With finals looming over students everywhere on campus, it can be hard for students to make time for themselves and their own self-care. However, Counseling and Psychology Services at IU Health Center is making relaxation accessible during this stressful time of the year.
CAPS organizes mindfulness workshops that introduce basic principles of meditation techniques to students from 4-5 p.m. Tuesdays at Herman B Wells Library on the first floor of the East tower at the IQ-Wall and from 10-11 a.m. Wednesdays on the fourth floor of the IU Health Center. These are led by CAPS counselor Kel Thomas. The Wednesday sessions will switch to 4-5 p.m. beginning in the spring semester.
At the workshop, Thomas first introduces themself and talks about their experience with mindfulness, then will ask students to share their names and experiences if they wish. They then introduce mindfulness to new students, then lead a guided 20 minute practice. At the end of the workshop, Thomas opens the floor to questions and offers students techniques for individual practice if they are interested.
From 12-1 p.m. Fridays at CAPS, students who have already had an introduction to meditation can come to an advanced mindfulness class led by CAPS counselor Ian Arthur. There is a short warm-up at the beginning, then students have the opportunity to discuss challenges or insights they find while practicing meditation outside the workshop. The meeting ends with 20-30 minutes of meditation, which can be difficult for those who have not practiced meditation before.
Sometimes, the first experience with meditation can be met with frustration. Arthur said students worry if they cannot quiet their thoughts during their first meditation experience then they are doing it wrong and are incapable of using meditation. But with continued practice of these meditation techniques in and out of the workshops, students will be able to experience the most success.
“In fact, you need the resistance of your busy mind in order to develop the mental muscle you’re after — just as a weightlifter might need the resistance of a barbell to develop skeletal muscle,” Arthur said. “If it were really easy to quiet the mind and hold our attention where we want it to be for extended periods of time, we wouldn’t need a practice like meditation.”
Students are able to attend the introductory workshops without being a current client of CAPS, so it’s an easy way for students to begin meditation at a time when they may need it most. Arthur also suggests students use YouTube meditation lessons or popular meditation apps such as Headspace if they are not able to make an appointment or attend one of the workshops.
Arthur said regular meditation techniques can be used to improve ability to focus and enjoy life in the present. Other proven benefits include addressing problems with anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and substance abuse.
Meditation has no competition or judgement involved, and Arthur explained it as a friendly approach to learning to be grounded and present with whatever is happening in our lives. Arthur said he believes students should not be intimidated by this practice as it is simple and one everyone should learn how to do.
“Being able to lean into discomfort instead of always rushing to escape from it is arguably a kind of superpower, and you can start growing that ability with meditation,” Arthur said. “Really, there’s almost nothing to lose by starting a meditation practice and much to be gained.”