Mindfulness Meditation - A Way to Bring Balance Into The Grad Student's Life

February 03, 2017

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"My lab sections are always better on the days I come to meditation…the class always behaves so much better on those days it seems, but I think it’s me that’s different."

Quote from participant.

For over two years I have been gently guiding a free, open, and universal meditation ‘class’ at the Graduate Student Commons. We call it Open Mindful Meditation Moments – OMMM for shorthand and a mostly silent and secular sitting practice.

In spite of the OMMM acronym, we have only once chanted OM in our practice sessions. We spend most of the time doing variations on the basic and universal form of meditation known commonly today as Mindfulness. “Mindful of what?” you might wonder. Mostly of the breath, from various perspectives: noticing the breath, being with the breath, or focusing awareness on the sensation of breath in its natural movement, in and out of the body.

If the mind wanders, as it usually does, we bring it back to the breath, back to the present. This is a gentle mental discipline, a training of attention and ability to focus, developing and refining our awareness. All this happens from such a simple aspect of mindfulness. Often we also weave in open monitoring or OM (there’s that OM again!) and what I refer to as open awareness – holding attention consciously on one thing (breath) while being aware of other things happening within us and around us.

We practice witnessing them without reaction; just noticing and allowing the mind to monitor them while remaining aware of the breath. Sensations & movements of all sorts arise within the mindful space of our attention – our five senses, body sensations, the flow of thoughts, the arising and passing away of various emotions. Eventually we’re able to be aware of sensory input and sensation without losing awareness of our breath or, more importantly, awareness itself, and the still space within which all this is happening.

The fun begins.

Focused awareness joined with open awareness, which leads to a steady state of coherence. Coherence of mind with body; body with feelings; inner with outer; self with other. Breath by breath we build a coherent field of energy that we take with us and can rely on as an inner resource.

Practiced for short moments, but repeated often, we build resilience that can counter stress, to handle life’s increasing complexity and the compression of time that so many graduate students encounter on a daily basis. This practice is a way to help our selves, and our days, be a little more balanced.

To steady ourselves, body and mind, and train ourselves to respond coherently to whatever arises around us. Or even to just notice what is actually happening without reaction. Being present. Being aware. One breath at a time. OMMM…