meditation and university students

Professors win grant to study meditation effects

Three faculty members from the University of Redlands in Redlands, California — Fran Grace, professor of Religion, Lisa Olson, associate professor of Biology, and Celine Ko, assistant professor of Psychology — have received a grant of $5,000 to fund research on the “Impact of Meditation Curriculum on Physiological and Psychosocial Stress, Well-Being, and Correlates of Academic Success.”

The grant will allow faculty members to explore the relationship between meditation, and the physical and psychological side effects of stress.

The grant was awarded by The Trust for the Meditation Process.

The research project will focus on studying previous observations from Professor Fran Grace’s meditation-based Seminar on Compassion in the Religious Studies department. The research demonstrated that students who participate in meditation show signs of improved academic achievement, are more resilient to stress and achieve an increased sense of well-being. Research will be conducted on two groups of students, a portion of those who are enrolled in the spring section of Fran Grace’s Compassion course and a control group of a select amount of students.

The group of professors we will be measuring traditional clinical outcomes such as student anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and affective states; physiological responses to stress such as nervous system activity, stress hormone, and cardiac and respiratory parameters; and psychological measures of well-being, personal growth, compassion, mindful attention and awareness, dispositional optimism, subjective happiness and other potential correlates to academic success. The study is intended to collect pilot data for a larger longitudinal study.

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Meditation: the new medication

Kenneth Pham, Technician Online: Thanks to pop-culture representations, meditation is seen as something that takes place in the isolation of a lush forest at the top of a Himalayan mountain. Those who practice the delicate art know one does not have to be alone or in an exotic location to meditate.

Billy Juliani, a junior in philosophy and the president of N.C. State’s Buddhist Philosophy Club, defined meditation as the practice of “living in the present moment and being aware of what’s around us.”

“It reduces stress and anxiety and promotes a more peaceful and thoughtful approach to looking at the world,” Juliani said …

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Stress isn’t limited to adults

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Keith Upchurch, Herald-Sun, North Carolina: Stress isn’t limited to adults. It affects students, too.

Whether it’s a crushing load of schoolwork, fear of the next test or worries about money and the future, high school and college students face their own pressures in an increasingly competitive world.

Some find the pressure stimulating and motivating, while others lose sleep.

One person who isn’t burned out by carrying a full course load and also devoting more than 40 hours a week to extracurricular activities is Duke University senior Chris Martin, 22. He’s chairman of the Duke Honor Council, president of Club Sports, president of the cycling team and president of the Duke University Campus Recreation Leadership Council.

He recently calculated that those commitments take about 43 hours a week. He’s also got classes, tests and term papers, and is applying to business school.

But instead of letting stress overcome him, he finds it a pleasure, because he’s passionate about what he does.

“It is hard at times to be committed to as many things as a lot of us at Duke are,” Martin said. “But at the end of the day, the people at Duke make it a real pleasure to lead them. The people in the organizations I’m involved with have been incredibly challenging and passionate individuals who have brought my leadership to a higher level. They challenge me to become a better person.”

For Martin, it’s all about doing what he loves.

“It’s a pressure, for sure, but for me, stress is more about how you deal with your commitments and not necessarily the commitments themselves.”

To keep stress at bay, Martin tries to stay fit, and cycling is his sports of choice.

“When I ride my bike, that’s when I think clearest,” he said.

But not everyone reacts to pressure the same way.

For example, Elizabeth KonKolics, a 21-year-old Duke senior and Baldwin Scholar majoring in evolutionary anthropology, says schoolwork creates the most stress in her life. One way she deals with it is to get more sleep.

“I’m the kind of person that when I have a lot of stress, I tend to sleep more, and that can be a problem,” she said. “I would say that sometimes there are a few meltdowns, as my mother always calls them. And also, when you’re thinking about things outside of school or a particular class, it makes you less focused on all your other studies or the rest of your life.”

KonKolics is involved in several student organizations, and much of her stress comes from the tug of war between those commitments and schoolwork.

But she knows what her future holds after graduation: She’ll be teaching high school biology in Memphis, Tenn.

