Reply to emails. Go to work. Finish your assignment. Sleep. Call home. Catch up with friends. The start of a new semester is always a busy time for me, no matter what. Before long, I start to lose track of all the things piling up. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to dealing with the stress of having too much to do and not enough hours in the day. Meditation is one of them.
I first started meditating in high school to help calm myself down during high-stress situations (midterms, finals, college application deadlines). Back then, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I didn’t know a thing about crystals or breathing or enlightenment. I didn’t even know what a panic attack was or that I was having them. I simply knew the pressure had built up too much in my brain and I needed to clear my mind. These days I make time every single day to close my eyes and reconnect with myself and the world around me.
So, when I spotted a flyer for Arcadia’s Mindfulness Refreshed Conference, I opened up my planner and scribbled down the details. The university’s Philosophy department was partnering with the Won Institute of Graduate Studies to bring contemporary Buddhist authors and scholars to campus for a day of conversation focused on the practice of mindfulness. No way was I going to miss this!
Daily meditation is something that has become a part of my life. Being stuck on campus without a car for the semester, however, I’m pretty limited in how far I can go to explore meditation. So I was thrilled that something like this conference was coming to campus! I rearranged my whole schedule to clear enough space in the middle of the day to stop by for two hours. Thursday couldn’t come fast enough!
Then it happened. In traditional back-to-school fashion, the assignments and commitments started piling up. I scored a freelance writing gig, participated in a pitch contest on Twitter, and was served up a heaping plate of work to do for my senior thesis. By the time Thursday rolled around, I realized I only had 20 minutes left to catch the event before class!
A sudden blow of stress, frustration, and anxiety struck, nearly knocking me off my feet. No matter how hard I’d tried to make time for the conference, the minutes had slipped away from me. I was upset that I’d missed such an amazing opportunity to connect with others and learn even more about mindfulness.
Then it hit me.
Standing in my dorm room, I caught myself and a laugh slipped out. This was exactly the opposite purpose of mindfulness. The practice is meant to relieve you of stress, not cause it!
I put down my keys and picked up my phone to set an alarm for 20 minutes. Then I took out my meditation cushion and sat down on the floor.
It wasn’t the end of the world if I couldn’t make it to the conference. Mindfulness is a personal journey. It’s great when we can come together and discuss it as a group, but it’s also okay to take time out for yourself when you feel overwhelmed and need to step back.
If you try meditating to combat stress in your hectic college life (or even just because you’re inspired to give it a try!), feel free to share your experiences in the comments. There are many different approaches to meditation. I’d love to hear how you meditate and what it means to you.