BY TESS SHEETS
The days all play out the same. Class assignments come early on, but the deadline isn’t for a week. Chill out! You have time, you assure yourself.
Or so you think.
Boom. It’s Sunday night and all you can do is lay alone in your bed covered toes to chin in blankets, contemplating your entire life.
“Am I going to graduate?”
“What is the meaning of it all?”
“Plenty of successful people have failed out of college, right???”
You have a classic case of “the scaries.” Somehow, you manage to overcome your crippling anxiety enough to fall into a deep sleep.
Monday begins and students everywhere are wishing they spent their weekend finishing that eight-page paper instead of binge-watching Fuller House. Today will be a stressful one of playing catch-up, and the rest of the week is too painful to even imagine. Blame it on the Netflix. Blame it on the happy hour. But in reality, yes, this is all your fault. And yes, you will do the same thing next week.
However, even the most egregious procrastinator needs balance at the end of this restless day. Meditation Mondays present just what the names suggests: a time and place to quietly collect thoughts and clear the mind. Every Monday at 8:00 p.m., the Sykes Chapel opens its doors to anyone who needs to calm the scaries.
“The purpose is to offer a safe and friendly environment where people who want to learn more about meditation or practice meditation can come,” freshman communications major Fallon Fischer said. “College can be stressful so we should to make time to relax, unwind and recollect our thoughts, all of which meditation does.”
Fischer introduced the meditation class to UT after a former teacher of hers began instructing a similar class in high school. She witnessed the positive effects it was displaying on her classmates and the results on her own health and wellness followed her to college.
“Some students who attended in high school felt less stressed and more focused it was also a great way to meet new people,” Fischer said. “I personally got to learn more about my fellow peers some of which I had never imagined myself talking to.”
The classes at UT can be taught by students, faculty members or alumni who have had prior experience meditating. Attendees are encouraged to bring comforting items like a yoga mat, pillow or blanket, and use the time to train their mind to be mindful.
“I started going to meditation Mondays because it felt like a safe space where it was easy to find peace and it was wonderful to be surrounded by like minded people,” said sophomore government and world affairs major Loana Zanchi.
The sessions all begin the same. Participants walk into a dim-lit room and take a seat on the floor while calming music eases their subconscious. However, when it is time to begin, it is the energy in the room that typically decides the group’s next move, not the instructor.
“I say it’s energetic to lead a session because you can feel the energy shift in the room and that can determine how the session goes,” Fischer said. “Most of the sessions are non scripted, people will come in and just speak from the heart and that makes it natural and authentic, and an energy rush too.”
Much like a sport is aimed at exercising the body, meditation is intended to exercise the mind. Therefore, a variety of techniques can be practiced to strengthen an individual’s mindfulness.
“Each session varies but some meditative techniques we have done together as a group include a centering prayer which the session was basically silent for 20 [minutes],” Fischer said. “One time we had a student read a inspirational meditative writing piece and then he interpreted it. I once gave a session and used a meditative visualization technique and described the beach and all it’s calming sensory features so it makes you feel like you are right there.”
The goal of meditation is simply to become more present, to understand that thoughts and stressors exist, but not to dwell on them. Because of this, some classes encourage participants to simply acknowledge thoughts passing through their mind, but not to dwell on them. One meditation technique is called Meta Meditation, and involves embracing self love in order to emit it to those around you. Performing a variety of techniques has allowed some students to better understand their body and mind.
“One of the most interesting things I found about meditation is how cluttered our minds are with thoughts,” Zanchi said. “I never realized how much was going through my head until I focused on that. Having the ability to acknowledge how to quiet the mind is one of the most invaluable lessons that I have learned.”
In some classes, instructors choose to present a guided meditation and encourage participants to join in on a centering prayer during their class. In a class last Monday, attendees concentrated on breathing and awareness while UT Alumna, Chanel Vanzant, ‘15, left her class with this parting quote from Ganga White:
“What if religion was each other? If our practice was our life? If prayer was our words? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water – the rivers, lakes, and oceans? What if meditation was our relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was knowledge? If love was the center of our being.”