On Oct. 25, The Haverford School welcomed Dr. Michael Baime, one of the country's foremost experts on mindfulness and the science that supports it, as its Best for Boys Speaker Series presenter.
“All kinds of critically important ways that we function are impaired by levels of stress that we experience regularly in our lives,” Dr. Baime said, such as the ability to establish restorative sleep, to regulate caloric intake, and to contain socially inappropriate behavior. To assist participants in lowering their stress level, he led a mindfulness practice, directing attendees to focus their attention on the sensations of their body in the present moment.
“Mindfulness is a structured mental process that steadies and deepens awareness by bringing it to rest on a stable focus,” said Baime. “By allowing awareness to remain in the present, we are less distracted and less distressed by all of our preoccupations, worries, and concerns. When our attention comes into the present moment, the body takes care of itself.”
Many of us are suffering from a constricted spirit. Our time-pressured sense of urgency and the number of tasks that demand our attention lead us to lose sight of what truly matters. Mindfulness helps us to remember what matters most, and gives us practical tools that help us to live a more connected, heartfelt, and intentional life. Dr. Michael Baime
He discussed his research on mindfulness and how regular practice can strengthen one’s attention and ultimately, change the structure of one’s brain. “The research shows that the part of the brain that you use that helps you to stay centered and focused and balanced becomes bigger and more active in an ongoing way when you practice mindfulness,” Baime said. “It’s called neuroplasticity – when you do something repeatedly with your brain, its structure changes.”
Beyond these mental and physical benefits, Baime noted, mindfulness practice can have long-lasting social-emotional impact as well. “What happens is that you begin to notice the people in your life – and that’s why it’s the most important thing for your kids, because you are the most important thing for your kids,” said Baime. “You start showing up more for them because you’re less distracted and more fully aware of the present moment.
“Attention is actually the doorway through which you have a life,” Baime concluded. “Everything that you can ever taste or touch or learn or know has to come to you through this doorway. If it’s not noticed by you, it might as well never have happened. You need to find your own way to make your life more directly met, more fully felt, and more vividly real.”
About Michael Baime
Baime is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and founder and director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness. He is the recipient of the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and the 2016 Award for Distinguished Contributions in Behavioral Medicine from the American College of Physicians. He earned a B.A. from Haverford College and an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.