By Victoria Giardina
The College’s Center for Mindfulness and Compassion started the new semester with its mission to promote self-care among the student body with the recently launched, “Making the Most of Life with Mindfulness” course.
This nine-week, non-credit course includes a variety of activities such as meditation practices, mindful movement and reflection practices. The course also provides information on both the science of mindfulness and the activities that reduce stress.
According to Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Mark Forest, improvement in clarity of thinking, memory and overall physical and psychological well-being are incorporated in the course.
Lisa Caton, the founder and director of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, reflected on over 12 years of experience with the College and how the mindfulness program came finally to fruition.
The mindfulness course was influenced by Caton’s previous experiences at the Spiritual Center.
“I am a retired Episcopal priest at TCNJ, and I found that a lot of kids were not that interested in traditional religion,” she said. She has been practicing mindfulness for 30 years.
Caton studied at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness and trained in Philadelphia to supplement her studies.
“We want all students to be (in the course) for themselves,” Caton said. “It is not school, it is not a linear process, but something very different.”
The Tuesday-class program will run from Tuesday, Feb. 19 to April 16. To accommodate students’ schedules, the course is divided into three sessions at different times throughout the day.
Along with the weekly sessions, the course also includes a silent retreat, circulated around the idea of a silent meditation, on April 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This guided extension of the program provides a different atmosphere to practice the newly learned concepts students will take away from Forest and his expertise.
Those interested are encouraged to make the time for 10 to 15 minutes of guided meditation and awareness enhancement activities each day, following the program’s promotion of instilling a relaxing and calming environment for its constituents.
Julia Vietti, a freshman public health major, shared her thoughts on the program. She became interested in what it has to offer as soon as she received the email from the center for mindfulness and compassion announcing its insightful curriculum.
“With school and everything that is going on, it is nice to have an outlet,” Vietti said.
Aside from individually guided meditations, students may participate in weekly 30-minute drop-in guided meditation sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Spiritual Center.
The program also promotes the circle of compassion student group, which gathers on Monday nights for dinner at 7:00 p.m. to discuss internal and relatable issues prohibiting students from living meaningful lives.
Maia Franco, a freshman biology and secondary education dual major, reflected on an anxiety workshop offered through the Counseling and Psychological Services program which she attended this past fall semester.
“Although CAPS is a helpful resource to students on campus, the element of this new program being in the Spiritual Center seems more peaceful, and meditation would allow you to connect with yourself better and relieve anxiety rather than be in an environment learning about anxiety,” she said.
Caton explained that the program is universal and free to all students, regardless if they have utilized CAPS resources in the past.
Open to all students, backgrounds and beliefs, the course consists of three primary themes –– radical acceptance, mindful habits and mindful communication.
Throughout February, students will learn from subject areas in the realm of radical acceptance, including finding strength in solitude, unconscious bias and acceptance of their bodies, thoughts and emotions.
In March, participants will learn about recognizing habits and changing them without judgment, as well as creating new habits in a healthy way.
The program will conclude in April and focus on mindful communication, highlighting mindfulness within arguments, differences, nonverbal communication and movement. Students will officially finish the course with a picnic on April 29.
“My hope is for students to develop a deeper sense of self-acceptance and kindness and awareness of choices,” Caton said.
To learn more about this program and its application process, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The application deadline for the program is Feb. 13, with final commitment to the course set for Feb. 25.
As a community adviser, sophomore psychology major Chelsea Triano shared how the program could benefit not only her floormates and residents, but the entire college.
“Transitioning into college has a lot of weight from academics, being away from home, finding new friends,” Triano said. “Trying to find an effective way of balancing all of these components without feeling lost can be challenging. Seeking help to improve mental health, whether it be to the extent of a licensed professional or by learning to adapt (to) a more positive lifestyle, is necessary for success.”