“It’s funny to think that Duke’s stress has prepared me for other stress,” she said. “I don’t know that we are always taught how to deal with stress, but I am someone who talks it out. I have a lot of friends I have breakfast with, and talk things out with them.”

Other ways she releases pressure is by watching movies, especially romantic comedies. At other times, she likes to close the door and sit quietly in her room.

“My mother has a funny saying [about stress]: ‘Take a shower, shave your legs and go to bed.’ ” She tries to take that advice.

For Philip Polychroniou, a Duke senior who plans to go on to medical school, stress is “a double-edged sword, because it can serve as a motivator to get things done, but can also be crippling, especially when faced with an approaching deadline.”

He said some students faced with deadlines often turn to energy drinks, coffee and other stimulants like Adderall to get their work done.

But Polychroniou prefers to run, play basketball or watch a movie to handle stress.

“I think to a certain extent, today’s college students are under more stress than in the past, because there is more competition, not only while in school, but also in the job market,” he said. “The recession hasn’t helped either, because our immediate future is in a bit more doubt than it would be if there was more economic growth and job openings.”

At N.C. Central University, stress is a constant companion for many students.

Describing her life as “very stressful” is Jessica Mohabir, 21, a senior majoring in psychology. She’s feeling the pressure as she nears graduation and tries to get into graduate school. Also, her mother recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, where she served in the Marines, and it stressed Mohabir to know she had been in harm’s way.

How does she cope with stress? By venting to friends and keeping a journal, which she finds “very therapeutic.”

She tries to get enough sleep, and takes time-outs to listen to music when the walls start closing in.

But money worries sometimes chip away at her peace of mind.

“Money is definitely an issue — trying to make sure I have money to pay rent, buy groceries, textbooks and so forth,” she said. “That adds to the stress I’m in right now.”

The way NCCU sophomore Tyquan Ward, 19, handles stress is “hitting the gym” and “making a to-do list and complete as many tasks as possible.”

The pre-law student feels the stress of trying to excel at whatever he does.

“If you don’t want to be successful in your schoolwork, you’re not going to have high stress levels,” Ward said. “But if you want to make all As, then of course you’re going to be stressed, because to get at least 90 percent in all your classes takes hard work. There are some times when you have two or three tests in one day. You’ve got to prepare for all of them, because at the end of the day, the professors aren’t going to take any excuses.”

Drinking lots of Pepsi has helped get him through long nights in the past, but this semester, he’s trying to drink more water and better manage his time.

And he believes the pressure on college students is more intense now than 10 years ago because of increased competition for jobs.

“Maybe 10 years ago, you could get a great job with a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “But nowadays, a bachelor’s degree is equivalent to a high school diploma.”

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Calgary campus centre mends the mind

wildmind meditation news It is a stressful time for university students who are in the middle of writing final exams but now a little relief can be found on campus.

Staff at the University of Calgary’s Wellness Centre say students are all feeling the pressure of finals and dealing with the holiday season.

To help students cope, they have converted a dance studio in the Kinesiology Department on campus into a stress free zone.

The overhead lights are turned off and soothing music is played and a labyrinth is laid out in the middle of the floor for walking meditation.

“Sometimes they don’t even need to do anything, it’s just providing a space that is separate from what they associate with school, and with exams and studying and stress, so sometimes it’s just having that relaxing atmosphere, having the nice music, the dim lighting, and options for them to relax,” said Adriana Tulissi from the Faith & Spirituality Centre.

Tulissi says some days there are as many as 20 students in the centre who are there to simply relax and let go of their stresses.

The facility also has mats so students can take a nap and lamps for studying in a quiet environment and is also open to faculty and staff.

The program has been running for the past eleven years and is open from December 13th to the 20th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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Relax, kids: Meditation touted as stress buster for children

Tralee Pearce: I haven’t studied enough. I’m going to fail the test. My mom’s going to be mad. Maybe I’ll skip class.

Thoughts like these can quickly gallop out of control in kids’ minds, but what if there was a way they could clear them away? Enter the three-minute breathing meditation, which can be done anywhere, whether it’s on the bus or in a school hallway.

