Last Wednesday, Hillary Johnson of Calm Chicago came to my class and spoke to my students about ‘Mindfulness and Meditation’. After connecting via LinkedIn in the Spring, I first met Hillary at a coffee shop to pitch my idea of her visiting my class and speaking to my students, an engagement she graciously accepted. A few weeks ago, Chris Cinnamon visited my class and spoke to my students about the significance of breathing right, and posture and alignment, in addition to demonstrating a few Tai Chi moves. He even invited my students and me to try a couple of classes at Enso Tai Chi, something I might actually take him up on in a few months.
Many of my students have taken on meditation as part of their Happiness Projects and were therefore looking forward to Hillary’s visit to understand and learn more about what they had potentially, hitherto, only read about. Some were practicing meditation but as it became evident from students’ comments on their Reflections assignment, none had done so in a guided manner. Hillary’s guest presentation included an explanation of the need for a holistic understanding/rationale for prioritizing our mental health/emotional well-being. She explained and elaborated on the concepts symbolized by RAIN or Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Not-Identify/not-self, among other things, and then led a meditation session in the classroom that lasted a little over 20 minutes.
Students’ reactions at the end of the meditation session were a bag of emotions ranging from feelings of calm and restfulness, to surprise (many thought they had only been meditating for under 5 minutes and were surprised to find that we had been at it for 23 minutes), ease of physical pain, focus, and reduced stress. During our discussion, students talked about how they had never had a guided meditation session before and the impact of what they had experienced was truly profound. Several of them are now seriously considering doing this as a matter of habit. I am proud of my students for being open to new experiences. Perhaps some of them will indeed be able to pursue lifelong meditation and some may not but the intentions are noble and a good place to start.
I am further encouraged to introduce a quick 5 minutes ‘Centering of the Self’ time for all my face-to-face classes from now on. Of course, 5 minutes aren’t enough but it will force all of us, students and instructor, to just hit ‘pause’ for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, re-center ourselves from the craziness that life before and after our class will unleash on us, and just use those few minutes to calm ourselves. I think I really will incorporate this into all my classes.