Courage, meditation and diapers
Julie Loland will have little time to celebrate her graduation from Simon Fraser University this semester with a master of education in master of education in educational practice. The Alberta-born, Abbotsford resident has three young sons including a newborn to contend with.
She’s also dealing with a second round of chemotherapy to treat the aggressive form of breast cancer she was diagnosed with last February, which had metastasized to her lymph nodes while she was still pregnant.
A teacher at Terry Fox Elementary School in Abbotsford, Loland credits mindfulness meditation with helping her weather the crisis. The technique focuses the mind on the present and avoids dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.
Loland discovered she had cancer while investigating how mindfulness meditation, the subject of her thesis and graduate capstone project, could help her Grade 5 students overcome emotional and social challenges and improve their work.
Suddenly, her research became very personal. “Mindfulness research and practice within my classroom has opened me up to engaging in relaxation,” says Loland.
For her capstone project, Loland analyzed whether calming the amygdala, a set of neurons in the brain that affect the fight-or-flight response to stress, would foster better decision-making.
Capstone projects exemplify SFU's vision of being Canada's leading engaged university. They’re based on student-faculty collaboration culminating in integrated learning and knowledge, accomplishments in a field and/or new solutions to real world problems.
Loland had her students engage in mindfulness meditation exercises including deep breathing, isolating and heightening activation of different senses and learning to empathize with different perspectives on issues.
Within three months, students not only became less aggressive, happier and more focused on their work but they also improved their memory, concentration and listening skills.
Loland’s work with her students “had a profound impact on their lives, enabling them to better cope with bullying, conflict, emotional issues, self-doubt and more extreme issues such as parents’ death and illness,” says her capstone supervisor Cher Hill.
As for her own stress, says Loland, “I am learning to embrace this full catastrophe and allow the storms of life to strengthen me as I learn to live, grow and heal.”
Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.
— 30 —
Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities