Reflection & Wellness: Mindful Attachment, Detachment, Centering & Focus

6859524174_9701d16bd7_o.jpg

We live in a modern world, which in many ways hyper-stimulates our senses through technology and high-speed connectivity. What are the wellness implications of our new norm: 24×7 data availability, data connectivity and data sharing?

It’s no wonder that we are over-committed, restless and unrested, and fatigued. We call it brain fog, when processing-demand surpasses our own body’s limits. Limits, what a concept, huh? We push and push ourselves, expecting to produce continued, increased and optimal output, like a machine.

In the Academy, our students report increased difficulty focusing, prioritizing and making decisions. They experience stress, anxiety and social isolation. In addition to seeking professional counseling and support (e.g. Penn CAPS, Penn Advisor, etc.) when needed, we can also develop and refine some metacognitive wellness practices to help us pause, center ourselves, and focus on what is important. Consider the practice of attachment, detachment, centering and focus:

Identify Your Attachments
  1. Become aware of your attachments. The things that we’re attached to tend to trigger a physical, emotional and/or psychological reaction in us. Is it family? friends? school work? professional obligations? the causes to which you’re committed? We pour all of our energy into external activities, commitments and triggers, herein, our attachments.
Practice Detachment
  1. Practice detachment. Once you identify your attachments, practice noting and letting go. If you can’t let it go, then set it aside momentarily. That from which we cannot let go has power over us. Practice ambivalence. It does not mean that you do not care anymore, it does mean that you put a distance between you and the trigger, so that you can behold it from a distance and with reason, without it enveloping you. What can you control, and what does it make sense to acknowledge as ultimately outside your sphere of influence?
Focus on What Matters Most
  1. Re-center and focus on what truly matters to you the most. What is most important to you? What is essential to your wellness? What feeds your inner being? Who is in your love circle? Who is in your support network? When you re-center yourself and start focusing on internal growth factors, a.k.a. healthy attachments, you will start restoring, recharging and fostering healthy energy, rather than seeing your energy sipping away in a myriad of activities, obligations and conflicts.

The process of attachment, detachment, centering and focus is not a one-time task. It is not an esoteric state of being; it is not an arrival. It is an active, daily practice, which is part of an intentional and iterative process. By practicing this process mindfully, and returning to it over and over again, you can develop a healthier and more sustainable wellness state of mind. This will support your studies and personal and professional life. Modern life has a way to pull you away from your center, from your true mission, towards sources of hyper-stimulation, which can often be triggering and draining. Close your eyes, breathe, and practice returning to center, over and over again. Resist, channel and flourish.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

 

Reflection: What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students

6648841481_4872681b76_o (1).jpg
A Learning Fellow’s Reflection:
What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students

Returning to student life this Fall after over a decade was a humbling experience for me. Although I reveled in all of the opportunities and resources on Campus and the intellectual stimulation of my classes, I also came close to tears trying to figure out the EZ-Borrow system for a book I needed, and ruined my favorite pair of shoes trudging through a flooded walkway because it was the only way I knew how to get to class.

Although I began my position as a Weingarten Learning Fellow (one of several doctoral students in the Graduate School of Education who works as a Learning Instructor) with learning strategies based on my own academic training and life experiences, I soon realized how much I take away from students. I continually find our one-on-one sessions and workshops an opportunity to find out about new tech tools and resources on Campus, talk through different exam preparation and writing strategies, and about a million other things!

Coming from a 9-5 office-type schedule, I originally had a tendency to try and study for five or six hours at once, without taking more than a 15-20 minute break to scarf down my lunch or make a phone call.

One thing I have learned from being able to work with so many students on their own schedules is the importance of taking meaningful breaks throughout the day, whether it’s lunch with a friend, going to the gym, or taking part in a club or activity that you enjoy.

