Doormats and Boulders: Uncovering Mindfulness Traits and Wise Discernment During Stressful Experiences in the Academy

Rosemary Frances Levy Chang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Life is constantly changing. Some changes, including those in the academy, can be very stressful. Mindfulness approaches can be sustaining and enriching, especially during periods of stress. However, situations of precarious employment in universities can not only be stressful, but also outright intolerable. What can mindfulness offer? In this chapter, I draw on contemplative science to explore how our conceptions and practices of mindfulness can inform periods of stress and intolerable pressure in university work. I unpack theoretical frameworks where mindfulness is constructed as a practice, state, trait and/or a life path. I consider personal mindfulness practice through the lens of epistemologies of change, where mindfulness can be constructed as extrinsic or intrinsic to ourselves. I argue that by approaching mindfulness as an intrinsic trait, we can take the pressure off ourselves in terms of the “best” ways to practice. Simply observing non-judgmentally may be enough. Paradoxically, I refer to the “McMindfulness” critique of mindfulness training in the workplace, where a non-judgemental approach could position employees to experience passive exploitation. I argue that the key to deciding between non-doing or action is in our wise discernment, which at salient times can empower a practitioner not to be a “doormat”, but instead to sidestep metaphorical “boulders”. Throughout this chapter, I weave through my experiences of mindfulness as a personal path including: following daily practice and ritual; using Thich Nhat Hahns’ mindfulness pebble as a skilful approach to anger; and supporting LGBTQI + staff and students’ legal rights.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMindfulness in the Academy
Subtitle of host publicationPractices and Perspectives from Scholars
EditorsNarelle Lemon, Sharon McDonough
Place of PublicationGateway East Singapore
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789811321436
ISBN (Print)9789811321429
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this