01: Mindfulness in Leadership, Education, Sports, and Cancer Recovery with Doug Worthen

Doug Worthen is the Director of Mindfulness and Head Boys Lacrosse Coach at Middlesex School, an independent high school in Concord, Massachusetts. He is the first person to hold the title of Director of Mindfulness at a major independent school in the US. He also has an epic life story that he’s never before revealed so fully in an interview. Once upon a time, Doug was on a very different path. He went from being a national champion lacrosse player at the University of Virginia to sailing around the Caribbean for two years with a friend to working in the family business---all of this before a Stage 4 Lymphoma stopped him in his tracks and awakened him to a mindfulness practice. 

Relying on this practice is what got him through a very long and difficult recovery and an eventual relapse. That experience set him on a new path to following a dream to teach mindfulness practice at his alma mater and look for ways to help other schools expose their communities to the power of contemplative learning and practice. Doug and I met five years ago when I worked in Contemplative Studies at Brown, and we connected over a shared excitement about combining mindfulness practice and sports. Since then we’ve worked multi-week retreats together on leadership and a few week-long retreats on meditation. He shares his story because he genuinely believes that it can serve people.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • What Doug does as Director of Mindfulness at Middlesex School

  • The training available to faculty, staff, students, and parents through different levels of mindfulness

  • How the program started at the school in 2009 and has grown each year since then and why mindfulness practice is a required course at Middlesex School

  • Defining mindfulness and how empathy and self-compassion fit into mindfulness practice

  • What Doug’s life was like at Middlesex School---way before mindfulness and his transition to UVA as a lacrosse player

  • The idea to sail the Caribbean with a friend and what the experience taught Doug

  • With plans in place to attend business school in Hong Kong, Doug received a Stage 4 Lympoma diagnosis

  • How mindfulness practice became a lifeline as Doug fought the disease

  • The dream to have a Director of Mindfulness in every school, so everyone can be introduced to it as a teenager

  • The teachers and retreats that have been most influential in Doug’s life

  • How Doug weaves mindfulness into sports as Head Lacrosse Coach

  • Doug’s recommendation to get started in mindfulness


Todd Iarussi