Empowering students from the inside out: designing the achieving flow course by Andrea Mejia (F21)

by tuftsigl
Jan 15

Last summer, I worked as a Research Assistant to Edward DeMore, a board member for the Institute for Global Leadership, on an incredible project aiming to create a course about how neuroscience and meditation can help to achieve flow in life. The team consisted of four members, including Dr. Lynne Bentley-Kemp, an undergraduate student, and me, a Fletcher student. The process of creating the course started with comprehensive research for the syllabus that I synthesized into a working document.

This project was intellectually stimulating. We were engaged in discussions on spirituality, meditation, brain science, values, stress, motivations, personal development, vulnerability and the definition of flow. All these concepts had to be successfully woven into a course that would have substance and be of long-term value for the enrolled students.

While designing this course, we kept in mind that the desired outcome was that the students would come away with a clearer perspective on their aspirations and goals for living a fulfilling life. The syllabus was designed to be a flexible guide to understanding that the process of personal growth is ever-changing. The course is designed to help empower students in developing the skills and tools they need to cope with the exigencies and vagaries of life. Our mission was to support how the students relate and adapt to the world, guide them in gaining an expanded perspective of life, and reinforce their natural, intellectual, and spiritual gifts.

We utilized meditation as the primary tool for achieving flow. It has been demonstrated through brain science that meditation enhances cognitive flexibility and growth. Scientific research has shown that meditation changes the neurochemical structure of the brain. The act of mindful breathing allows individuals to produce more dopamine and other neurochemicals that engender a flow state. At the beginning and end of each class meeting, we built in a group meditation for an average of 10-15 minutes. This activity was designed to be the students’ introduction to the purposeful practice.

The next challenge was to incorporate this new intentionality into each student’s daily habits. We demonstrated long-term benefits. This is where brain science comes in. We incorporated readings, videos and testimonials into the syllabus that would reinforce a meditative practice that could become a part of their everyday experience.

Why? Creating alternative mental paths requires energy and persistence in order to make a conscious choice. We wanted to demonstrate that meditation practice could help bring clarity to the confusion that our minds tend to default to when we are bombarded with stimuli that we feel we have no control over. We build beliefs from the collections of ideas we hold in our minds. If we can modify the way we think about any issue, we can influence our beliefs.

In our frenetic modernity, to be present is a challenge. Thus, it takes practice to be present, to recognize that ‘right now, it is like that,’ and that it is better for us to accept and respond in a healthy way to all the events and experiences we encounter in life. It takes time to master our reactions and the way we relate to disruptions and challenges. That is why this course was created; the Achieving Flow team has taken on the mission of building resilience, kindness, and achieving a mindset among the students as a long-term tool kit for their lives.

The timeliness of this course is not lost on us. COVID-19 altered our lives in ways that we are not even cognizant of yet. Statistics on the rise of anxiety and depression have shown that the pandemic has created a global disruption in every possible way. Our purpose in this course is to teach students that stillness and intrinsic motivation may not change the world, but it does change the ways in which we deal with what is happening around us. We wanted to help the students build a ‘home’ within themselves, a place of love and calmness where they can cultivate fulfillment from the inside. It is there that they can find the confidence to achieve whatever goals and aspirations they have set for themselves.

The development of an achiever’s mindset is directly related to the intersection of values, passions, beliefs, and actions. Hence, this is a course to empower Tufts students. We want them to realize their potential and exercise leadership. Our ultimate goal is to encourage students to prioritize their inner selves to achieve flow, radiate their inner peace and inspire others.


Learn more about the program here.