August 16, 2017 :: MITZI LEWIS
SOME INSIGHTS FROM THIS SESSION:
- Re-evaluating formal practice structures in place to optimize life practice.
- Cognitively reframing perceived regression in practice--the valuable trip from hell to purgatory.
- Working with the expansive flavor of concentration and equanimity, even at the expense of discrimination clarity.
Mitzi also asked for advice regarding life practice within the current unrest in our nation. Shinzen offered: Love deeply and act effectively. (Shinzen recently gave a talk on this topic here.)
Mitzi’s first experience with meditation was a week-long retreat with Shinzen at Sunrise Ranch in Colorado 20 years ago. In the last three years she has especially grown and sustained her mindfulness practice in earnest. She recounted some of the benefits she’s experienced.
I’m more present, I’m a better listener, and I’m better able to support people. I try to be in a metta state as much as I can. Objectively my husband has noticed that I seem less tense. I tend to be a perfectionist and I tend to be tense, probably driven by feelings of fear, but these things have lessened. Overall I feel less tense.
But perfectionism can be an asset in the industry in which Mitzi works and teaches. As an Associate Professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Midwestern State University, she engages in a rigorous schedule of teaching and research, consulting, and institutional development. Mitzi feels that being an educator in this discipline gives her a special opportunity.
As my practiced deepened, I had to come to terms with some things. For instance, I teach social media, but I generally think we need to be less attached to our phones and be more intentional with our attention. So I’ve thought: what am I doing in this field now?! But actually this is a great place to be if I can bring critical thinking and awareness of attention to people who not only have their own experiences of the internet and mass communication, but who are also going to be affecting other people’s experiences of it.
One of the courses she teaches is called “The Internet and Society.” The description prepares students for this call to openness: There are (at least) two sides to almost all of the questions we will consider in this course. We will spend much of our class time discussing the issues and exploring different points of view.
Whether we’re working on basic issues or more controversial ones, I try to bring a felt sense of being present to that, and I feel more connected to my students. I consciously try not to add my own bias or beliefs. It’s about creating a safe place where we can talk and learn from each other. I want them to listen and to appreciate other points of view, and be able to make their own decisions about what they’re going to think.
She’s received positive feedback on her work, including professional awards and accolades from student evaluations. You can get a taste for her sensibility toward the bigger picture from the last lines of her department profile:
When not in the classroom or conducting research, Mitzi loves to spend time with her husband and dogs, travel, and experience nature—in places so remote that she doesn't even have a connection to email, Facebook, or Twitter. Somehow she survives.
MITZI LIKES TO CAMP AT FIRE LOOKOUT TOWERS.
WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD, SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS AN ESKIMO. (SHE WAS BORN IN ALASKA.) SHE WAS SAD WHEN SHE FINALLY FIGURED OUT SHE WAS NOT ONE.
SHE USED TO BE A BARTENDER.