I arrived at the Office of the Chaplain on the second floor of Houston Hall with a minute to spare. Inside the room, a group of about 10 people took off their shoes and took a seat on the pillows or chairs provided around the space. I took a seat on the “floor chair” — basically a pillow with a back — and closed my eyes.
I often find myself in Student Health Service; somehow I am extremely susceptible to breaking ribs, getting strep throat or suffering from the common cold. In these somewhat frequent visits to Student Health, I have stared at the various posters on the walls, encouraging me to “Ask for a condom!” and “Get vaccinated!” Another poster had caught my eye on my last visit.
“Free Meditation sessions,” it read.
I chose to attend one this Monday. Sitting in the quiet space of a Platt rehearsal room in Houston with soft music playing, it was easy to let my mind wander. That morning alone I attended Flywheel, drank three lattes and interviewed a source for another article all before 10 a.m. But my morning is not out of the ordinary for your typical Penn student — we are constantly in motion. Even with little work to consider during downtime, it is difficult to truly forget everything you are worrying about without letting your mind wander to schoolwork. This meditation class is meant as an hour escape, with Sandi Herman, M.S., health and wellness educator at Student Health as your guide, to unplug and live in the present.
Herman stressed a couple of important points about her meditation philosophy. The idea of kindness toward yourself and compassion toward yourself is a work in progress, she said. We must be present and here for ourselves, then we can be there for other people, she added.
Herman started working in SHS at the end of 2007, offering individual guided mediation and stress reduction sessions, and she started running group sessions about five years ago. Sessions are open to both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff. Sessions are held Mondays at noon in the Office of the Chaplain in Houston Hall and Thursdays at noon on the lower level of the Graduate Student Center.
In the session, we were constantly encouraged to smile and breathe in tandem with our eyes closed. Herman explained meditation is not “falling asleep” but “waking up.”
In the beginning of the session when Herman fell silent, I found myself thinking of the five-page paper I have to write, how I haven’t done laundry in two weeks, wondering if this is going to be like the meditation I attempt to do at yoga or some hippie, spiritual experience.
At the end of the session, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I missed a class after the session to interview Herman, but I wasn’t worried about it, even though I never skip that class. Despite the lack of peace going on around the entire world last weekend, I felt a sense of calm and that I was living in the present.
At the end of our interview, Herman shared this message: “You can come for as long as you want, it’s OK. Come when you can and leave when you can. This is something that you don’t have to compete or compare yourself to other people. You just have to be present.”Comments powered by Disqus
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