It’s one of the cornerstones of the increasingly popular practice of mindfulness, a blend of Buddhism-inspired calm and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Used as a therapy for adults for about 30 years, it’s now moving into the world of kids …

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Flash mob meditates for brighter future

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Shreya Banerjee, The Daily Texan: Although many mobs are affiliated with loud noise and violence, a different kind of mob took over the north side of the Long Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday night.

Approximately 150 people gathered to participate in a meditation event held by the group MedMob in conjunction with International Day of Peace.

The participants silently meditated for one hour and then did a sound bath afterwards. The sound bath is an 11-minute interval in which the members chant one word together — with “om” being the most common — as a way to supplement their meditation.

“We spend most of our time hearing bad stories, and it’s nice to spend time with people who haven’t lost hope on a brighter future [and are willing] to stand up peacefully and make a difference in the local and global community,” said Austin resident and participant Elspeth Allcott. “It’s a living affirmation of hope.”

The roots of MedMob began Jan. 28, when 10 members of the yoga community in Austin decided to utilize the sound resonation at the state capitol in order to create a powerful meditation experience. As word spread, the event grew, and 250 Austinites as well as people from seven other cities chose to participate in the February meditation mob events. Over time, approximately 150 cities around the world joined the movement, and group organizers said the number is increasing every month.

“MedMob is an invitation to people of all backgrounds to collectively meditate and pray,” said MedMob co-founder Joshua Adair. “I believe that meditation is natural for humans, and it has been lost to suburbanization.”

MedMob’s current goal is to spread to other countries and host meditation mobs in other languages. MedMob’s Italian operations went from 10 cities to 48 in two weeks, and coordinators are making contacts for meditation mob events in South America and Russia.

“I’m so humbled by how far this has gone,” said UT alumnus Joshua Whisenhunt, MedMob core member.

MedMob aims to have meditation mobs in conspicuous places in order to get people accustomed to the idea of meditation.

“MedMob won’t need to exist in four or five years because through MedMob now, we will already have a world where it is natural for people on streets, parks, grocery stores, et cetera, to sit down and meditate,” said Patrick Kromsli, MedMob co-creator.

MedMob has already begun to have effects on its participants.

“It’s brought me out of myself,” participant Cara Hopkins said. “Even if you don’t talk to anyone here, it’s nice to just to come and sit and know that everyone is meditating.”

Though there is not an official MedMob student organization through the University, MedMob has held meditation mobs on campus. The previous one occurred on the first day of school and included approximately 70 people.

“Students on campus are often disconnected,” said MedMob organizer Jessi Swann, a human development senior. “Medmob has three goals on campus– instill campus unity, inspire future leaders and uplift students. We want to be the model for college campuses around the world.”

The next MedMob event at UT is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 on the East Mall.

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The fourth R — helping stressed-out students relax

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Louise Brown, They come to the guidance counsellor with headaches and tears and insomnia and nerves and grades dragged down by the expectations that weigh on their teenaged shoulders.

In one of the most academically high-octane schools in Canada, the epidemic of student stress reported by one in three Ontario students has reached a point staff no longer can ignore.

Concerned at the growing number of students diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorders — and more who seem headed that way, especially in Grade 9 — North Toronto Collegiate has launched an unusual program to teach teens how to handle the stress thrust on them by parents, the school system, and themselves.

Through lunch workshops in meditation and kick-boxing, laughter therapy and yoga and even listening to new-age music played on crystals, the school is trying to teach kids what guidance head Michelle de Braux calls “the fourth R — relaxation.”

In this final week of exams, such new skills are being put to the test.

“We’re a high-achieving school — Type-A Personalities Welcome Here!” — but we’ve seen a gradual increase in symptoms of stress from low grades and difficulty attending school to panic attacks in class, crying, even suicidal ideation,” said de Braux.

“We want to change the school culture and teach students the strategies that help them cope with stress. And next year we want to start talking to parents about letting students spread high school over five years to lower the workload and give them time to take the courses that bring them joy, because stress seems to have grown worse since we dropped Grade 13.”

