meditation in universities

It’s brain science: University fights binge drinking with meditation

Susan Donaldson James, NBCNews: A song by U2 blares from loudspeakers as Dr. James Hudziak tosses a brain-shaped football back and forth to students, calling them out by name as they file in to the University of Vermont lecture hall.

The neuroscience course, “Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies,” is about to begin, first with meditation, then the latest research on the benefits of clean living.

The class is part of a pioneering program — Wellness Environment or WE, which is anchored in four pillars of health: exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and mentorship.

Last year, the university accepted 120 …

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University of Texas psychology professor spreads meditation techniques, medical benefits

Hannah Smothers, Daily Texan: There is a calming stillness that resonates throughout the third floor of the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Building. Aside from the occasional drumming of footsteps or the rare interruption of a ringing telephone, the halls and rooms are devoid of sound.

Such tranquility isn’t necessarily out of character for a psychology clinic, but the peacefulness can also be attributed to one of its staff members.

Dr. David Collins, administrative associate for the Department of Psychology, has two master’s degrees in religious studies and a doctorate in clinical psychology, but he considers his practice of meditation as his …

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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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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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Lawyers who meditate

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The University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law recently hosted the first national conference on the legal profession and meditation. Yes, I really do mean “meditation,” not “mediation.” Called “The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar,” the three-day event brought together lawyers, judges, law faculty, students, and neuroscientists, according to The National Law Journal.

Conference organizer Charles Halpern, who teaches a seminar at Berkeley Law called “Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective,” said that the legal profession is becoming more open to the benefits of meditation.

“At one time it seemed very exotic, but interest in law and meditation has been growing for a decade,” said Halpern, founding dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Courses have been showing up in law schools across the country, there have been CLE courses on this and gathering of lawyers focusing on meditation.”

But this is not just some California hippie happening. It turns out that the sponsors of the event include law schools from around the country, including the University of Buffalo, University of Florida, and CUNY, according to the Web site of The Mindful Lawyer, which organized the event.

The sessions, which include yoga lessons, “contemplative methods for working with fear, anxiety, and nervousness,” and lots of similar seminars, are definitely New Age. But hey, if it gets you through the stress of law school and practice, why not?

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Living Well: Quieting the mind can boost the body (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Bob Condor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: You’ve seen those small, water-filled globes that you shake up to simulate snow falling inside the scene. Dr. Mark Abramson wants you to think about those globes the next time you feel a bit frazzled or stressed out.

Like, oh, today or tomorrow as we go careering into the holiday weekend. There are just so many hours to wrap presents and wrap up work projects. Or to see friends and relatives while seeing to all of the details.

“We live in daily worlds that seem to always be shaken up,” says Abramson, who teaches mindfulness meditation and stress-reduction classes at Stanford University’s Center for Integrative Medicine. “We rarely feel settled. Starting a meditation practice is a way to resettle ourselves.”

Abramson is way ahead of you, because you likely are thinking that meditation is too hard, you’re never very good at it, there’s not enough time … have I mentioned the right reason yet?

“The first thing I address in any class is debunking the myths of meditation,” said Abramson, who teaches several “Mindfulness and Heartfulness” weekend courses at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif. “Historically, when meditation first came to the U.S., there was the idea that it leads to a trancelike state in which you develop super powers.”

Just not the case, said Abramson.

“What people find is they can’t stop their flow of thoughts as they try to meditate and quiet the mind,” said Abramson. “They think they are failing. They think everyone else is able to do it.”

Just not the case.

“There is just no stopping our thoughts,” said Abramson. “It’s not going to happen and it’s not necessary.”

Instead, Abramson practices a form of meditation called “mindfulness” that simply urges you to be mindful of those thoughts, that you are having them, that you may be distracted. You can even practice mindfulness on your last-minute shopping trips this week or over the weekend when a relative at the holiday table is, well, annoying you.

The aim of mindfulness is to be more aware of your body and your mind. Stopping to recognize your anxiety levels in itself slows stress hormones.

