Mindful on Campus
counseling at UWEC includes meditation workshops and sessions
On a bulletin board in a hallway of the Old Library building at UW-Eau Claire is a small white piece of paper with black print stating times when students, faculty, and staff are invited to practice Mindfulness Meditation.
Lynn Wilson, director of the UWEC Counseling Services, started meditation workshops at the university a number of years ago. She and fellow counselor Luke Fedie now lead meditation sessions on campus. “Campuses across the nation are incorporating mindfulness meditation as part of the programming that can be beneficial to students by helping them to manage stress and find a sense of balance in life,” Wilson says.
“Mindfulness helps to develop characteristics and traits that I believe are part of living a balanced life.” – Lynn Wilson
According to mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Kabat-Zinn has suggested that “mindfulness meditation encompasses the seven attitudinal qualities of non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.”
Wilson says that mindfulness meditation is an important part of her life. “It impacts the lens from which I view the world,” she explains. “Mindfulness helps to develop characteristics and traits that I believe are part of living a balanced life.”
Brian Zhang, who graduated from UWEC in December with a degree in public relations and global studies, has found meditation valuable. An international student from southwest China, Zhang practices meditation as part of being a Buddhist.
“When I was a student, I found meditation very helpful in calming down my mind,” he shared. “As a student, I not only needed to deal with my homework, classes, graduate school applications, and internships, etc., but I also had to communicate with different issues in life, and all kinds people surrounding me.”
Wilson and Fedie of UWEC Counseling Services recently partnered with Laura Manydeeds, the university’s health and wellness coordinator, to host a brown bag lunch seminar about mindful meditation that drew about 35 employees.
Faith Pawelski, tutor coordinator for the UWEC Academic Skills Center, attended because she was “in search of something like her restorative yoga class.” She got a lot out of the 45-minute seminar, and plans to incorporate aspects of the concentration, compassion, and resilience meditations presented in the workshop into her daily life.
“I have meditated in the past, although not specifically mindful meditation,” she says. “I have recommended meditation to some of the students that I advise here in the Academic Skills Center, and I’ve found that meditation does help some students with test anxiety.”
So what defines these various meditation techniques? “Concentration meditation” refers to being able to focus without being swayed by distraction, and the mindful eating of one raisin was used to demonstrate this practice in the workshop. “Compassion meditation” refers to being aware of and sympathetic to the humanity of ourselves and others. A meditation was read to show how this practice works. “Resilience meditation” refers to the ability to recover from defeat, frustration, or failure. And techniques were shared on how to become unstuck from obsessing about the past regrets.
Regular practice of meditation can actually change the shape of your brain and brain waves, according to Dr. Richard J. Davidson, a neuroscientist and director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center. Davidson, who is a friend of the Dalai Lama, is well-known for his research studying the brain waves of Buddhist monks. Brain scans show that meditation changes the mind, increases attention and nurtures overall well-being. Details of his latest research are described in the November issue of Scientific American.
For additional information about mindful meditation, contact Lynn Wilson at UW-Eau Claire Counseling Services (www.uwec.edu/counselingservices) or the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center (www.investigatinghealthyminds.org).