Group meets to beat stress

Last fall, two students founded the Mindfulness for Students Club.

by Jamie VanGeest

Every Friday as the setting sun shines through the stained-glass windows, University students get in touch with their chi and become stress-free.

Students come to the Mayo Building to practice yoga, sitting meditation, walking meditation and qigong to relieve stress without religious undertones.

Four or five instructors, each specializing in different practices, come to lead the group.

Jean Haley, an instructor at the University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, practiced meditation and yoga with the group Friday.

Students practiced the corpse pose, in which they lie completely still on the floor, blocking all thoughts and stress while focusing on breathing. One student became so comfortable she began to snore.

Transitioning from one form of meditation to the other, Jean Haley read poetry and stories to keep the group focused on meditating.

The Mindfulness for Students Club was formed last fall and began with two students. Group membership has since grown to 20, said Miki Dezaki, a psychology senior and co-founder of the group.

“I wanted students to find a practice for dealing with stress in a more healthy way,” Dezaki said.

Alex Haley, Jean Haley’s son, started the group with Dezaki when they realized they wanted to start the same type of relaxation group.

“It’s an hour during the week where you can just slow down,” said Alex Haley, a first-year law student.

Alex Haley’s aim was to introduce the practicality of exercises such as meditation, yoga and qigong, which is performing slow, methodical movements to allow any energy blockages to release.

Mindfulness for Students is unlike other meditation groups on campus because it is not associated with a religious group.

“We try to emphasize the fact that we are not religiously affiliated,” Alex Haley said.

Sophomore Renée Wegener said Mindfulness for Students is a place where all students can meet to relax, regardless of one’s faith.

“I feel like if you tie religion in to it, it becomes political,” Wegener said.

Alex Haley said students can boost their immune system, increase concentration and reduce stress by practicing the group’s methods.

“Many of us do this to develop this muscle of mindfulness, which tends to be atrophied,” Alex Haley said.

The group also practices eating meditation, where they focus on the sensations of different food entering the body.

Another type of meditation is walking meditation, in which the group walks through a maze while following the instructor, Dezaki said.

Dezaki said the walking meditation is beneficial because students always are so focused on their futures. When they are walking through a labyrinth they can focus on the meditation because they don’t know when the maze is going to end.