Over and over countless students face the stress and exhaustion of being in college. Through mounds of homework, work hours, and extracurricular activities day in and day out many students are living in a constant state of stress. Addressing this issue and finding an outlet is not always easy when your schedule is jam packed. USF has anticipated, realized, and meet that need for students and staff.
Beginning last semester at USF a meditation session was introduced to the campus. The session enabled students and faculty to have an outlet available to them to alleviate some stress. Initially Health Promotion Services at USF found research showing that college student stress levels where exceedingly high. Health Promotion Services started the meditation session, due to hearing from students that they wanted a more hands on approach and activity. Kamal Harb Director of Health Promotion Services, head commented, “I have been doing stress relieving exercise around campus, and the feedback was that people truly wanted something more hands on.”
The mediation session is held once a week, on Wednesday from 4:00pm to 5:00pm in the University Center, #417 and is open to anyone interested on campus. On average there are 9-12 people that attend the sessions weekly. The major hope and aspiration of the Health Promotion Services with the meditation session is for more people to come and attend. Currently the session are once a week in a small room, with chairs for people to sit on. If more people on campus gain awareness and attend the session, then HPS can expand to a larger room, with added session throughout the week, and more comfortable conditions.
The meditation session is highly flexible and encourages people to come as they are able to, not necessarily every week. The response of the attendance has been good overall. Alex Spaete, a freshman business major, said, “I have been attending the meditation session since fall of 2009. I initially found out about the session through a flyer on campus. I believe that the students are responding well; I find that by spending time meditating I’m more focused and productive.”
The meditation session are led each week by Dr. Catherine Al-Meten who holds a Ph.D in Spirituality. Each week she leads a group of students, faculty and staff through different series of exercises primarily based on what the group wants to work on for the session. This includes different traditional meditation practices such as mantras, mudras, chakras, visualization, full-body relaxation, and music. Al-Meten commented that, “I feel my main goal is to encourage those who attend to find tools that work for their own personality and needs in order to live a more intentional life.”
Some of the main focuses that are practiced in the session are Prana/Breathing and breath control, grounding, and learning how to intentionally focus our minds. This enables students to learn lessons on taking time to relieve some of the stress they have day to day. Dr. Catherine Al-Meten had very helpful suggestions for people who are unable to attend the current meditation session. Make sure to find some time for oneself and devote a bit of time to actually practice being still and quiet. Al-Meten said, “Taking a slow walk or swimming can be a meditative. Whatever you do with intention, can be part of your practice. One of the most essential parts of any meditation practice is breath, called parna. By simply turning your attention on your breathing, you can start to develop a calming, meditation practice.”
The session has a great deal of potential and assets that would help many students and faculty in a countless number of ways. According to Michael W. Scribner, Interim Assistant Director in the Office of Service-Learning at USF attends the session weekly and finds it beneficial to have something on campus he has access too. Scribner mentioned, “I look forward to it and feel like it centers me. I love that this semester it’s on Wednesday because it helps me get through the rest of my week. It helps alleviate stress and gives me some space to just “be” for an hour.”
The meditation session and HPS strongly encourages everyone on campus to attend the sessions; in order to alleviate stress, find some relaxing tips of everyday life, and bring and overall wellness to everyday life. Kali Portlock a Senior Marketing student said, “I haven’t heard of the meditation sessions on campus or seen any flyers around campus, but I would be open to attend.” Currently a flyer is available online and in Harney plaza for people interested. If anyone has any questions or interest about joining the sessions please contact Health Promotion Services or simply come by the sessions on Wednesdays.