Bill Owen sat cross-legged in the front of the room, tapping a metal bowl and spinning the microphone around it to fill the room with ambient noise as he whispered instructions to three students sitting on round pillows.
“Meditation is not an easy thing,” Owen said while leading a group meditation session. “It’s really important for you to not be discouraged.”
Owen, instructional technology coordinator, hosts the group meditation sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Interfaith Chapel. The group meditation sessions are part of The Quiet Spot, weekly sessions dedicated to meditation or prayer.
“(The meditation sessions) started two or three years ago when Zandra Wagoner became chaplain and came up with the idea of the Quiet Spot,” Owen said.
Owen has been practicing meditation for 13 years and committed to hosting The Quiet Spot twice a week last fall. During the meditation session, Owen said that there were four positions one can take while meditating: sleeping, standing, lying down and walking. He told the attendees to focus on their breath and clear their thoughts.
Two students at the Wednesday session attended for the first time.
“I learned that I can zone into things and relax,” junior kinesiology major Agaly de Jesus said. “That you don’t always have to be so busy.”
The Quiet Spot information page on the University’s website said the practices “are great for calming the mind, relieving stress, and cultivating compassion.”
Zandra Wagoner, University Chaplain, started The Quiet Spot due to the benefits meditation could bring the students during their busy week.
“There’s all kinds of research that shows people who practice meditation have better focus, less anxiety and take tests more calmly,” Wagoner said.
Researchers from John Hopkins University reviewed 18,753 meditation studies, and found 47 trials that studied the benefits of meditation. They compiled their research into a report published in JAMA Internal Magazine in March 2014. They found that meditation can result in moderate improvement in anxiety, depression and pain. Regular meditation influences how the brain processes emotions even when one is not meditating.
According to a 2012 study conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, Emory University, Santa Barbara Institute for Conscious Studies and the University of Arizona, meditation changes the way the amygdala, a brain region involved in experiencing emotions, responds to emotional reactions even when the person is not meditating. In the study, people underwent either meditation centered on attention towards one’s breathing, thoughts and feelings, meditation centered on compassion to other people or no meditation at all.
The subjects were then shown pictures meant to elicit different feelings. When they were shown pictures meant to elicit bad feelings, people who underwent meditation showed less activity in the amygdala than people who did not. Less amygdala activity was a sign of coping better in stressful situations.
“I think it’s really relaxing, people should definitely come here,” De Jesus said. “It makes me feel at peace.”
Aryn Plax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.