I’m interested in alternative states of consciousness, which is my thesis project, and I wanted to experiment,” said senior psychology and philosophy major Andrew Kile in regard to the meditation event recently held in the Tower Room of the High Library.
Throughout the last 17 years that professor of religion and Asian studies Dr. Jeffery Long has been at Elizabethtown College, he has led many guided meditation sessions that are open to all students, staff and faculty. The meditation sessions are held in a group setting, though meditation itself is a personal experience.
Before the actual meditation, participants are introduced to what meditation is and to what they will be doing. Then, there is a 20-minute session. This meditation session is followed by a time in which participants are encouraged to ask questions and speak to one another.
Kile mentioned his struggle with being able to meditate within a group because of the perceived pressure that comes with being surrounded by others. He mentioned that it is much harder to slip into the correct mind set—for him, at least—when there is a large group of other people.
Kile was impressed with the quality of conversation he was able to engage in with Long and the other student participants following the program.
While this exact event did not seem to resonate with what Kile was hoping to gain from meditation, generally meditation helps alleviate negative thoughts.
“It’s good for getting super close thoughts out of the brain—obsessive and cyclical rumination type thoughts,” Kile said. “It’s like shutting off the internal hose.”
Long said that most students who participated in the event were new to meditation, which helped to fuel an extended conversation following the meditation itself.
“Usually the discussion is very brief. People don’t have much to say, or they’ll say a little bit about their experience… But this group, most people stayed for about an hour. We got into a big discussion about meditation, and then it sort of went into a bunch of different things,” Long said.
Long expressed the fact that students in his classes are often interested in learning about meditation, but he does not believe in meditating in his classes. In years past, Long tried to encourage students to meditate during class, but did not feel that the sessions went well.
At one point in time, though, there was a meditation club on campus that sponsored a weekly meditation service in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. The founders of the club have since graduated and the club dwindled away.
The next meditation event will occur Dec. 7 in the High Library Tower Room. Long discussed the possibility of hosting a couple sessions next semester if there is serious interest, even though he will be on sabbatical.
He also focused on the different ways meditation is used. Long specifically mentioned that many college students use meditation for the sole purpose of relaxation, but that for some people, especially those who practice it on a regular basis, meditation can be a spiritual journey.
“Students feel stressed, so I think this gives them a tool for calming down, calming their minds,” Long stated. “The ones who are really much more serious and into it have studied a little bit of the philosophies connected with it, things like Hinduism or Buddhism, and they’re really kind of seeing it as a spiritual path.”
Another student who attended the event was first-year Tanner Simon, who uses meditation to alleviate sleep paralysis, a condition that causes people to wake up in the middle of the night unable to move any part of their body.
“I meditate on my own regularly, and I wanted to experience it with other people,” Simon said in regard to his interest in this specific event.
Simon expressed that meditating in a group was very different than individual meditating. It allowed him to experience the need to tune out the sounds of people around him so that they do not disrupt his own meditation.
“We talked a lot before and after about ways to maximize meditation and ways to fit it into your schedule better, and I feel like that was helpful because I kind of just do it whenever,” Simon stated.