Worried about the number of students suffering from clinical anxiety and depression, de Braux and social worker Jeanne Middlebrook launched a series of “stress-buster” workshops before midterm exams last fall, bringing in consultants to teach students yoga, kick-boxing and “guided imagery” where they imagined themselves opening an exam and actually being excited because they knew all the answers.

When students called for more, de Braux hired the Youth Wellness Network consultants in May — another stressful month — to run a week of lunchtime workshops in meditation, laughter therapy, dance, tai chi and the “sound escape” of listening to music played on crystals.

“I attended the class in meditation and really liked it,” said Grade 10 student Sabina Wex, “because it teaches you to focus on your body and recognize when you’re getting stressed — with me, my jaw clenches and I get headaches and my back hurts.”

Student mental health has become a hot-button issue. A new provincial coalition of mental health experts and educators wants more support for schools to be an issue in the fall election. R.H. King Academy in Scarborough ran a series of spring yoga workshops that drew 40 Grade 12 students. The Toronto District School Board will interview candidates Thursday for the new position of Coordinator for Mental Health and Well-being.

“The latest study by CAMH showed 36 per cent of Ontario students feel stress, which is concerning, if not alarming,” said social worker David Johnston, the board’s senior manager of professional support services. “In part it’s the social stress of being in this age group, made even worse with social media, and the new four-year curriculum is also quicker and faster-paced. The good news is, 24 per cent of students now reach out for help, twice as many as 10 years ago.”

The bad news? Schools don’t have twice the services.

North Toronto plans to fundraise next year to be able to bring in stress-busting experts like the Youth Wellness Network year-round and may even make a day of stress-busting workshops compulsory next year. Network founder Michael Eisen speaks to students about how to avoid exam stress by taking a break every hour and focus on the joy of learning, not the pressure of the end result.

North Toronto has created a student wellness committee for which more than 20 students have signed up, and will run a stress-busting leadership camp the last week of August to train committee leaders.

To social worker Jeanne Middlebrook, these are lessons as crucial as the curriculum.

“It’s about balance; it’s a soft skill, knowing to get enough sleep and proper nutrition, but it can be taught — and it can be modelled.”

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Meditation as a doable, daily dose of mental wellness

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Hannah Trumbo, Smith College Sophian: When you think of the word “meditation,” you might imagine a guru sitting under a tree for several hours, just breathing. Or maybe you think, “I don’t have time to sit and do nothing; I have so many things to get done.”

That’s what I used to think. I was the person who always wanted to meditate, but every time I tried, I could never stick to a practice. That is, until I went to the Helen Hills Hills Chapel’s weekly meditation group, which meets every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Yes, the concept is similar. We do sit quietly for an hour, but the environment is open and accepting of all different meditation backgrounds – whether you practice an hour a day or are a complete beginner.

Interfaith Program Coordinator for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Hayat Nancy Abuza defines meditation as “involving the shifting of attention to a still point of focus, with the aim of increasing calm and peacefulness.” The idea sounds simple, she said, but meditation isn’t necessarily easy. Like any activity, “practice will help.”

Practicing meditation does not have to involve sitting on a cushion for an hour. According to Abuza, “one can meditate while walking to class, before sleep, doing yoga, while standing in line at the post office and while eating.”

Yes, even eating.

Abuza encourages students to attend the “Mindful Munching” lunch workshop in the King/Scales private dining room on March 7, 21 and 28. Eating meditation can be particularly helpful for those who chow down on Smith’s pierogies on their way to Neilson.

Any kind of meditation can help alleviate stress, improve sleep, and mental focus overtime, stated Abuza. It’s especially good for students who can get wrapped up in the whirlwind of homework, extra-curricular activities, jobs and internships.

“Even for a short time, it is very valuable in a hectic setting like Smith to learn to leave behind one’s outer concerns and focus on one’s inner life,” Abuza explained.

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standing in line at the post office and while eating.”

Yes, even eating.

Abuza encourages students to attend the “Mindful Munching” lunch workshop in the King/Scales private dining room on March 7, 21 and 28. Eating meditation can be particularly helpful for those who chow down on Smith’s pierogies on their way to Neilson.

