Mindful education

Benefits of meditation and where students can practice on campus

Researchers have found that, often, mindful meditation is a solution to a fast-paced tech world that people are now living in.

In his novel Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, defines mindfulness meditation: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Minn Dalbacka, a student at the University of Winnipeg (U of W),  believes that people often have a misconception about what meditation can be.

“People think, ‘oh you have to be breathing, and you have to be in this perfect state of mind, and you have to be calm,’ and it’s like no, you literally just sit there,” Dalbacka says.

“And sometimes that’s the hardest part, just sitting there and dealing with whatever you’re dealing. And sometimes it’s kinda hard not to fall asleep, but that’s okay, too.”

Barbara Read, former staff member at the (U of W), and current volunteer facilitator for the mindfulness mediation sessions, spent five days at a Mindfulness for Educators retreat at Brock University in August 2013. After the experience, she returned committed to bringing meditation back to the (U of W).

Read worked with the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), student services and Winnipeg Insight Meditation group to do the first workshop in February 2014. It was an hour long, and she then moved to the shorter sessions after that through 2014.

“It’s a way to step away from being more reactive,” Read says about meditation.

“In a situation, you may react and say ‘oh what was that?’ It (meditation) helps you be more in the moment and more patient and actually more kind and loving. In other words, more accepting of differences, not getting so bent out of shape. It’s helped my self-acceptance. It’s helped me (to) be more forgiving of me not being perfect all the time.”

Lois Cherney, communications co-ordinator for student services at the U of W, says she comes “to relax and kinda have a pause in my day.”

For Dalbacka, she says she comes because “it’s really hard for me to meditate on my own, because I start doing something else. When you’re in a group atmosphere, you don’t want to suddenly get up and start doing something else. It’s good incentive to actually just sit there.”

With 160 students, faculty and staff on the “to be reminded” email alert list only a small number are actually going to these sessions.

“Eight or so people join, and it’s a mixture of demographics. It's not just students, it’s staff and faculty and external community as well, so it’s open to everyone,” Read says.

According to WebMD, some benefits that have been found from mindful meditation are stress reduction and improved physical and mental health.

For Cherney, some benefits she gets from going to the sessions on campus are that “it helps you focus better and feel calmer in your day to day life.”

Published in Volume 72, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 1, 2018)

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