I Participated In Concordia’s Mindful Project Program

When you think of meditation, you probably think of people sitting around trying to simply think about nothing, as if it is possible to suppress overwhelming stressful thoughts. I had the same view too. To put it bluntly, I thought meditation was bullshit. So when my doctor suggested I try mindfulness meditation as a method to help calm my mental illness and as a type of “cross-training” with therapy, I immediately objected. 

 

Two years ago, I used the app Headspace to try learning mindfulness meditation. Many of my friends recommended that app, but I was awful at it. I always got distracted, I was annoyed by the voice used in the guided meditations, and most of all, I didn’t understand the concept of mindfulness meditation at all. Since then, I’ve read numerous studies that have proven mindfulness meditation to help with stress. So, when I saw that Concordia’s The Mindful Project, an in-person meditation class, would be running again I considered mindfulness a second time. 

 

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I wanted to take my doctor’s advice, and one of the main reasons I didn’t enjoy meditation the first time around was because it was through an app. It was simple to just exit out of the app and resume whatever I was doing if I got bored or distracted. I couldn’t just walk out of a class if I got bored; that would be rude. However, what captured my attention was that one of the goals of the program is to educate participants about mindfulness meditation and the benefits it provides. One of my issues the first when I tried meditation with Headspace was that I also was unaware of the goal of mindfulness meditation. The best part, it that it is completely free. You have to submit a deposit, but it will be reimbursed at the end of the program. I’ve seen mindfulness courses that can be up to hundreds of dollars, so this is a steal for Concordia students. 

 

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The Mindful Project consists of six weekly sessions that are only an hour and a half long. Part of the course was theory, which is where you learn about what meditation really is, how to do it correctly, and the benefits. We were shown numerous studies that proved meditation to help make a person more calm and happy. One of the most common misconceptions, and one that I mistakenly thought before participating in this program, is that meditation is trying to think about nothing. However, that is not the case at all. Mindfulness meditation is about accepting what is there, whether painful or not. For example, I struggle with chronic joint pain from a hypermobility and musculoskeletal disorder. Often when I was meditating I would focus on how much my knees or wrists were hurting, but I was taught to accept that pain and discomfort and reflect on how it feels. We were repeatedly told not to judge our feelings or thoughts, but accept them. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, which, for someone with overwhelming anxiety, may seem like a completely new and mind-blowing concept. 

 

The other portion of the class is dedicated to practicing meditation. At the beginning of each session, you start with a short five-minute meditation, which I found helped ground myself, and prepared me to learn and absorb the material I was about to learn. Later in the class, you engage in a longer, more specialized meditation. For example, one week we did a “body scan”, in which you focus and become aware of each part of your body and to relieve tension. I am super fidgety and easily distracted, so sometimes these longer meditations were difficult for me. Yet at the same time, mindfulness is great for my easily-distractedness because I was taught how to ground myself and my thoughts. 

 

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One of the huge portions of this course and one of the factors that determine whether mindfulness will work for you is the “homework”. Each week we were given a small assignment or task to complete, usually including meditation each day. I struggled to fit this into my schedule, and still do, but I’m working on it because I want to feel the full benefit from mindfulness. If you feel you can’t commit to this, it may not be for you. But if you work at it and take away the concepts you learn in class, it’ll be helpful.

 

I’ve already noticed positive changes in my life since participating in this program. When I’m simply on the bus or walking home, I try to be “mindful” and notice what’s happening in the present. The world can be a lovely place when you’re not stuck in your head all the time. Mindfulness meditation helped me realize this, and it has helped me gain some control over my mental illness. 

 

I’m not saying that I think beginning mindfulness meditation from an app is inherently bad or unhelpful, but I found learning from a program like The Mindful Project is more engaging and educational. They expose you to facts and proven benefits of meditating, and since it is geared towards students, they know what material to cover to help you the most. If you’ve found you have trouble managing stress or constantly feel overwhelmed, I recommend The Mindful Project to help you ground yourself and succeed in your studies. If you’re interested, follow their Facebook page here to find out more information! 

 

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