At the annual HAPS meeting in 2018, I sat with a lovely group of HAPSters over dinner. The topic of mindfulness came up and we each agreed how important it was for us and for our students.
Going out on a limb, I divulged my personal practice of mindfully exercising. “I battle cancer cells, I eliminate plaque from my arteries, and I always make my pancreas sparkle.” They all looked at me and smiled. A beat of silence. “Did I just disclose my super weirdness?” I thought.
“How sparkly is your pancreas?” said the head of the HAPS cadaver-use committee.
“Well, if I’m ever your specimen, wear sunglasses. I’m that bright inside,” I joked.
When I exercise, I think about human anatomy and physiology and mindfully review each system of my body. I eradicate perceived (or worrisome) anatomic or physiological problems by picturing that system of my body in its most perfect form. If I’m feeling tense in an area, I send extra focus there. I may walk out of an exercise class looking sweaty and exhausted, but inside, I know I have just activated mechanisms in my body toward health, and mentally that makes me feel invigorated. That energy is then carried with me to the classroom where it gets translated into helping students.
Current literature* is chock-full of studies on how mindfulness can positively affect a plethora of anatomical and physiological maladies. When I feel a high amount of tension/anxiety in the air in my A&P lectures, I take the opportunity to ask if anyone has ever meditated. We talk about the many benefits from decreased anxiety to neurogenesis. With the anxiety level of our students on the rise, it is my hope that in addition to teaching a strong knowledge base, we can also help students by sharing personal stories of how we cope in our lives.
I share my sparkly pancreas story with students when we talk about diabetes, which runs in my family. Each of us should consider finding a mindfulness practice that works for us. For students, I often recommend meditation as a place to start.
We all know how important genetics, good nutrition, and exercise are for our health. Incorporating mindfulness in the form of meditation can profoundly affect the performance of students and be a coping tool they can use for a lifetime. The personal mindfulness practice I use while exercising helps me to see myself as a healthy, radiant being ready to be the best A&P professor I can be.
Bridgit Goldman has been teaching college-level biology since 1998. She has a Ph.D. in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York. Since 2007 she has designed, developed and taught all the lecture and laboratory classes in Human Anatomy and Physiology at Siena College in Loudonville, NY.