Mount talk explores everyday mindfulness, spiritual balance

October 23, 2018

Judith Valente, author and journalist, recently presented “How to Be an Everyday Contemplative” at Mount Saint Mary College.

Judith Valente, author and journalist, recently presented “How to Be an Everyday Contemplative” at Mount Saint Mary College.


Author and journalist Judith Valente kicked off this semester’s Catholic and Dominican Institute speaker series with her talk “How to Be an Everyday Contemplative” earlier this month at Mount Saint Mary College.

Valente is a sought-after speaker on work and faith, and guides frequent retreats and workshops across the country on living a more contemplative life in the age of Twitter. In her talk, she answered what seems like a simple question: How can we discover what really matters? 

She was once a hard-charging professional, working for The Wall Street Journal and PBS-TV. However, spending extended periods of time in a Midwest monastery helped Valente shed a “dual diagnosis of workaholism and over-achieverism.” 

“It’s all the themes that I’ve struggled with, and that have invigorated me for the last 10 years or so about how to be a more mindful and reflective person but still be a woman of action in the professional world,” she explained. “How do you get that balance?”

Valente said it’s possible apply the monastic values of listening, hospitality, simplicity, silence, prayer, and praise to one’s daily life – and still be a productive member of our fast-paced, always online society. 

“We can be contemplative, reflective, and mindful and still live a very active life,” she said. “You don’t have to run away to a monastery or an ashram in India to have a contemplative life. It’s an attitude that we carry within us.”

One of the most stressed groups of people Valente interacts with is colleges students, she explained.

“Students often tell me that they’re overwhelmed,” she said. “‘We have our studies, our afterschool jobs. We have all this stuff coming at us on Snapchat and Instagram. How can we slow it down?’ Forget your harried, busy professionals – this is what the students want.”

It came as a bit of a surprise to Valente that technology was among the stressors for today’s students. “They’ve grown up with this stuff,” she said. “And yet, they’re feeling like they need a break, they need a pause from that.”

So how can a stressed college student – or anyone else for that matter – start on the path to mindfulness? All it takes is ten minutes a day, Valente explained.

“Take just ten minutes out of your day to do absolutely nothing,” she said. “Most people I speak with love that idea. This can start you on the path to being an everyday contemplative.”

An award-winning journalist, poet and essayist, Valente’s most recent book is How To Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community.  Her previous book, Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, A Spiritual Home and a Living Faith, which chronicles her regular visits to a Benedictine monastery, was selected by Religion NewsWriters Association as one of the three best spirituality books of 2013. The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed was recognized by the Catholic Press Association. Valente is a former staff writer for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and has covered religion news for national PBS-TV. 

The event was co-sponsored by the Mount’s Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI). CDI promotes the Mount’s heritage of St. Dominic, advances the Dominican charism of study and service, provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues, and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue. The Institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.