Any kind of meditation can help alleviate stress, improve sleep, and mental focus overtime, stated Abuza. It’s especially good for students who can get wrapped up in the whirlwind of homework, extra-curricular activities, jobs and internships.

“Even for a short time, it is very valuable in a hectic setting like Smith to learn to leave behind one’s outer concerns and focus on one’s inner life,” Abuza explained.

Alex Grubb ’11 agrees.

“When I know I have to stay up late to do homework but am really tired, I meditate on my bed or in the shower and it’s very rejuvenating and it helps clear my mind,” Abuza and Grubb are not alone in their opinion on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Research suggests that meditation has potential psychological and physical benefits. In a study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that subjects with generalized anxiety disorder were able to reduce their symptoms of anxiety by following a meditation-based stress reduction program.

While Smith students might not have the opportunity to participate in a formal program, just a few minutes of mediation a day can be very helpful. I recently started meditating five minutes a day, five days a week, for five weeks, called the “5-5-5” meditation practice, that Zen Buddhist Priest Ryumon Baldoquin described to me in December.

While I know that I won’t reach nirvana anytime soon, the five minutes do calm me down after a long day of studying.
So how does one begin to meditate? There is always Google, where you are bound to find millions of sources just by typing “meditation” in the search box.

Or, you could drop in on Monday’s meditation. Led by Baldoquin, the hour-long practice includes tips on how to sit with good posture as well as a walking meditation. The environment is safe, accepting and open – an hour to breathe, walk slowly or just sit peacefully before tackling the mountain of homework. Grubb said.

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Cycling course offers meditation, competition outlets

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The DePauw: Students in professor Kent Menzel’s class watch a peregrine falcon soar at speeds of 180 mph.

These students aren’t bird-watchers – they’re cyclists in the winter term course Science of Cycling. Menzel had started class that day with a nature video to emphasize the falcon’s athleticism.

According to him, both cycling and flying demand natural form and technique. The Science of Cycling class consists of workouts and exercises that develop these skills.

DePauw racing team member and sophomore Aaron Fioritto said he’s learned “breathing, body control, relaxation, and recovery” from his mentor and professor. Students have also skipped in rhythm, worked on posture, and practiced fluid pedal strokes on the bike.

Menzel said he believes the course’s benefits also extend into other classrooms: “How would you rather go into a midterm exam? Nervous, tense, everything out of alignment, or steady, aware, and calm – everything lined up to get the knowledge you have out onto paper?” Menzel said.

Freshman Arthur Small agreed that “it develops work ethic and a sense of accomplishment.”

The class rides indoors on stationary bikes equipped with resistance trainers. After lessons on technique, the cyclists mount their bikes and ride for 1-2 hours. Students either listen to music, watch videos of old Tour de France races, or pedal to training videos during class.

Many of the students will compete in DePauw’s annual Little 5 bike race.

“It’s been the incubator for Little 5 champions and great riders,” Menzel said.

Professional cyclists Phil Mann ’06 and Phil Mooney ’07 are two graduates of the course, which addresses both the theory and practice of cycling.

“The modern athlete is very out of touch with their body because we’re out there so much, on computer screens, iPhones, and living artificially through Facebook,” Menzel said.

Menzel suggests aspiring riders “spend more time on the bike” until they find a good body rhythm.

Freshman Carson White described the sensation as “feeling connected – heart and bike.”

Small said it felt like “there’s nothing else in the world going on except you on that bike, spinning.”

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Psychologist, students: Meditation an effective path to stress-relief

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Emilia Luna, the Tufts Daily: College students turn to a long list of activities to relax and blow off steam — working out, socializing, playing sports — the list goes on. But Christopher Willard, staff psychologist at Counseling and Mental Health Service (CMHS) and member of the board of directors at Boston’s Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, recommends they add another, more exotic activity to that list: meditation.

The practice of meditation, according to Willard, can be quite simple, though not always easy.

“Meditation is essentially just paying attention to what is happening in the present moment and deliberately avoiding distraction,” he said. “When I say paying attention to what is happening, that can mean what is happening internally in our minds and bodies or to objects and events around us.”

