Three students, a Daily Campus photographer and two other community members made up the small group that came to the Benton Museum for Student Health and Wellness’s Meditation Monday, Nov. 18. The new program allows students and community members a time and place to practice mindfulness without interruption.
At the beginning of the session, Nishelli Ahmed, a health educator with Student Health and Wellness who attended as a community member, introduced herself as the day’s meditation guide. She spoke a bit about the meaning and practice of mindfulness.
According to Ahmed, mindfulness is often described as being in the present and focusing on the here and now. When someone is mindful, they don’t fixate on the past or worry about the future. While this improved focus and sense of peace are major benefits of mindfulness, it does take practice.
“It’s a commitment to yourself,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed encouraged the group to use their breath as an anchor, as their focal point throughout their session. Walking, mantras and touch cues could also be used as anchors, but Ahmed recommended the breath because a person always has it with them.
Before students and community members transitioned into a mindful state, Ahmed discussed how mindfulness is a sort of cycle. As someone tries to focus on their breath, their thoughts will inevitably wander. This is normal, and the person should observe this thought without judgment before redirecting their focus back to their breath.
The process of gently guiding the focus back to one’s breath develops self-compassion. It trains brain pathways to stay on track but does not criticize for becoming distracted.
After this discussion, Ahmed guided participants into a mindful state. She encouraged those present to sit upright and allow their chair to support them. After instructing participants to plant their feet firmly on the floor and place their hands in a comfortable position, Ahmed finally gave the cue for the meditators to close their eyes and begin to explore their thoughts.
There were long periods of silence as the group entered the meditative state. Each time, Ahmed would break the silence to remind participants to be kind to themselves or to refocus on their breath.
At the end of the session, participants slowly brought their awareness back to the room and joined Ahmed in a short discussion of their meditation. Students commented on how meditation taught them better focus. Others said the habit of mindfulness allowed for greater wellbeing.
The group briefly discussed the benefits of mindfulness practice in the Benton specifically. One student said she liked the echo of the Gilman Gallery. Another person at the event said that she enjoyed looking at the artwork to give her something to focus on. Ahmed also noted how the silence of the Benton’s galleries made it a great place to meditate.
In closing out the session, Ahmed reminded those present that they could always be mindful by focusing on their breath. She also encouraged everyone to practice self-compassion, thanking them for coming to the session and wishing them a nice evening.
“Be kind to yourselves tonight,” Ahmed said.
There will be a students-only session of Meditation Monday on Dec. 2, as well as a session open to community members on Dec. 16.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.