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Students turn to meditation for end of semester stress-relief

The end of the semester is here and many students are consumed by final exams and research papers. Some are turning to meditation for the supportive community and outlet it provides to relieve the stress and anxiety.

“Meditation helps you to focus on your inner life with your outer life, making it come together. It also can generate a sense of peace and connection with the Divine or with God,” said Ginny Murphy, a Mills College alumna and the off-campus adviser for the Workers of Faith club. “It generally reduces stress because you can sit in the knowledge of who you are and the knowledge of the Divine. It helps you gain a better prospective of life’s daily tasks and who you are as a person.”

In the lobby of the College chapel, where many students go to meditate, there sits on a table two teapots of hot chamomile and mint tea. Several articles about meditation are positioned nearby. Responsible for the cozy setup is Weyam Ghadbian, a junior and part-time Administrative Assistant of the Chapel who helps out during the meditation circle.

“I believe strongly that having meditation at Mills is really important. My role is to assist with the setup and arrangement of the space. I help to create an atmosphere that is conducive to meditation,” said Ghadbian.

The Rev. Erika Macs, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, holds the meditation circle in her office inside the Chapel twice a week. Usually about five to six members from the College community attend. Before the meditation begins, Macs lights a candle and participants introduce themselves to the group. Her establishment of the meditation circle was a response to a demand from students.

“When I first came to Mills, the Division of Student Life used to hold a fair in the fall, where new and returning students could find out about existing programs and departments in DSL. As the students came to my table, the top question folks consistently asked was, ‘Is there meditation at Mills?’ so I decided to hold a meditation circle, which has grown into two currently,” said Macs.

Each session lasts about 45 minutes, during which Macs focuses on a theme, such as gratitude. Participants are encouraged to sit, concentrate on their breath and reduce their thoughts.

“Meditation is another way for me to listen to my body a little bit more and just be quiet. I think we’re not quiet enough in our daily lives and this gives me the time to settle,” said Priscilla Wilson, a first year.

She and fellow meditator Sarah Blake, a senior, use meditation as a tool to alleviate stress from their daily lives and workload.

“It’s definitely improved my concentration. When I meditate regularly, I’m more aware of what’s happening moment to moment, especially in classes,” said Blake.

Meditation is offered in the Chapel on Tuesday evenings at 5:15 p.m. and Thursday afternoon at noon. Tuesday’s meditation circle focuses on guided imagery, mindfulness and movement meditation. Thursday’s meditation circle focuses only on mindfulness, a practice which emphasizes being fully present in the moment and maintaining a calm awareness of one’s body and mind.

“Do pay attention the type of meditation that’s happening each week. There are different types, some easier for beginners than others,” said Blake. “But don’t let inexperience put you off. It’s a very supportive circle.”