This time of year is stressful enough for most people. Add in a week of exams and things can feel downright crushing.

Taking this into account, the Parton Center for Health and Wellness has been proactive in offering students, staff, and faculty a range of stress-reducing activities during exam week.

Last spring Middmag checked out one of their scheduled sessions with Therapy Dogs—hard not to see the positive results of that experience! The dogs are back this semester, on Wednesday from 1:30-2:30 p.m. in Coltrane Lounge, and the center has added a week of meditation sessions as well, wonderfully tucked away in the Mitchell Greene Lounge in McCullough.

Middmag stopped by a few sessions at the start of the week to see how things were going. Four times a day the sessions are guided—at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.—and the rest of the day the room is peacefully quiet.

Rows of mats and cushions line the floor, and the daylight—even on a gloomy day—streams brightly through the windows and overhead skylight.

Several people have volunteered to guide sessions, and on this particular visit Chris Shaw, a visiting lecturer in English and American lit, sat quietly at the head of the room. Experienced in meditation—he’s been practicing for about ten years—this was actually his first time leading a group (you wouldn’t have known it.). As the stragglers settled in on their cushions, took a deep breath, and closed their eyes, Shaw gently offered cues about breathing, focusing on positive thoughts, and generally being mindful of your body.

Neat piles of handouts on the welcome table enlighten the amateur to the practice of beginner meditation. First and foremost, respect the “noble silence” of the space. Resist the temptation to talk out loud or even bust a move into your best Sun Salutation or Downward Dog. This is most definitely a place of quiet, in both mind and body. And also give yourself a break—recognize that it may feel a little weird at first, but that the benefits are apparent over time, especially for students who are facing new life experiences and sensory overload at a rapid clip. The key word, though, is “time,” as another guideline notes: the benefits of mindfulness meditation accrue over time. That’s why they call it “practice.”

For twenty minutes the small group sat quietly, with only a few prompts from Shaw. Then a resonant and singular tone of a meditation bowl brought the session to a close. As the group slowly stood to shrug into scarves and down jackets, another string of students ambled in to take their places.

Drop-in and Guided Mindfulness Meditation
December 10-15
Mitchell Greene Lounge at McCullough
Drop-in: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Guided: 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Sponsored by Parton Center for Health and Wellness

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