I can vividly remember the very first time I walked through campus. It seemed so vast, thrumming with an energy of possibility, opportunity and hope. As a first-year, completely unaware of what to expect from the journey that lay ahead, I was filled with what can only be described as awe. The past year has been very different. That energy has been missing, hallways and classrooms empty, a sort of stillness replacing the buzz. As we return to campus for this academic year, I feel a similar sense of wonder to that of my first-year self – the excitement and hope for a year unlike the last. And yet, even in the midst of my joy, I find myself with underlying concerns and doubts. One of my professors asked us what troubled us most about the return to in-person learning: What will it be like to return to a lecture hall? How will I manage taking exams in person instead of online and open book? What will it be like to interact with peers in a classroom setting again? These are all worries that were voiced and that I’m sure are shared sentiments by others within the student body. All transitional periods come with challenges and this is no different, making it so important to find time for self-care and prioritizing your mental health.
The Multi-Faith Centre is putting on a number of Meditation and Mindfulness programs that run throughout the semester and are a great way to de-stress and find a moment for yourself within the whirlwind of the back-to-school season. I attended the first session of the Mindful Moments with Niamh Wall: Introduction to Mindfulness. The events are being held online, via Zoom, in keeping with the gradual move towards more in person events. They are thirty minutes long and take place from 12:30 to 1:00PM. I really enjoyed tuning into the session at this time because it’s a great way to change your energy after sitting for a long morning of class and provide rejuvenation for the rest of the day.
The session began with a background on mindfulness and mindful practices by highlighting its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism and its intention of helping you bring yourself back to the present moment away from external and even internal stressors. We were lead through two breath-based meditations, both about 7 minutes in length which I found really effective as this was one of the first times that I’ve practiced meditation and it didn’t feel overwhelming. Both practices began with deep breaths and a body scan from head to toes to center yourself. The combination of body scans and deep breathing were aimed at highlighting the connection between the sensations of the breath and the way they resonate throughout the body creating a deeper internal awareness. I found this to be very revealing as it showed me just how much tension I hold in my jaw as I engaged in the practice. We were reminded throughout the session to keep our focus on our breath and feel the way our body engaged with the space around us, for example where it connects with the chair you’re sitting on, whenever our minds started to stray. Only at the very end, were we invited to welcome those thoughts and sit with them to have a better understanding of what is lingering in our subconscious. At first it was a struggle to maintain this breath-based focus but eventually I felt myself starting to relax as I surrendered any stressful thoughts that arose, releasing them with my breath.
I found this session to be extremely effective and enjoyable. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of back-to-school and this class was a great way for me to slow down, connect with myself and my body. I’ll definitely be checking out the other Mindfulness and Meditation programs that the Multi-Faith Center is putting on this semester to make sure that while enjoying being back on campus, surrounded by peers and professors with the energy of new beginnings in the air, I’m equally making time to take care of me.