This post was written by Slater Ward-Diorio, a Fall 2019 student at Syracuse London. For more from Slater, check out his music and musings blog.
On the first Wednesday afternoon of classes at Syracuse London, students gathered in the student lounge of Faraday House to learn about and practice meditation with Debby Johnson of The Mindfulness Project, an organization dedicated to teaching people what meditation is and making learning mindfulness meditation more accessible and relatable to a mainstream audience. If you missed the session, this blog post will show you some of the benefits of being mindful as well as a few things to remember while starting your own meditation routine!
At the start of the session, Johnson asked everyone gathered to sit upright with good posture and take deep breaths, letting each outbreath sink to the bottom of your body and grounding you in your spot. Johnson said taking 10 minutes each day to appreciate what is going on underneath the surface of your body that you don’t realize while you are on “auto-pilot.” Although 10 minutes of daily meditation is recommended, Johnson said even taking three mindful breaths a day would start creating new neural networks that will improve your mindset and mental clarity.
Later in the session, each student was given a small piece of chocolate and told to consciously hear the crinkling of wrapper, smell the sweet aroma, and then slowly consume the candy, appreciating every inch and sugar of the chocolate heart. Johnson then asked everyone to contemplate what all those senses reminded them of. Students responded with a trip to Hershey Park with their family and eating chocolate croissants at Starbucks. With just a little encouragement, students filled their heads with memories, connected the chocolate to another time and place, and created a meaningful moment out of an everyday activity.
Another useful exercise Johnson recommended involved grabbing and holding each of your fingers and with each finger, thinking of one thing you are grateful for. Taking a moment to appreciate everyday moments can create a much more thoughtful and appreciative mindset, which could make seemingly ordinary tasks much more meaningful while abroad.
Johnson ended the session with a few more thoughts to keep in mind while meditating. First, top performance requires full focus. Sometimes your mind may wander off, which is completely okay, but for the meditation to most effective, you must refocus on your breathing. Second, “bringing your mind back” allows us to develop concentration. Good meditation allows you to regulate stress, manage focus, and improve awareness which all help improve your ability to concentrate and be more efficient. Lastly, the power to direct our focus onto one thing and ignore others lets us bring to mind our priorities and what matters to us, which ultimately allows us to engage in effective self-management.
Overall, it was a very thought-provoking and fulfilling afternoon in the student lounge. Students left with a greater awareness of themselves and desire to continue increasing their mindfulness. For those that missed the event, “I am here now,” a creative mindfulness guide and journal, can be found in the Student Life Office at Faraday House. Join our Passport Lunch series for more wellbeing conversations, as well as politics, culture, and much more!