by Joanne Stirrup, Product Specialist
On Wednesday night, I labored over the upcoming exams, readings, and essays as I walked toward the John Main Center, a space dedicated to meditation and inter-religious dialogue on Georgetown’s campus. On this evening, in particular, it was also the location of one of my club meetings.
Our group planned this event as an opportunity to create space for reflection and community-building, a sentiment that is absolutely crucial during such chaotic times. However, as one of the organizers, I naturally undermined the vision and added the event to my to-do list.
These expectations quickly disappeared, however, as I walked through the threshold of the oldest building on campus. The room held a spirit of openness and peace that I didn’t realize how much I needed until I entered the circle, took my shoes off, and sat down on one of the cushions.
The individual who led the meditation understood that we were all beginners, so she first grounded us in readings about the practice and provided an overview of how the meditation would unfold. She first encouraged us to become aware of the way it feels to occupy our body, but not to linger on this for too long, for these feelings will arise and pass naturally. It was during this part of the practice that I was surprised to realize how much tension I hold in my jaw and shoulders. Unfortunately, the demands of college don’t often afford students the opportunity to even acknowledge these pain points, so this session was particularly impactful in allowing me to give space to these feelings. Admittedly, I also found it challenging to stop my mind from wandering to the laundry I had to do or the problem set I needed to finish. However, our instructor suggested that we go back to the feeling of our bodies or center on a mantra like “peace” or “maranatha” (or “come Lord” in Aramic) when this occurs.
The session was a powerful example of what it means to look directly at the mind and body. And this practice is useful in its own right, but the words of the instructor are also deeply profound and helpful for navigating broader, everyday issues. When discussing meditation as a whole, the instructor explained that it “does not ask us to change anything, but rather, the practice invites us to accept everything as it is.” As we continued to sit in near silence, she also reminded us that thoughts are impermanent and they can only have the power that we give them. These reflections are crucial to remember as we get swept up by our own thoughts, which are often self-deceptive and self-deprecating. However, if we commit to removing some of the agency we place on these worries, we move closer to pure awareness.
I celebrate and will continue to celebrate the restoration I felt on that evening. While I still have much work to do in learning the intricacies of mindfulness and its groundings in the Buddha’s teachings, I am incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to learn such a transformative practice. When the world feels like it’s moving faster than you ever could, it’s liberating to be able to work through your thoughts as opposed to letting them work through you.