinking about mindfulness by making them aware of their surroundings and what was going on around them.
William Locke ’19, one of the participants, said, “At a place like Andover, we don’t often get a chance to just reflect, especially on how we treat others and ourselves. I think mindfulness, and especially this mindful listening really gave me a chance to do that, and it was really helpful for me mentally.”
Repeated several times throughout the workshop, this mindful listening exercise allowed participants to recenter themselves and regain their focus between activities.
For the next exercise, Housiaux asked audience members to pair up. He then proposed a broad topic of conversation to the group, and instructed everyone to listen to their partner speak on the subject for 90 seconds and do nothing but actively listen.
All the activities that were part of the workshop were similarly designed to teach participants techniques that promote self-awareness and mindfulness.
“I hope that students left the workshop with a sense of how they could listen to other people with curiosity and kindness, and how we could think about pursuing conversations that have deeper understanding– mutual understanding– as a goal, as opposed to merely seeking to triumph in any discussion we find ourselves in,” said Housiaux in an email to The Phillipian.
This sentiment seemed to resonate amongst those in the audience, including Flynn Bryan ’18 who believes mindfulness will play an important role in everyday conversation.
“Conversation is so much more useful when you spend it listening and trying to empathize with the person talking instead of being reactionary, instead of just thinking about your own personal opinion and stances and emotions, because then that prevents any actual education from happening, because they’ll be on the defensive, the same as you,” said Bryan.
For Alexandra Macrides ’18, another participant in the workshop, mindfulness may be a useful skill when discussing politics.
“You need to be able to respect your peers, even if you don’t share their opinions, and their opinion could potentially offend you. Mindfulness is a really good skill to have, to be able to not be offended and [instead] honor the fact that they can have their own opinion and approach that with w