Meditating in silence with palms facing upward and eyes closed would seem a practice reserved for monks.
And while Keuka College has played host to the Venerable Lama Tenzin Yignyen, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, meditation can also fit into the lives of Keuka students, faculty and staff.
So says Nicole Hunt, mindfulness meditation instructor, who will begin weekly meditation sessions Tuesday, Feb. 12. The program is cosponsored by the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL) and Academic Success at Keuka (ASK).
Hunt wanted to bring meditation to the College to show students how to focus their attention.
“You have the power to choose where you want your attention to go and sometimes we don’t understand that,” explained Hunt, who also teaches tai chi classes at the College. “I want to show the College community how to focus its attention on the positive things in their lives and not so much on the negative things. I want to teach the community to respond more and react less.”
Mindful meditation is a research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500-year-old Buddhist practice. A secular technique for enhancing positive life skills, mindful meditation has been shown to reduce stress, develop balance and prioritization, and increase the effectiveness of interpersonal and intrapersonal activities, among other benefits.
College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar says the CSL is interested in the success of students in their academic, spiritual, and personal lives.
“Meditation has been growing in popularity across campuses nationwide, and by offering meditation at Keuka, we have another opportunity to help students succeed,” he said.
And that is music to the ears of Jeffrey Carter, academic skills counselor for ASK and an adjunct instructor in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
“The primary focus of ASK is retention through academic support, and we see meditation as another retention tool for our students,” said Carter. “Meditation sessions at Keuka are needed because students experience stress and can have scattered thoughts. Meditation can help reduce these while developing more positive life skills.”
“I have always had a deep interest in understanding the mind-body connection,” said Hunt. “Through meditation, we learn to quiet the cognitive mind and awaken our feeling-awareness for the present moment. It is here that intuition and embodied learning can take place.”
Detar says the College is “fortunate to have Nicole,” while Carter hopes the skills Hunt will teach “are such that students can expect a greater focus in their lives, which may translate into better grades.”
“We hope that if a student runs into a conflict with a roommate, the meditation sessions they attended will remind them to stop for a minute, collect their thoughts, and proceed to resolve the conflict,” said Detar. “Meditation can also be useful for those who may have test anxiety and let them breathe, focus, and maybe have a more productive test time.”
Hunt has been practicing movement-based meditation techniques, including tai chi, qigong, and yoga, for more than 10 years, and is in her fourth year teaching mindfulness-based movement techniques at Finger Lakes Community College.
Meditation sessions will be held every Tuesday at 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Norton Chapel meditation room.
For more information, contact Hunt at [email protected]