By Marcus Lavergne
Packed planners, mounds of homework and cramming for exams while trying to maintain something representative of a social life is the stereotypical college experience for many.
Students are in close proximity to their peers for several hours out of the week, and combining that with a job or internship can put a severe strain on time for other things — hobbies and sleeping, for instance.
Another aspect of relaxation that can easily be pushed to the back of the mind is self-reflection, a practice involved with meditation. Administration at the University of Nevada, Reno, is hoping to further facilitate creating a healthy, holistic student lifestyle through the campus’s new 78,000-square-foot Student Achievement Center.
Although the center has numerous locations where students can interact with other friends and colleagues, including but not limited to offices containing medicine balls, whiteboard rooms, a wide, wooden “social staircase” and large open courtyard, it also offers a place where one can enjoy solitude. The SAC’s “meditation and reflection” rooms are intended for students who wish to “be still and invite in peace.”
Finding personal quiet time to indulge in meditation on campus is less tedious now, and the benefits are worth it. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says meditation can help ease symptoms aligned with anxiety, insomnia and stress. Diving even deeper, a study done by the organization in 2012 showed that adults who spend more time meditating may have more folds in the outer regions of the brain. The process is known as gyrification, and may help people process information more efficiently.
For the university to incorporate an area like the meditation rooms in the new SAC exemplifies more of the administration’s newfound emphasis on all aspects of student wellness. One of the most significant correlations to focus on is the relationship between student achievement and meditation.
In 2013, Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu, contributors to Forbes, wrote on a discussion with Harvard University professor Howard Gardner who started a program called “Reflecting on Your Life.” The program inspired Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford University, who was able to convince administrators to incorporate self-reflection in the form of a voluntary program for undergrads. Stanford’s “Reflections” helped students open up about insecurities and better articulate thoughts and feelings.
UNR’s meditation room is a safe, quiet place for exercises involving the mind, body and spirit, according to Rajan Zed, the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, who has commended the university for recognizing the need for a space for meditation, prayer and spiritual attunement. In a press release discussing the meditation room, Zed called the space a positive move.
“With the presence of a meditation room for prayer, UNR students [can] have a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success after they graduate from here,” Zed wrote in an email.
Inside the meditation area, there is a larger space among the three rooms for yoga and other exercises where groups can gather. Two smaller rooms provide the chance for more introverted exercises, or maybe even a nap. Between the spaces, there is a feet-washing station — a practice mentioned in the Bible and performed as a ritual of purification.
While the SAC can serve as a place where students can regenerate and refocus with peers, its newly opened meditation rooms can deliver a repose from the hustle and bustle of student life.
Although the art of meditation has its origins in Buddhism, it’s become a common custom for several religions and lifestyles. According to Zed, prayer and spiritual practices that involve meditation don’t have to be disconnected from daily student life. In fact, they can heighten the university experience.
“[The] intersection of spirituality and education makes an educational institution wholesome,” Zed wrote. “It helps in all-round development of students.”
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mlavergne21.