By: Kaitlin Smyth
In less than two weeks, UMW students will move back to their homes to finish the fall semester virtually. In these stressful times, students are looking to meditation and mindfulness as a way to calm down their anxieties and doubts of going into the upcoming holiday seasons.
While some students relieve their stress through activities such as exercising, others use meditation. Meditation has two types of practices: mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation, which trains an individual’s mind to reach an emotionally stable and calm state.
UMW has offered students a meditation and mindfulness course since 2013. The Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation is a seven week course that helps students through a semester potentially filled with many obstacles that COVID has brought into their lives.
The course is led by William Brooks, a certified meditation teacher hired by Campus Recreation. Brooks views meditation as a form of contemplation and reflection as individuals step away from their daily activities. He connects with students by understanding their fears of transitioning back home for the holidays: he used meditation and mindfulness himself while he was a student. Brooks also reaches out to Eagles during these stressful times by providing beneficial tips for students to meditate at home during break.
“Meditation and mindfulness are our life survival toolbox. It is beneficial in terms of being able to be present with the challenging times in life, especially times in anxiousness and worry. The key is to bring meditation practices to the immediate experience. I advise to simply pause and take a step back to allow yourself to re-energize and recenter. Bring attention to your body. Then rengage to whatever challenge you are experiencing. Personally, meditation gives me these tools that allow me to meet those challenges in a way that is graceful,” said Brooks.
With two weeks left until Thanksgiving break, on-campus students will have to finish their semester virtually from home due to the fear that students might travel and bring COVID-19 back to campus if they were to return after break. Brooks encourages students to practice meditation and mindfulness during break as it can help improve their academic performance.
“One meditative practice is sitting still and feeling a sense of your breath in your body. This practice strengthens one’s concentration because the intent is to continue to pay attention to the breath. With consistent practice, meditation improves our ability to focus and concentrate. I find that the ability to focus and concentrate is very helpful. Meditation and mindfulness are very beneficial not only on the emotional level but over time improve our capacity to focus and concentrate which is beneficial from an academic perspective,” Brooks says.
Anne Franklin, a junior psychology major, reflects on her experience in the Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation course, which has helped her manage a semester unlike no other.
“This is my first time taking the Intro to Mindfulness course at UMW, although I have some prior experience with mindfulness and meditation. I was already anxious about coming back to school full-time. I had doubts about how well I’d handle a full course load. It’s so easy to get stressed out in life, and with school in particular,” said Franklin. “I have found mindfulness to be incredibly helpful for coping with life’s difficulties. Mindfulness practices have been enormously helpful in navigating intense emotions and feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and depression that sometimes come along.”
Franklin offers her fellow eagles meditation advice for those transitioning back home for virtual classes or anyone who is experiencing stressful life situations. She recommends students set time aside daily to check in with their emotions.
“Just setting aside five or ten minutes each morning to see what your body feels like, what things might be causing you anxiety or excitement can be so helpful,” said Franklin. Franklin also advises her peers to know the importance of offering gentleness and patience to themselves through mindfulness and meditation as these techniques can give them tools to gain a better understanding and relationship to the body and mind.