This post is an article written by Alena Sadiq in the Duke Chronicle on March 30. Alena gave us permission to post it here. Thanks, Alena!
Not going to lie, having to write a column gives me a bit of anxiety. What if I have nothing meaningful to say? What if I don’t even know that much about what I’m writing about? What if this piece of writing comes back to haunt me a few years down the lane?
Well, I’ll let you be the judge of whether there is anything meaningful in this one.
Last time I wrote, I mentioned my interest in workshops hosted by CAPS. Well I ended up attending one this semester, and it was an experience I’m glad I had. It was called “Koru: Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation” and was held once a week, for four weeks, for about 90 minutes each time.
It happened to be on Tuesdays, the busiest day of the week for me, and walking into the room I always had a nagging thought about what I could have been doing with that time. Something like, “why did I sign up for this, I could be doing homework.” Walking out though, I more often than not felt calmer and relieved to have come.
The purpose of the workshop was learning how to (surprise, surprise) mindfully meditate—I will not even pretend that I know enough about it to give an expert explanation so what follows is the meaning that I derived from it, what has stuck with me. To me, mindfulness means the pursuit of being mentally present, of (as cliché as it may sound) living in the moment. It means being accepting of what is. This can be achieved through meditation (or so I have heard), which often involves sitting still, focusing on only your breath and just observing it.
If I totally misconstrued what both of these terms mean, please let me know below (nothing like making a fool of yourself in public, is there?).
What was most interesting to me was the variety of meditations you can practice. I want you to try out one of these workshops so I won’t give everything away but let me just say, there is something called an eating meditation. And boy, are we missing out on enjoying the flavors in our food. Seriously.
Another thing I liked about the workshop was an implicit sense of community it created in the room. The people in the group felt they needed a break from the stress of their daily lives and acknowledged that in front of the rest of the group. They would occasionally share personal anecdotes and laugh together. It wasn’t group counseling, and we didn’t even remotely get to know each other’s life stories, but while learning new skills, we were able to at least implicitly acknowledge the individual struggles present in the room.
At the end of the four weeks, we were reminded of how hard it can be on our campus and in society at large to keep up with something like meditation. It was evident this was the case when at our second session, many of us (including me) complained about not being able to find ten minutes in a day to just sit down and breathe. Ten minutes. Think about that. What does that say about our environment?
We were advised to join a group as a way to continue practicing. I’m not sure about the rest of my peers, but I haven’t joined one. Spoiler alert: I have kind of fallen out of practice since then. I think I may have meditated once in the last week. I keep telling myself I’ll do better, but will I? I don’t know. I sure hope so.
One great app they recommended that I have been using to meditate (when I actually do get to it) and would like to use this space to share is called “stop, breathe and think”—give it a try if you like.
Campus culture often puts a lot of value on work and staying busy. Oh, you are doing two majors? I’m doing three (I know that’s not a thing, but just for the sake of argument). You are part of three clubs? I’m part of six and overloading. Beat that. No, don’t (but actually, please don’t).
Non-work is often seen as complacency. And it may be sometimes, but all the time? I don’t think so. In a society where everyone is always telling you to step out of your comfort zone, I think it’s important to sometimes embrace your comfort and give yourself some lovin’. This does not mean becoming complacent, lazy or being a jerk to other people (it specially never means the last one). It means taking time out for yourself and not feeling bad about it. It means caring for yourself so you have the energy to care for others too. In the words of the ever-wise Tom Haverford: Treat Yo Self.
Side note: It is so great that these workshops are held but they need to be advertised more. Accessibility is important. Nobody can take advantage of an opportunity if it remains hidden in some part of the student affairs’ website. I’ve only seen flyers at CAPS and I wonder, what about people who don’t go to CAPS? Stress management is important and more people at Duke should be hearing about these workshops.
Alena Sadiq is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays.