Alex Barksdale is a Ph.D. student in gender and women’s studies who had been going through some difficulties with comprehensive exams and a stressful semester of studying. They would later find solace in a stress-relieving program through the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Center for Compassion Studies called Meditation Mondays.
Meditation Mondays is a weekly informal but guided meditation session that helps participants de-stress and feel comfortable. The sessions are open to anyone in the community free of charge and no previous meditation experience is required. Every week the session group will focus on a topic theme.
“We take a few minutes in the beginning and we see how everybody is doing, what’s on their mind, what might be useful for them and that helps a theme to emerge,” said Leslie Langbert, the Center for Compassion Studies' executive director and a Meditation Mondays’ facilitator.
According to Langbert, Meditation Mondays is a part of the department’s community outreach.
“We started as a way to give people that had been through our eight-week compassion program, a way to come back together and continue that practice,” Langbert said. However, according to her, people who had never meditated before or were interested in the practice started to join.
Originally, Barksdale was using an app to meditate, but then came to Meditation Mondays after learning about it on the Center's website. Now they have become a regular for more than a year.
"The way I look at meditation is that it’s a new exercise or practice that benefits you if you’re doing it on a regular basis," Barksdale said. "For me, Meditation Mondays has been a way to help me build a practice of my own.”
According to Barksdale, there can be much more to the practice of meditation.
“It also teaches that we are not our thoughts, our emotions and our feelings. And those are the things we usually get caught up in. and meditation is a way to step back from these things," they said. "Not to say that we can’t think, or feel … but rather than to be caught up in things, to kind of just observe or think more clearly about where things are coming from.”
The sessions help not only the participants, but also Meditation Mondays' facilitators.
Before he became a facilitator for Meditation Mondays, Jeffrey Schlueter, who is an administrative associate at the Department of English, was a regular at the sessions.
“Sometimes the little things in life can get under our skin, and there is a way of checking yourself before you react and being aware of how you feel,” Schlueter said. “You might train yourself overtime to be like ‘Hey, I sense a stressful situation coming on. Maybe I’m going to slow things down and take a few deep breaths.’”
Schlueter mentioned that Meditation Mondays sessions give the people the opportunity to be in their own meditative space and their bodies, and bring a sense of calm into their everyday life.
“I think having someone like Leslie or Jeff leading a meditation is nice because they bring their own kind of knowledge, their own experience. They bring their familiarity with different practices and traditions,” Barksdale said. “It’s not something that I would’ve thought of on my own, but when they bring it in, I think it gives you different tools.”
Meditation Mondays will be held every Monday until Dec. 16 from 5:45 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. at the Ada Peirce McCormick Building, the Little Chapel located on 1401 East First Street.
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