Workshop offers reprieve from stress

Rebecca Czaplewski

University students and faculty from all walks of life go together in their stocking feet on Mondays to escape jam-packed itineraries and just think about breathing.
The gathering was part of a weekly meditation session held at Boynton Health Service called “Mindfulness Meditation;” the workshop was led by instructor Mary Sullivan, who has been practicing meditation formally for more than five years.
Sullivan, an assistant professor in the University neurology department, described the process of mindfulness meditation, which is a form of meditation that focuses the subject’s attention and awareness on their breathing.
By concentrating on their own breathing, the meditators are forced to focus on the present — not dwell on the past or the future, Sullivan said.
She also stressed that this form of meditation is not about reaching for any magical or spiritual state of mind; rather, it is about focusing on thoughts in the present moment.
“The mind generates thoughts like champagne produces bubbles; we can’t get rid of our thoughts,” Sullivan said.
Besides serving as a quiet break from a long day at the University, practicing meditation can also provide many health benefits, such as reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure, Sullivan said.
Gailon Roen, director of operations at Boynton, has attended the Monday meditation sessions for about a year. After recently suffering from a heart attack, his doctor put him on a health plan that included a strict vegetarian diet, exercise and meditation or relaxation. He believes that after following the plan, including meditation, he is healthier than he was before.
“I’m here to do something that will reduce the stress in my life, make me stay as healthy as possible and maybe improve my health,” Roen said.
Echoing these statements was Roxana Hedberg, a first-time participant at the Monday sessions. Hedberg, who works in the communications office at the Academic Health Center, said it was mainly curiosity that drew her in.
“One of the main reasons was to learn how to manage stress in a better way,” Hedberg said.
The Mindfulness Meditation workshop is only one of three workshops that Boynton offers three days a week from noon to 1:00 p.m. as part of their Stress Management Workshop series. Beginning tai chi is featured on Wednesdays and yoga is on Thursdays.
Sullivan stressed that most workshops are held on an elementary level that caters to beginners; call 624-0905 for more information.