Good news, everyone! Meditation isn’t just for hippies!
Chances are you’re not aware of many of the programs that are run through the Health & Wellbeing Hubs across all Monash campuses. Aside from complimentary counselling services and assistance with financial, housing and childcare difficulties, student support facili- ties at Monash also include a variety of health and management services and occasional short courses to help improve physical, mental and academic performance.
One of these programs, which has just finished running for this semester, is called Mindfulness for Academic Success. Conducted as part of a research study by Dr Richard Cham- bers, with the assistance of student counsellor Rebecca, the course consists of one hour a week over five weeks, and aims to introduce participants to the practices and advantages of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness essentially means paying attention in a particular, purposeful way. It aims to cultivate an appreciation for the present mo- ment and openness to whatever you might be engaged with at that time.
This could mean formal meditation ses- sion to get in touch with your body and see how you’re feeling, or monitoring your own breathing during class. It could mean actively paying attention to your five senses as you walk to your mate’s house, or it could mean avoid- ance of multitasking so that any one duty has your full attention. It could also be as simple as sitting down to consciously enjoy your toast in the morning instead of devouring it manically as you run around the house packing your bag.
The long-term benefits of regular mindful- ness practice are actually quite profound. With as little as five minutes of focused awareness at the beginning and end of your day, continued practice nurtures a greater awareness, clarity and acceptance of all moments of your life. It reduces stress by taking your attention away from looming deadlines and redirecting it to actually writing a decent assignment (with- out even feeling the need to check Facebook at regular intervals). It lessens the chance of procrastination by allowing you to rationally prioritise what needs to be done now and what can wait, and teaches you to identify times when you’re blatantly shunning something that needs to be done.
Mindfulness also promotes healthy rela- tionships by helping you to be aware of people around you, how they’re feeling, and how to extend a more compassionate outlook toward them. Most importantly, according to Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, by facilitating investigation into our actions and perceptions through careful and systematic self-observation, mindfulness leads us to a life with greater satisfaction, har- mony and wisdom.
Maybe it still sounds a little too much like new-age self-help, or a bit too Zen.
It’s true that mindfulness meditation is indeed intrinsically linked to certain Buddhist practices, yoga and Zen. However if this is not your usual forte, rest assured that over the last few decades Western scientific study has been becoming progressively more support- ive of Eastern philosophy and medicinal practice.
In fact, there’s been quite a bit of imperative re- search conducted in recent years which has proved that regular mindfulness training can actually cause physical changes in the brain and immune system, including
heightened immunity to the influenza virus and increased thickness of the regions of the brain that control self-awareness and sensory process- ing.
Besides, there’s no harm in trying some- thing which, when used effectively, promises to reduce anxiety and depression, increase happiness and creativity, and improve relation- ships, lengthen attention spans, and enhance academic performance.
Wouldn’t it be nice to smash through those assignments and exam prep at a 100% concentration rate? There’d be so much more time to not have to focus on study afterwards!
The Health & Wellbeing Hub at Clayton offers guided meditation sessions in the Narthex Room, Building 9, on Wednesdays and Fridays between 1:15pm and 1:45pm. Anyone is wel- come to join, and the sessions are completely anonymous.
There is also a locally produced iPhone app called Smiling Mind, which is freely avail- able to help guide you through the basics of mindfulness practice. Android uses are advised to use the companies website.