Meditation involves paying attention to one’s breathing and trying to keep that breath constant even if one’s mind starts to wander, Willard said.

“In this way, we build concentration and also start to get to know our minds better as we start to see the patterns of where our attention tends to wander — for some of us, it’s the past; for some it’s the future or [a] certain situation — and gradually see these patterns that get us stuck and then start to change them,” Willard said.
Although the personal benefits of meditation vary from person to person, studies have proven meditation to be healing for both the mind and body, Willard said. In particular, he said, research has shown meditation helpful with trauma, depression and insomnia, along with other physical disorders, including immune system functioning, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and addictions.

Beyond physical ailments, meditating can also improve athletic performance, creativity and concentration, Willard said.

While many students do not suffer from specific conditions they are looking to treat with meditation, anyone can achieve a greater state of calmness by practicing it, according to Willard.

“What people find is that they stop having to believe their thoughts so much; they don’t believe the worried thoughts that tell them they will fail the test or the depressed thoughts that tell them they are unlovable or give in to the impulsive thoughts that tell them to snap at their friend, go on an eating binge or cut themselves,” Willard said. “People come to realize that these are just thoughts and feelings, not facts that are true or inevitable.”

Despite its restorative qualities, Willard said the practice isn’t without its drawbacks. Beginners often struggle with making the time to meditate and sometimes find the process harder than expected. Additionally, some use meditation as a way to escape from reality, which may be problematic.

“It is true that for some people, they try to use meditation as an escape from what they really need to be doing — dealing with work, studies or important relationships,” Willard said.

Meditation is an accessible practice to pick up, Willard said; anyone interested in starting can try it in his or her dorm room or house and can easily establish a short, regular meditation time of five minutes or so. Integrating the practice into one’s daily routine is crucial for its effectiveness, he said.

Graduate student Nicholas Matiasz, leader of the Buddhist Sangha group at Tufts, said that meditation has become an important aspect of his life.

For Matiasz, meditation is a route to finding happiness and pleasure on a consistent basis.
“Meditation helps me in answering the question, ‘Can we find happiness from the very nature of the awareness we bring to the world, rather than always expecting something from the world?'” he said.

Meditation has now become a part of Matiasz’s daily routine, even though his schedule does not always easily lend itself to such a habit.

“I think of it as a form of mental hygiene — like I wouldn’t skip a shower, I try not to skip meditation,” Matiasz said. “[However], it is difficult to be a student and lead a contemplative practice as well.”

Sophomore Thomas Eley, a member of the Buddhist Sangha and a new meditation enthusiast, said that the practice has helped him see the world in a more balanced way.

“For me, it is a way of being more aware of my environment and a time to relax,” he said. “It makes things clear; it is a time where everything sort of goes away.”

Eley, introduced to the practice in high school, found his way to meditation through art.

“Art is similar in that you are only making one thing, and you are in an extreme focus that is similar,” he said. “I was meditating without realizing because when you are in your space doing art, it’s you and whatever you are creating.”

Meditation can often accompany other personal, mental and spiritual journeys, Willard said.

“For some people, meditation can be the start of a spiritual journey as well, though not necessarily,” Willard said. “Some people just do a brief meditation before they start studying or writing, or for others they learn some techniques that help them on the playing field or in the performance hall. Others find that it is the start of a creative journey of self-improvement.”

At the same time, Matiasz believed many people misperceive the actual meaning of meditation, sometimes conflating it with religious ideas.

Though meditation does exist as a secular practice, Willard said it is also an integral part of many religions, both ancient and modern.

“Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have wonderful, deep meditation traditions that have gone through historical periods where they are emphasized more or less or perhaps have been more emphasized in a monastic setting than for later practitioners,” he said.

Despite its benefits, Eley stressed that mediation may not be for every college student, especially if they fear solitude.

“It is a solitary activity, but those that are not scared of being alone could definitely benefit from it. It is a time to really center yourself and see things more clearly,” he said. “It is very important to incorporate it in your life because it keeps your mind fresh.”

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