Marisha Schmidt is a graduate of Purdue University and Western Michigan University and has been a member of the faculty of Notre Dame’s Physical Education Department for 15 years. She teaches classes in yoga, tai chi and mindfulness. This spring and summer, she is teaching a brand new semester-long course called “Mindfulness and Health.”
How did you become interested in exercise and holistic health?
I was raised in a very open-minded family that practiced many traditions … I have memories of being a small child doing yoga with my mom and sister. I still remember the poses, mudras and chants. I thought this was pretty normal for a family in Northern Indiana — I later learned not so much when I went to kindergarten and did it in show and tell — that’s another story! I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me until much later … After [my time as an] undergraduate, I felt the pull and demands of a career and the expectations of life in general … I felt that my life looked great on paper, but I didn’t feel the quality or joy. This prompted me to revisit the various traditions and also motivated me to go back to graduate school.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I’m very fortunate to be teaching a new course … which is actually a culmination of my other courses combined under one umbrella — mindfulness. It allows me to use many practices and diverse knowledge in a way that meets more student needs and gives me more flexibility … In it, concepts and practices of mindfulness are woven into health theories, and I’m able to use various practices such as tai chi and yoga in a very practical way. I feel like it’s the Ph. D of all my trainings and experiences.
What can a students do in their daily routines to manage stress?
This is going to sound so cliché, but it truly is profound. I’m going to quote Thich Nhat Hahn, as I could never say it any better. “Happiness is not somewhere else … that you run after … you will never arrive. It is only when you realize that peace and happiness are available here in the present moment that you will be able to relax. In daily life, there is so much to do and so little time. You may feel pressured to run all the time. Just stop! Touch the ground of the present moment deeply, and you will touch peace and joy.” In my course, I teach others to just stop and see those moments that happen every day that bring us great peace. It’s not just seeing and feeling the pain, but also the balance — the joy, the good, the peace — it’s easier to forget and just see the hurt or stress. It’s amazing; once we are open to it, we start to see so much. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded.