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If You Want to Get Great, Meditate

It’s a confusing paradox: doing nothing and doing everything at the same time. 

But that’s exactly what meditation is for those who do it effectively.  If you read Siddhartha – a fictional novel by Herman Hesse about the journey to spiritual enlightenment – the mystique of the practice is explained further; meditation is something that allows a person to exist in a heightened state of being, while remaining very still.

“During deep meditation it is possible to dispel time, to see simultaneously all the past, present and future, and then everything is good, everything is perfect.” 

And according to a NY Times article, Hesse may have been right on mark. That’s because studies have shown that meditation causes significant changes in our brain’s composition which allow it to function at a higher level.


“The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress,” said Sindya N. Bhanoo, in “How Meditation May Change the Brain.”

For college students, this information may be difficult to digest, simply our generation consumes so much technology that emphasizes quick shifts of attention and multi-tasking. Many of us don’t have the patience to focus on one thing for 30 minutes straight.

However, The Meditation & Mindfulness House (203 N. Union, yellow house behind the Con) at Lawrence is hoping to remedy this attention problem by helping students learn how to meditate.

“Many of the people I’ve talked to are concerned about not being able to sit still for an extended period of time – we do not expect anyone to do that!” said Gwen, the Residence Life Manger at the Meditation & Mindfulness House. “We are all learning and none of us are anywhere near learned enough to meditate effectively for more than 15 minutes.”

Gwen said that the house was started last year by students “who appreciate and understand the value of practicing meditation.” Each Sunday at 2 PM, they invite the LU community to join for them for guided visualization, guided breathing, and mindful activities through art.

And with an increased amount of studies that this that tout the connection between mind and body, this may be a vital resource for Lawrentians who want to enhance their spiritual and physical well-being. It also forces students to separate from their barrage of everyday activities, and maintain the integral ability to focus.

Bhanoo explains how ancient Buddhist principles contribute to meditation’s effect on our focus:

“The main idea is to use different objects to focus one’s attention, and it could be a focus on sensations of breathing, or emotions or thoughts, or observing any type of body sensations,” she said. “But it’s about bringing the mind back to the here and now, as opposed to letting the mind drift.”

As the next generation of thinkers, we need to take responsibility for the blossoming of our minds. While we want to be dynamic and be able to do it all, it’s possible that – as college students – our most important feat will be in the mastery doing nothing – effectively.

Annie Kaiser is a senior economics and government major at Lawrence University. Happily born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Annie also has been called a "nomad" by her friends. In the past two years she has lived on both coasts, spending a year at school in Claremont, California and living in Georgetown for a summer internship with a political web-blog in Alexandria, Virginia. She played Varsity basketball and soccer throughout college, and has decided boxing will be her go-to workout after her collegiate athletic retirement. Annie's favorite activities include dining in fine restaurants, debating about politics, memorizing the presidents in order, painting, keeping up with celeb gossip, seatfiling at award shows, making lists of interesting words, and reading classic novels. She can not get enough of Jack Johnson music, new challenges, and Chuck Bass. Her motto: put your mind to it, and do it. 
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