Students becoming more ‘mindful’ of meditation

mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation sessions will be held in Fish Interfaith Center every Monday starting Sept. 10. Photo by Catherine Owen

All you need is five minutes. A mindfulness exercise called “Stop” has participants stop, take a deep breath, observe what’s going on in their mind, analyze their emotions, check in on how their body is feeling and then proceed with their day.

A 2017 report by University of California Davis found that mindfulness training triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class. Modern apps like Headspace, Stop, Breathe and Think and Calm provide guided meditations for people who want to learn and practice mindfulness.

In the Department of Religious Studies, Chapman is offering a one-credit class, Mindfulness in the 21st Century, that focuses solely on mindfulness and introduces the practice of “being present.”

Gail Stearns, dean of the Fish Interfaith Center and professor of religious studies at Chapman believes in the power of practicing mindfulness. Stearns was instrumental in creating the mindfulness class and has taught the class over the past three semesters, but this is the first semester the class will count as a one-credit course. Stearns also leads a six-week mindfulness certificate program, which is open to faculty, staff, and students.

Although there are many apps available for guided meditation, Stearns feels that it is better to have an instructor there with you, because it increases the pace of learning.

The mindfulness class focuses on exploring various mindfulness activities and exercises, Julia Artman, professor of the class this semester, said. Many activities could be thought of as being mindful, or aware of the present and the moment.

“In the class we look at (mindfulness exercises such as) mindful walking and mindful eating,” Artman said.

Mindful walking means that you are focused on the activity of walking without distractions, Artman said. Similarly, mindful eating means taking the time to really look, appreciate and enjoy the food you’re eating.

“Mindfulness is about being more aware of the workings of your thoughts and your emotions and what you may want to do with that information,” she said. “It’s a skill and a tool that can lead to being healthier. It may improve one’s capacity to learn, reduce stress and lead to feelings of happiness and friendliness.”

The class and the workshop on mindfulness began because the Fish Interfaith Center wanted to help students discover meaning in their lives, Stearns said.

“Some students do that through religious paths, but not all students do, so mindfulness helps serve a greater number of students as well as staff and faculty on campus,” Stearns said.

Shriya Jain, senior business administration major, is one of the students taking the mindfulness class this semester.

“It’s an hour a week where I can forget about the stress and focus on myself,” Jain said. “(Practicing mindfulness) helps me see the bigger picture.”

For homework, students are tasked with making an effort practice mindfulness during your week.

“(Mindfulness) can benefit you just by sitting for five minutes in the morning and focusing your energy on one object,” Jain said. “It makes you more grateful and it makes you see the world in a different way.”