Walking in step with their breaths in a circle along the walls of the Health and Wellness Center, students begin their Mindfulness Meditation class listening only to the creak of the floor and the chime of a bell.
In an environment where exams, papers and internships dominate students’ lives, it can be difficult to find the time and the means to find a moment to relax and simply breathe. To aid in the search for relaxation, HellWell offers free meditation classes every Tuesday and Thursday morning in October. The University Counseling Center runs the program to promote healthy bodies and minds.
The class does not rely on any music or nature sounds, but instead it is a two-part program that lets participants accept their individuality through relaxation.
Dr. Elliot Altschul, a psychologist at the counseling center, leads each class in a walking meditation that allows participants to slow down and move in rhythm with their breathing. This is followed by a guided recorded meditation which asks seated participants to imagine a peaceful place in their minds and envision the setting as a reality.
“Mindfulness is something that is helpful when someone is trying to get to know themselves,” Altschul said, noting that it offers a spiritual alternative to a religious prayer.
Altschul said the focus of every person’s health relies on the balance of mind and body, and HellWell is the perfect location for the class because the gym already promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Altschul, who has meditated regularly for 18 years, said that he hopes the class will allow students to “get into it” since they won’t be “sitting and repeating mantras.”
He also said he hopes that because the counseling center is inviting students outside of its office walls, students will feel more comfortable about using the center’s resources in the future.
“It’s nice to see a psychologist in a setting aside from an office. It’s less intimidating,” Altschul said.
Student feedback for the program has been positive. The number of participants has increased, ensuring that the program will be extended through November and possibly until the end of the first semester. After October, however, students will be required to pay a fee.
“I’ve been really stressed with everything,” senior Gabriela Borges said. “I’m actually going to get a pass (for the program). This class inspired me.”
But some students prefer more active classes that work with mind and body simultaneously.
Kerre Aufsesser, a senior, said this was her first meditation class, but she thinks yoga is more satisfying.
Altschul’s goal is to strengthen the mind, however.
“Many people believe meditation’s purpose is to reach nirvana,” Altschul said. “But this purpose is to learn more about individual self.”