In the context of the course "Parables in Pop Culture," which I completed at The University of Scranton, we explored the relationship between storytelling and meaning as these relate to the formation of certain cultures. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis provided insight into Iranian and Western cultures, and the conflicts that arise for personal identity when one is torn between cultures. As a class, we explored various approaches to culture, realizing that we inhibit micro-cultures that define us as individuals. Pop culture permeates the college setting, making it hard for college students to get outside the culture because they are so involved with the socials norms such as studying, partying and club responsibilities.
College students need to acknowledge this and use meditation as a means of getting “outside” the college culture. Like Marjane finds herself conflicted between the two cultures, humans often find themselves conflicted over what to prioritize first and how to take a step away from everyday responsibilities. This is where meditation comes into play. Meditation can be a way to detach from all responsibilities and find ourselves in this overwhelming society. Meditation allows oneself to connect with God on a personal level.
The world undergoes its own transformation by way of the initiation into a culture such as one finds at the University. Spiritual exercises grew out of Ignatius Loyola’s own experience as a man seeking to grow with God. Ignatius gathered prayers, meditations, reflections and directions into a retreat, referred to as the “spiritual exercises.” Ignatius wrote the exercises, “have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment” (Ignatian Spirituality, 2018). https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/what-are-the-spiritual-exercises
The practice of meditation allows detachment and the ability to reflect on our lives in the light of God’s love for us. Using our minds, we ponder the basic principles that guide our life in relation to God. If we do not take the time to meditate, the connection and understanding of God is absent. Focusing on our relationship with God allows us to become aware of ourselves and understand the importance of a healthy way of life.
The importance of meditation is demonstrated through scripture. Meditation provides a closer relationship with God when a person is in a state of mindfulness. People think that the most appropriate place for God to communicate with individuals is from within their mind, as it is a private means of communication. The book of Psalms 1:2 states, “those who delight in the law of the Lord and on his law, meditate day and night will be blessed.” https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/how-meditation-brings-you-closer-to-god/
In a college setting, students are bombarded with overwhelming amounts of work, causing stress. The Art of Living Foundation taught Surdashan Kirya, a type of meditative rhythmic breathing exercise. A study done, “on this specific type of meditation showed that it was able to alleviate stress-related disorders including depression, because of the way it affects the parasympathetic nervous system and curbs the body’s stress response” (Marturana, 2016). The results and effects found on meditating are causing people to engage in the practice.
Carla Herreria discusses students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who pry themselves away from school and meet in a reserved room on campus to engage in a meditation practice. Alarming mental health statistics is why Kishor Nayar, a candidate in mechanical engineering, started The Art of Living Club. Observing the health issues, stress and isolation students were experiencing, he believed meditation should be part of college students’ lives. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/college-meditation-yesplus_us_56dcfb12e4b03a4056790a27
A study published by the American Psychological Association found mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, combining meditative practices with cognitive therapy, which can prevent depression from recurring and is as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression (Herreria 2016). Offering clubs on campus or meditation as an academic credit can allow students to engage in a deeper meaning of themselves and God.
In the 8-week study, 16 participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing meditation. Participants showed an increased amount of grey matter, which helps with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participants with lower stress levels showed a decrease in grey matter in the amygdala, which helps manage anxiety and stress (Bushak 2015). Seeing scientific research that emphasizes the importance of meditation, can make others aware of the benefits associated with it.
According to USA Today College, “The American College Health Association found in a 2015 study that 85.6% of respondents felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities” (Bjornson, 2016). Schools are becoming aware of these statistics. The University of Minnesota, runs the Center for Spirituality and Healing, which designated meditation rooms in the housing. At the University of Vermont, the dorm offers twice-daily meditation sessions. Incorporating meditation helps students handle the stressors that come with transitioning from home to school, as well as corresponding responsibilities that come with adulthood, improving attention, organization and planning. The University of Minnesota’s meditation rooms located in residence halls with soft lightening and comfortable seating. The created space is for students to "engage in mindful activities that helped deal with the everyday stresses” says Kristie Fesit, the director of residential life. Being in tune with yourself during a stressful transition can remind someone of their worth and connection with God. http://college.usatoday.com/2016/03/15/colleges-turn-to-meditation-to-help-squash-student-stress/
College students involve themselves in what the peers around them are involved in. Students have difficulty understanding the significance of our health when following the lead of others. In Medical Daily, Lecia Bushak discusses the mental health benefits of meditation. A fascinating study published on meditation was led by Harvard researchers of Massachusetts General Hospital. They “found that meditating for only 8 weeks significantly changed the brain’s grey matter, a major part of the central nervous system, associated with processing information as well as providing nutrients and energy to neurons” (2015). https://www.medicaldaily.com/mental-health-benefits-meditation-itll-alter-your-brains-grey-matter-and-improve-319298
Lisa Held tells of young professionals practicing mediation on a New York City rooftop, instead of sipping cocktails. Young meditators are finding a new kind of clarity amid their 20-something worlds filled with long days and nights. Snow says, “I really try to get it in at least once a day for about 20 minutes, I’ve become just more clean and my brain is a lot more open to bigger ideas…my body is more relaxed” (Held, 2015). Young professionals are realizing the benefits of it, inspiring others to try. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/the-meditation-generation/