Abramson doesn’t want his students to set rigid goals for meditation. The idea is to “tap into whatever experience is going on inside of yourself.” Staying mindful becomes easier because there is no right or wrong way of doing it.

Abramson’s association with Stanford is no aberration. Meditation has become subject for many academic researchers looking to increase what we know about the mind-body connection. Some examples: The University of Massachusetts has a large-scale stress reduction program used at its medical center. UCLA scientists are evaluating whether meditation techniques can help individuals with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

An Indiana State researcher, Jean Kristeller recently was awarded a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore whether mindfulness meditation can help decrease the alarming rate of obesity in the U.S. by helping to curb eating binges.

“The focus of this research is to help people more effectively internalize control about eating through meditation,” said Kristeller, who has been a meditation researcher for 25 years. “Not only do they learn better to control their eating habits, but they don’t have to struggle with it as much. They don’t have the temptations that usually exist because they simply don’t want to overeat.”

For his part, Abramson said a meditation starts with awareness of breath. A taped meditation he provides to students even acknowledges that the mind is likely to wander.

“Just bring it back to being aware of your breathing,” explained Abramson. “Notice that your mind wandered, then refocus on your breath.”

Next, Abramson suggests a body scan. Start with your feet. What do you feel? Then your calves and shins, the knees and on up through the body and head. Make any number of stops.

It’s possible you won’t feel much at all in some parts of the body. That’s OK, said Abramson.

“That’s information,” he said. “You want to learn from your meditation practice.”

Not feeling parts of your body reinforces the need for connecting the mind and body. So does lots of activity or stress. It is healthful simply to know that your mind is racing or your shoulders and neck feel tight. You can do a body scan in seconds.

After the body scan, Abramson suggests checking in with all of your senses and any emotions you may be feeling. If a noise is distracting you, be mindful of it. If you are sad about not being with a loved one this holiday, be mindful of it. Honor all of the senses and emotions, then let go and refocus on your breathing.

Abramson was trained as a dentist who now specializes in patients with head and neck pain. He came to mindfulness early if accidentally. As a 14-year-old, a serious auto accident put him in bed for 10 weeks. During recovery he decided to pay attention to his considerable pain and suffering, that it might teach him something. As a dental student, he learned about the more formal art of mindfulness meditation and “realized I was already doing it.”

His Stanford classes are filled with patients referred by physicians to help address such conditions as heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, along with “Silicon Valley executives who realize if they keep up their current pace and lifestyle they will get sick.” He works with plenty of beginners.

“My students jump right into practices of 45 minutes a day,” said Abramson. “But I tell them if they can’t find 45 minutes, then even 15 minutes can be effective. Meditation practice gives you the choice of deciding who you are. It starts with being kind to yourself every day.”

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Meditation and yoga help bust stress (Minnesota Daily)

Ching Lo, Minnesota Daily, University of Minnesota: A new stress-relief class is helping some students at the University ease their worries through meditation and yoga.

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program teaches participants how to manage stress better. The University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing organized the program, and it is open to the public.

The second group of participants began the eight-week program this week, learning how to relax more, understand stress and find peace of mind.

“It’s about learning to trust your inner resources — healing from within,” instructor Terry Pearson said.

Each course meets weekly for two hours, and participants are urged to practice meditation and yoga techniques at home.

Two sessions are offered this fall, and approximately 25 people are participating. Enrollment costs $325.

Jane Wobken, a University scientist, finished the course this summer and said it’s a good way to release stress.

“I established a routine, and I have the daily reminders to be mindful,” Wobken said.

Practicing yoga or meditation outside the class helped, she said.

“Yoga tries to get people to come into their bodies,” Pearson said. “Meditation tries to quiet the mind. You are practicing to be in this moment.”

Pearson said some participants have told her the course changed their lives.

Some take the course by request of physicians. Pearson said some patients were able to stop taking medications after taking the course.

University student Michelle Trotter said she felt satisfied after taking the first course this summer. It set a strong foundation for mindful thinking, she said.

“As a student, it offered me to be more mindful through the stress of school,” Trotter said. “I learned to turn inwards, to take time for myself and to slow down.”

She said anyone could use his or her time to be aware of occurrences around them.

“The goal is to be aware of the things happening or done, and not just doing it,” Wobken said.

The program began at the University of Massachusetts in 1979. Organizers said the class can help people with challenges varying from mental disorders to fatal diseases.

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Counseling and Psychological Services explores meditation as a stress reduction tool (The South End Newspaper, Detroit, MI)

Candice Warren, The South End Newspaper, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan: Dr. Steven Schoeberlein, of Wayne State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center, talked Wednesday about the importance of keeping stress at bay during a workshop on the fifth floor of the Student Center Building.

Schoeberlein demonstrated in a stress reduction workshop how stress can be reduced and how attention can be enhanced through a practice called “mindful meditation.”

He addressed a group of six people and discussed the benefits of mindful meditation and afterwards led the group in a brief meditation exercise.

In the discussion part of the workshop, Schoeberlein highlighted the importance of calming the mind.

“The idea is you’re going to learn how to slow your mind, be aware of your thoughts and be able to focus your attention somewhere,” he said.

Schoeberlein said that mindfulness was paying attention in a particular way.

“It’s about learning how the mind wanders,” he said.

The wandering of the mind should not be seen as a mistake or a failure, he pointed out. It is normal.

According to the Mindful Living Web site, mindfulness is the cultivation of non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-moment awareness.

The Web site stated that practicing mindfulness includes meditation and present-moment awareness during daily activities.

Schoeberlein mentioned multi-tasking as not being in the present. He said it was likely in American culture for people to have several tasks going on at once.

Schoeberlein also said not to believe everything you think. It could lead to anxiety.

He demonstrated what he called the “raisin exercise.”

He told everyone to imagine that there was a raisin in his or her hand and to imagine what it looked like. He then told everyone to put it up to his or her nose and smell it. Afterward, he said to imagine what it would taste like.

Schoeberlein explained that he was teaching how to bring attention and awareness to what one is doing.

He said that mindful meditation is particularly useful for artists and schoolteachers. Teachers who practice the technique don’t feel as burned out.

He said that mindful meditation helps people to become more connected to one another.

“If you’re not in the moment and paying attention to people, you’re not going to pick up on how people express themselves,” he said.

According to, a Web site that gives information on meditation, mindful meditation can lead to more efficient studying for students, increased ability in problem solving and acquisition of skills such as language.

Schoeberlein said that anyone can meditate.

“Kindergartners can meditate,” he said, speaking from his experience working with them. “They do it pretty well.”

Schoeberlein said that with meditation, there is the common belief that one will have a lofty experience or a great zone of enlightenment.

The group engaged in a type of meditation derived from Buddhist training that he said comes from focusing on the breath.

The meditation started off with Schoeberlein telling everybody to sit quietly, close their eyes, and focus on the abdominal wall.

Mindful meditation requires one to sit in a comfortable position, with the back upright.

“In order to be in the present, you have to have an anchor to that present [moment],” he said.

Schoeberlein said focusing on the abdominal wall serves as the anchor.

Attention is to be focused on the rising of the abdominal wall with each inhale, and the recession of it with each exhale.

As the mind wanders from the breathing and one has realized it, then one should reconnect to the present moment. In other words, one should reconnect his or her focus back on the breathing. The reconnecting may happen several times, according to the Mindfulness of the Breath guide.

The meditation can continue up to 15 minutes or longer.

At the end of the meditation, Schoeberlein asked if any of the group members would share their experience.

Kim Werth, who works in CAPS, was one of the group members who shared how she used the breathing as an anchor to the present.

“I threw this mint in my mouth before I sat down here, and I was salivating and salivating,” she said. “I was trying to become aware of my bodily sensations and what was happening and being aware of all the saliva in my mouth and it just stopped.”

“My mind would wander and 30 seconds later, “where’s my breath?” she said.

Schoeberlein said he intends to do more mindful meditation workshops in the future.

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