Relieving Stress Through Meditation

Moving 2,000+ miles to attend college in a state I had previously never stepped foot in was not an easy lifestyle change. Back in high school, my main worries consisted of getting my homework done on time and doing a few chores around the house, but after being thrust into this new adult world, I was forced to think about things I had never worried much about before.

Need money? Better get a job.

Struggling in classes? Better seek out a tutor.

Dirty clothes? Do your laundry!

Dusty room? Vacuum!

Where did I put my room key?  Whoops, misplaced my ID card (again). Oh no— gotta make another Safeway run for snacks.

These thoughts were plaguing, leaving me feeling constantly anxious, constantly like I was forgetting something important. Who knew the basic functions of adulting would be so difficult?

Among all these new little complications in my life, I was missing my friends and family, whom I had always been dependent on, and once classes were officially underway the stress began to pile up. So when I got the first email from the Meditation Club— one of the many list serves I had signed up for during the Activities Fair— I made up my mind to go and see if it would help me release some of that stress.

At best, it would relieve some of my tension. At worst, by the end of the session I’d be right where I started. Right?

A few weeks into classes, my roommate and I made the trek from Jewett Hall to the Prentiss Hall Spirituality room, a fairly open room in the basement of the building. In the middle of the room, four people sat cross-legged in a circle atop some cushions. The atmosphere in the room was silent and calming; my roommate and I quietly shrugged off our backpacks, took off our shoes, and joined the small circle.

The club leader, Stephanie, began by directing us on how to sit (legs comfortably crossed) before starting the guided meditation. I closed my eyes, resting my hands on my knees, and listened as she spoke, her voice soothing in the stillness of the room.

“Think of everything you did today,” she told us softly. “Think about the events that led up to this moment.” After a moderate pause as everybody collected their thoughts, she told us to take all of the negative emotions we had been carrying around with us that day and imagine it rolled up into a ball.

How big is that ball? She had asked. I was surprised to realize I had imagined mine bigger than myself. She then instructed us to throw that ball as far as we could until it was out of sight, and I imagined myself feebly pushing the large ball, watching as it rolled away into the distance. Perhaps it was only a false sense of comfort, or a clever placebo effect, but once the ball of negativity was gone from my mind, I felt oddly lighter than I had before.

The guided meditation then led to a silent meditation, in which the Stephanie rung a bowl-shaped meditation bell with a mallet three times to signal the beginning of the fifteen minute long meditation. Besides the occasional sounds of people walking upstairs and some rustling from those around me as they got situated, the room was dead silent. A feeling of peace fell over me; with closed eyes, I imagined all the things I had done that day and thought of all the things I had yet to do in the coming days, mulling over both the positive and negative, thinking of all the ways I could reduce my stress and improve my life.

All the while, I could feel an ache in my spine from all the time I spent slouching, and a numbness in my legs from not having crossed them regularly enough. I was becoming acutely aware of pains I had never stopped to think about before.

The minutes slipped by almost too quickly. Stephanie rung the meditation bell another three times, stirring us all from our reverie. She closed the short meeting by asking us how we felt, and I felt surprisingly content and sufficiently relaxed (if not a little sleepy from having my eyes closed for so long). I had been skeptical of how the meeting would go and doubtful of the impact it might have, but I left the Spirituality room feeling good and refreshed. I admit, it didn’t fix every little problem I have, but it made me aware of how much I need to take time for myself and wind down. Spending every waking moment worrying, trying to socialize with those around me and attempting to get all of my homework done in a timely manner can be draining to say the least, but the short meditation reminded me of how sometimes, I just need to remember to take care of myself.

I urge other students to do the same. It can be easy to get caught up in the life around you, but it is not worth the sacrifice of your mental state; it’s okay to take a moment— whether it be fifteen minutes or an hour, whether it be meditation or other forms of relaxation—to forget about the world around you and just focus on yourself.

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