If someone were to ask you to name a person who is often stressed, you might answer by exclaiming, “Me! I’m always feeling stressed!”
College students have a reputation for being stressed, with often unhealthy sleeping patterns, new responsibilities in and outside the classroom and a heavy workload.
In college, students might find it difficult to locate time for all their homework, let alone time to relax. But, perhaps a short period of relaxation could help them tackle their to-do list more productively. That’s what psychology professor Dr. Susan Labine believes.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, she began offering weekly meditation meetings from 4 to 4:25 p.m. in Compton Hall, room 111.
She might be “rushing from thing to thing,” much like those stressed college students, but after leading the meditation meeting, she would feel relieved.
“I had to get myself centered,” Labine said. “I usually do them while I am leading them, and it was just this wonderful break, just stopping things for a while.”
She said when she went back to the rest of her day’s activities, she was able to focus better.
Student, Taylor Proper, has meditated with Labine in previous semesters and has taken her class on mindfulness and meditation.
“Meditation isn’t just sitting cross-legged on the floor doing ‘Ohms,’” Proper said. “Meditation is about gaining insight about yourself and the relationship between your mind and your body.”
Labine began holding meditation meetings in 2013, and while she hasn’t consistently offered them every semester, she wanted to get them started again to help students combat their stress.
Each week Labine does different meditations.
“The first week we did an eating meditation, where you eat a raisin slowly and mindfully,” she said. “Then, we did a breath meditation, where you focus on your breath.”
At the second session, on Oct. 21, she led a body scan meditation, in order to help students get reacquainted with their bodies.
“We’re often very out of touch with our bodies,” Labine said. “We kind of operate from the neck up, and we lose our sense of our physical self.”
She said that it is not uncommon for people to get scared when they notice sensations in their bodies, but when they are in touch with their body more regularly, people can recognize whether or not they should be concerned about certain things.
Later in the semester, Labine wants to hold more “imagerybased” meditations, where her favorite is one called love and kindness. Students begin by wishing their friends and family well, then it expands to wishing health and wellness for themselves and for those who they dislike. It can even expand as far as wishing that all people everywhere be free from suffering.
“It’s often easy to do love and kindness to people that we love; it’s easy to wish them well,” Labine said. “But some people struggle more with love for oneself…[but] to be compassionate to oneself decreases negative self-evaluation and also tends to help us feel much more connected to others.”
Likewise, wishing kindness to those who you dislike can also be difficult.
“When you bring to mind someone that you have disagreements with or someone that you are angry with, and then, you start to wish them well, it just shifts the way you see them,” Labine said.
“When people make us angry, sometimes we have really strong reactions, but I think if we take the time to really visualize them and to genuinely wish them well, it just gives you that little space to see things differently.”
A person’s unique situation determines which type of meditation can be most helpful at a given time, but using a breathing meditation is one of the most basic, but beneficial ways to focus.
It helps people to concentrate on something besides the thoughts and worries running through people’s minds. By focusing on something like breathing, instead of those other things, people can relax, according to Labine.
Proper agreed, saying that meditation is more than “thinking about nothing.”
“There is always a point of concentration,” she said. “It actually takes practice to focus on your breathing or relaxing your body… You have to learn to accept the random thoughts that come into your mind and acknowledge them, without pushing them away, just letting them pass and then slowly bringing your attention back to your point of concentration.”
Students can use meditation on their own time, too. YouTube has many free guided audio meditations and there are applications available on iTunes to help people meditate.
“A lot of people who are into mindfulness and meditation are really happy to share the resources free,” Labine said.
Student, William Schoy, begins each day with 45 minutes of meditation.
“It’s been beneficial for me because I find myself with a sure sense of focus and direction,” Schoy said. “Meditation has brought me an inner peace that’s helped me pursue my goals in life.”
He described the feeling as the “brief seconds” before falling asleep at night.
Labine hopes students will attend the Wednesday meditation sessions, even if they have a 4:30 class to attend. She assures students that the meeting ends promptly at 4:25 to allow time for students to get to their next class.
However, she is available afterwards for anyone who wants to discuss it.
“You can certainly use it in times of difficulty, but it’s hard to learn in times of difficulty,” Labine said. “It helps to practice it in every day situations and then, so when you need it, you might be able to use it.”
Tracy Geibel is the Campus Life Editor of The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org