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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Emmanuel chapter.

This semester I have been taking a course on Buddhism. It’s been a culture shock for me as someone who didn’t know much about Buddhism. I never thought meditation would work for me, until my class trip to the Buddhist temple Shambhala Boston. 

We arrived as a group and were greeted by the teacher who led us to the beautiful meditation room upstairs. There were statues, flowers, trees, and a circle of navy blue cushions on a clean white rug. Shoes aren’t allowed in the meditation room. I sat in the second row and made myself comfortable in the lotus position. I was surprised by Buddhist meditation, keeping my eyes open was a new experience.I kept my gaze on the white carpet in front of me. It found it easier to stay awake and present when I didn’t close my eyes.

I was inspired to look at the carpet when I recalled our class trip to the MFA..One exhibit we went to was the zen garden. I learned the goal is to focus on the ‘nothingness’ of the white pebbles. Not the rocks, beautiful statues, plants, or trees. Just nothing. I interpreted the instructions to observe your thoughts and feelings into a tip I’d learned before, to imagine them as leaves on a stream floating by. This helps to keep me mindful.

As an athlete I didn’t think it would be hard for me to sit still for 20 minutes. Physically it was uncomfortable, as my foot fell asleep 3 times. Yet mentally is where the real battle started. I figured if I can be alone with my thoughts for a 5k I can do it sitting still. Truthfully, I’m not mindful for the majority of my workouts. If I have access to a speaker or airpods I will be blasting pop music. Reaching for my phone/technology is a habit that gets in the way of my mindfulness often. I find it’s a way to avoid awkward silences and have something to do with my hands. There’s also pressure to constantly be connected to people, and social etiquette has changed. If I opened my phone right now and saw a loved one left me on read, I would not assume they are busy and will respond later. I would think they either hate me or they’re dead. 

What I enjoyed most was the community aspect. At the end of the meditation we shared a moment in life where we were mindful. I spoke with someone who didn’t come with our class, who was a medical student who’d been on a silent retreat before. I also spoke with some members who recognized that meditation is different for everyone. Some people struggle to fit it in, for others it’s like brushing your teeth before bed.

 As much as I love being a college student, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be a bubble. It’s hard to take a step back and put things into perspective when you’re around people who worry about and strive for the same things you do. I’ve been taking steps to change this by finding opportunities for intergenerational conversations. It’s valuable to have spaces like Shambhala Boston. You don’t have to buy something to take up space, you’re encouraged to talk and learn from new people, and you practice the art of patience and relaxation in a world that doesn’t necessarily value taking it slow.

Caitlin is a writing editing and publishing major with a global and public health minor.