In the upstairs room at the Center for Spiritual Life, junior Anna Roth starts counting breaths: “In, two, three, hold, two, three, out, two, three…” I listen to the instruction while sitting on the floor.
“Keep your eyes closed, breath naturally. We’re going to visualize a river, the water flow,“ the leading voice continues, intermittently. “Every time any distracting thought comes up in your head… Acknowledge that thought, see it as a leaf flowing to that river.”
I was at the second meeting of the Meditation Club. The brand-new student organization is held on Sundays at 2 p.m. and was initiated by three student co-founders to spread the practices of meditation to help people live peacefully at DePauw.
The session lasted for over 20 minutes, including the “body scan” practice where the instructor tells you to focus your attention from your head down to your toes. When I opened my eyes, following Roth’s closing breath-counting, a dozen of other participants again appeared out of silence. I found myself mindful enough to forget about my surroundings during the silence.
Roth, one of the co-founders, has been practicing “mindfulness meditation” for six years. According to her, the aim of the technique is to observe feelings and senses without judging them and being affected by them; instead, just letting them go. “We can be proactive, rather than reactive,” Roth said.
“I performed for my whole life, and I used to have a horrible stage fright,” said Roth, a voice major who sings in operas at DePauw and has also been a ballet dancer and a violin player. “Meditation helped me with that because I could observe my nerves without feeling good or bad, and eventually, they just passed.”
With two weekly meetings so far, the Meditation Club’s session has already attracted a number of students seeking a peaceful mind in the opening of the new academic year.
“Previously I wanted to get involved in meditation and I heard DePauw had one [organization],” said first-year Bradley Snipe, a participant at Sunday’s meeting. In addition to attending the club, he has done meditation practice by himself and finds it helpful for adjusting to life at DePauw.
Performing meditation on a regular basis not only helps to calm your mind but also to have better time management skills, according to first-year and co-founder of the club, Michael Ze-en Chen. He meditates twice every day, once in the morning and again in the evening.
Chen started to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM), one of the standard techniques of meditation practice, two years ago at his home in Taiwan. “It was part of my family tradition passed down for some generations … held by various members of our family who achieved successful lives in different ways,” he said.
Speaking of the TM method, Chen said the club is planning to bring a certified teacher on campus to spread the authentic ways.
The club will also collaborate with other campus organizations like DePauw Counseling Services. They will also invite outside speakers to share their meditation experience, according to another co-founder junior Salman Haider, who started meditating with an app called “Calm” after undergoing a hectic second semester at DePauw.
“Since many people at DePauw are interested in ways to destress and manage their emotions in this hyperactive college environment,” Haider said, “our future goal is to continue this practice and get as many people involved as possible.”