I am proud to say that I now work for only two or three hours at a time, and then enjoy a long walk with my dog or a mindful lunch break where I actually sit computer and phone free to enjoy my food. I also try to embrace the student mindset of continuous learning and reflection, and I gain courage from so many of our resilient students who bounce back from failure and are willing to try again.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow

 

Reflection: The Necessity of Failure

5065496796_098d8db0f2_b.jpg

Are you afraid of failure?

I am. At times, terrified.

Have you ever felt like a failure?

Countless times. More than I’d like to admit.

Do we talk enough about failure?

Probably not.

That last question is a tricky one. There isn’t a lack of literature about failure, especially when it comes to organizational failure, performance analysis, process improvement and case analysis.

What is more needed in educational contexts, especially in highly selective higher education environments like PENN, is open discourse about failure. I once heard about a college professor who kept a copy of her curriculum vitae along with a comparatively voluminous 3-ring binder of her failures. Another college professor posted all of his rejection letters along his office walls for plain view. In both instances, the professors intentionally revealed and shared their academic and professional vulnerabilities, inviting conversation with students about success that did not preclude, but preempted failure.

Failure can be predictable or unpredictable, but often unavoidable. 

Failure can be policy-centric, process-centric, technical, relational or communal, but always feels personal.

Failure can occur in the context of uniformity, inadvertent oversight, contention, change and complexity: Context Matters. 

In order to nourish that which can only be seeded, sprouted, grown and blossomed through failure, focus on the specific type of support that you need in each step of the failure-to-success process:

a confidant? a shoulder to cry on? an empath?

a relative? a friend? a colleague? a neighbor?  

a devil’s advocate?

an accountability partner? a supervisor? a guide? a counselor? a therapist?

how about a failure mentor?

Know that you’re thoroughly equipped with all of the personal, academic and professional attributes, wisdom and discernment, to design and navigate through your failure to growth pathways. Be good to yourself. Embrace failures, like successes, as stepping stones to your journey.

At Weingarten, we are committed to supporting you through all of your academic successes, failures and things in between that come to mark and shape your wonderful, authentic and humane self.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

 

Bigger Pictures & Study Strategies: Try a Little Reading

21960325121_3db7892c7b_b.jpg“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
~  P.J. O’Rourke

Reading lists give students heartburn. Not all reading lists, and certainly not all students, but enough. For students who look at reading on a continuum ranging from mild dislike to complete detestation, any required reading gets the old stomach acids churning. For today’s purposes, we don’t need to get into the “why”.

I wish I could say that when I started out as an educator, oh so many years ago, this reading avoidance came as a shock. But that would be a lie, and according to the Blogger’s Code, one should never lie when committing bloggery.

I discovered a harsh truth of reading when I was a kid. I had a few friends who read as much as I did – a lot, and constantly – and many other friends who never cracked a book outside of school, if ever.

Not liking to read doesn’t mean that a given student won’t read. But it does make the whole endeavor…well, problematic.

The reading-avoidant do have a tendency to avoid any and all reading, often. If you happen to number yourself among this group, don’t despair.

What I like to tell people when dealing with the dreaded reading list is that something is always better than nothing. Be selective. You can pick one article out of the pack, or just read one section from each of the assigned. No, you will not have encyclopedic knowledge of the paper, but you’ll have something to think about, or maybe even something to add to a discussion just because you did something.

Getting through assigned books can be trickier, but you can always read them selectively as well. How? What you can do is use the Table of Contents to find a chapter or two that looks interesting. Can’t make yourself read a whole chapter? Use the Appendix to find topics that seem to be important to the class. Consult the syllabus or rely on class notes to give you a clue as to what seems to be most important. Still can’t get started? Make an appointment at your friendly learning center and one of us will help you.

Alas, you may never grow to love reading, but that doesn’t mean you have to make yourself sick over it.

By Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Bigger Pictures: Let’s Try Again, Shall We?

b30fcc3f4cfe8ff10ef6d34a6760f812

Oh, dear. Winter break ended. Now what?

If you’re among those lucky souls who looked up their Fall ’18 grades with a sense of pride in accomplishment, an almost giddy feeling of work well done, then congratulations. That’s no easy feat here at Fun Times on the Schuylkill.

