As anxiety over the elections runs high in the student body, Mindfulness Over Matter, a student-run meditation group, encourages students to find the time in their busy schedules to pause and practice mindfulness.
Through a variety of meditation sessions—available four times each week—as well as meditation tips and facts that they share with the Bowdoin community on their Instagram page, the club hopes to emphasize the restorative and healing properties of meditation.
“It’s important to set aside time for yourself—time to be with yourself and take care of yourself,” said co-leader Daniel Coffield ’23, who leads a walking meditation on Friday mornings, in a phone interview with the Orient. “That’s really where our group comes in, and what we try and do in our sessions is just facilitate a space for that.”
While building a welcoming and inclusive meditation community remains a major focus for the club, Coffield and other co-leaders Benjamin Felser ’22, Aadhya Ramineni ’23, Jacey Song ’23 and David Yang ’22 have also made an effort to build that same community within their leadership team.
“We’ve been getting to know each other a lot better and have really been building teamwork and trying to set up a leadership structure that will let us continue to bring on new leaders in the future,” Coffield said.
Felser, who leads mindfulness basics sessions on Monday afternoons, believes that in a time where so much is uncertain, it is more necessary than ever for students to reflect on their emotions and check in with themselves on a regular basis.
“We’re in a lot of situations where we’re increasingly out of control about our external environments,” Felser said in a phone interview with the Orient. “One of the main things that sitting in meditation does is it helps you meet those difficult emotions that you’re feeling—that you can’t necessarily avoid—on your own terms.”
Yang also feels that meditation and mindfulness practices have become increasingly important during a time in which students might be unproductively self critical. He hopes to encourage members of the Bowdoin community to be kinder to themselves during his self compassion workshop on Sunday mornings.
“A lot of people tend to [have] high standards for themselves, which can be a good thing to get work done and deliver good results, but it’s just not that good for our mental health,” Yang said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We really could use some compassion for ourselves … so I try to lead a session on that.”
Song, who serves as the club’s social media manager, compiles and posts a meditation tip each “TIPsy Tuesday” and a meditation fact every “Fact Friday” with the hope of engaging the Bowdoin community in the club’s work and encourage them to attend classes.
“It’s hard to get people to come when they [have] to spend so much time already on Zoom,” Song said in a phone interview with the Orient. “With meditation, you’re supposed to be relaxing, but then of course Zoom reminds everyone of class and all the things you have to do.”
“If not that many people show up, we’ll still do our best and make each session count,” Yang added.
With many sophomores, juniors and seniors currently planning to head back to campus in the spring, Felser hopes that the club will be able to resume in-person instruction and participate in mindful activities in a way that complies with social distancing.
“The yoga room is huge, so we’re really hoping to have in-person classes in the spring,” Felser said. “When it gets warmer it could even be nice to have a little meditation retreat.”
Felser also believes that the spring semester will provide an opportunity for the club to intersect meditation practice with anti-racism and activism.
“We’ve wanted, honestly for a while, to have some classes on liberation and meditation and anti-racism and activism more broadly,” Felser said. “We’re looking more towards bringing [guests] in the future, not just to come and just speak, but to lead a class.”
Despite the challenges that come with remote meditation classes and trying to connect with the Bowdoin community from a distance, the co-leaders of Mindfulness Over Matter are enthusiastic about their programming and their opportunity to empower the Bowdoin community during a time when it might feel powerless.
“My greatest hope is that people leave each one of my sessions—and leave each one of our group’s sessions—with a renewed sense of confidence in themselves,” Coffield said. “Just a feeling of calmness, happiness, feeling part of something and just feeling a bit more relaxed.”
Mindfulness Over Matter’s weekly class schedule is available on their Instagram page.
Aadhya Ramineni ’23 is a member of the Orient.