Alan Forrest: A mindful professor
Working from his home office, an adjustment many across the world are making amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Radford University Professor Alan Forrest, Ed.D. is uplifting the campus community with a series of inspirational messages.
Forrest, a professor in the Department of Counselor Education since 1992, leads an on-campus mindfulness group, called “Mindfulness Mondays.” Since its establishment, every Monday at noon, faculty, staff and students meet in Peters Hall for 30 minutes of meditation practice.
A component of the weekly gathering is an email, also sent on Mondays. It serves as a reminder of the event, as well as a guide to help group members reflect and focus on the day.
Most recently, the in-person gatherings have pivoted to more regular electronic communications to ensure compliance with health guidelines, while also ensuring the campus community stays supported during these uncertain and unprecedented times.
On Monday, March 23, 2020, the first day that Radford University students and faculty adjusted to an online course structure, Forrest sent the “Mindfulness Mondays” listserv of about 300 people an especially thoughtful email that received an abundance of positive feedback.
A highlight of the letter was a poem by author Kitty O’Meara.
“And the people stayed home.
And read books and listened, and rested and exercised,
and made art and played games,
and learned new ways of being and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways the earth began to heal.”
The response from participants affirms that, although the group is not able to meet in-person, they are still finding ways to stay connected and share a sense of support.
“Thank you for all of this, Alan! The poems – and your thoughts on well-being – all so wonderful, so helpful, and made me smile! I will share these.” Department of Biology faculty member
“I just wanted to send you a quick message to let you know how much I appreciate these emails…Your emails always remind me to take a quiet moment in the middle of this chaotic world. I frequently find gems in your emails that I share with clients and others.”
Department of Counselor Education graduate
“Thanks for this! I meditated this morning, but just one hour into this new normal, I was already experiencing anxiety. This helped.”
A friend and colleague
Forrest said he has been humbled by the responses.
“This was about as much feedback as I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve received some very touching comments.”
As #HighlandersRise above these challenging times, Forrest said, “It is very important to stay connected. When President Hemphill arrived here in 2016, he talked a lot about our tight-knit campus. He often refers to it as the ‘Radford family.’ I really like that, because, especially right now, it’s all about community, connection and a sense of belonging.”
A self-proclaimed animal lover and pet owner, Forrest also offered practical advice for those who are studying, teaching and working from home with a furry friend.
“Dogs and cats – they are our four-legged, in-home meditation teachers. They live in the present moment. They are non-judgmental, kind, compassionate and forgiving. They are healing. Cling to them. Cling to each other,” he said.
Forrest and his commitment to keep our community connected are a strong demonstration of the Highlander spirit and our steadfast determination to rise.
#HighlandersRise is an initiative to spotlight how Highlanders push through fear and frustration to pursue their hopes and dreams, even in trying times. Our resiliency sustains us, and our responsiveness empowers us. The entire Radford family, both near and far, is demonstrating a tremendous amount of strength during the unprecedented times we are facing locally, regionally and globally.