But what if your semester went awry?

What if your best laid academic plans of late August transmogrified into the second act of a low budget horror movie?

What if looking at that grade report made you relive the whole ordeal in all its gory detail?

What if you’re sitting there now, watching the horror unfold yet again, screaming at your past self, “Don’t skip the practice exam! Don’t skip the practice exam!” but there you go again, skipping the practice exam like that kid who just has to play with the Ouija board just one last time, thus opening the Hell Mouth and setting loose the demons who run amok in the second act of a low budget horror movie? Then what?

Even worse: what if it’s all happened before?

Let’s face it, you don’t want to be the recurring protagonist in a lousy horror franchise. You’ll wind up getting type cast and then you’ll find yourself telling people things like, “What I really want to do is direct,” while you read through the script for Schuylkill Terror 3: It Came From Under The Button. The academic equivalent of that goes something like, “I’m going to work really, really hard, and this semester is going to be totally different.” And then you promptly double down on doing things roughly the same way you tried to do them last semester, but with a “serious” and unyielding approach doomed for failure after about three and a half weeks. Lots of times it’s not about working harder.

It is amazing how often people take the same approach over and over, expecting different results, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. And if your Fall ’18 grade report felt like the trailer for Insidious 4, then you DO NOT want to do things the same way in Spring ’19.

So yes, this is a shameless plug for ambling over to your learning center and meeting with one of the friendly Weingarten Learning Instructors. We can help you figure out where things broke bad. Yes, it will be time well spent.

In the meantime, put away the Ouija board.

By Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Sadly, this quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”, is at best apocryphal. But it so sounds like something Mark Twain would say that no one really wants to change the attribution.

Welcome Back to Spring 2019 Penn Students!

24080111968_b0be834918_o.jpg

Happy New Year and Welcome Back to Spring 2019, PENN Students!

At the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, we hope you had a good Winter Break and opportunities to reflect, relax and recharge for an exciting Spring 2019 semester! You should be proud of your efforts in the Fall of 2018. As we begin the new semester, there is already much to look forward to in the coming months. We would like to share some resources to help you hit the ground running in 2019 in addition to a number of exciting campus-wide programs! To get you started, we have some ideas and resources to help you optimize your learning:

weekly_calendar

interfaith
  • Explore and discover other VPUL (Vice Provost for University Life) resources:

University Life is you! Penn wouldn’t be Penn without University Life

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Bigger Pictures: When Finals Attack

DTOC_20120412_0047

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

     ~ Benjamin Franklin

We have rapidly approached that most wonderful time of the year, when the season tickles the gizzard of every good girl and boy: Finals. It seems like only yesterday that we were feeling the pain of trying to sleep in dorms lacking air conditioning. Ah, yes. Treasured memories.

Anyway, with the season of Finals nigh upon us, let’s take a few moments and go back over a few of the basics as we all get pumped up for the last round up.

  1. It’s always better to sleep than stay up and cram. Decades of research says so. You want to be sharp and rested rather than dopey with sleep deprivation.
  2. Don’t study one subject to the exclusion of everything else. Sure, you’re worried most about Math 114, but that doesn’t mean you blow off Bio and Econ study. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointments in classes you thought were “safe” if you go down that particular road.
  3. Don’t attempt to read everything you didn’t read during the previous 15 weeks. Seriously. We get two “Reading Days”. You cannot read all that in 48 hours. Rely on your lecture notes. If you don’t have lecture notes, rely on the kindness of classmates and get yourself some.
  4. Spread out your Finals study time. You don’t have to wait until the last day of class before you begin to study.
  5. Don’t freak out over cumulative finals, especially if you’re taking a third or fourth “midterm” during the last few days of class. Studying for that last “midterm” means, by definition, studying for the cumulative final in advance. Look at you go.
  6. It’s not too late to make the acquaintance of a friendly and knowledgeable Learning Instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. We can help.

Don’t panic.

By OLR Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor.