When incorporated into one's daily routine, meditation can boost energy and mental focus, reduce anxiety, strengthen the immune system and ensure more restorative sleep - the very keys college students need to succeed.
Whitties interested in meditation recently received instruction from Zen meditation teacher Debra Seido Martin, who presented two workshops in the Spirituality Room of Prentiss Hall. The workshops were co-sponsored by Associated Students of Whitman College, Whitman Events Board, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Martin, a psychotherapist who practices at Open Field Therapy in Eugene, Oregon, explained the ways of Zen meditation including body postures, proper breathing and principles of mindfulness.
"Even though we think we have to keep being ‘on' because we have so much to do, we're more effective when we can stop, put down what we're doing, relax, come into the present moment and return to the task at hand," Martin said.
Originating in China, Zen meditation is practiced by people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. Martin describes Zen as an open, unstructured meditation that is done in silence and does not attempt to achieve particular states like peacefulness.
"It teaches ‘non-opposition' to whatever is happening, which paradoxically leads to calm and peacefulness," Martin said.
So, when should students fit meditation into their already jam-packed schedules?
Martin suggests using natural transitions to pause and center the mind - between classes, while walking or before drinking the first cup of coffee in the morning.
"Close the laptop for a few minutes, sit upright with the body, and lower the eyes," Martin said. "One can then turn attention to the breath and perhaps all the sound in the room, letting go of ruminating thoughts, and noticing all the senses that connect us to the present moment - touch, smell, sound and even taste."
Another way students can incorporate meditation into their daily routine is to join the Meditation Community (Namaste) or meditate with a friend. Martin said the accountability of a partner helps to support a new exercise, which can eventually become a habit through practice and persistence.
Most serious practitioners devote 20 to 40 minutes a day in silent meditation. "Once one feels the benefits of bringing calm to life and getting in touch with what's most essential in any one moment, it's not so hard to continue," Martin said.