Mindful meditation series: good for mind and body

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Joe Schwartz
Andrea Gerding
Gerding

After a successful pilot launch in the Cornell Law School and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management last semester, a guided Mindfulness Meditation program is now available to faculty, staff and students across campus. In its first three weeks, sessions have drawn more than 100 participants. The number of facilitators and the number of sites offered have also grown.

Mindfulness meditation is a way of using the senses to be fully present in the “here and now.” Sessions are guided by a team of trained staffers.

“Listening to the guided meditation helps me become more aware of my thoughts, feelings and body sensations; it helps me to quiet down my mind and to relieve stress almost instantly,” says Werner Zorman, associate director of engineering leadership. “When I return to work after the meditation session, I can focus much better on my work and I am more efficient.”

The campus meditation effort is the brainchild of Andrea Gerding, clinical social worker at Gannett Health Services’ Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). “Meditation is a highly researched, evidence-based tool that fosters increased well-being on all fronts ­– mentally, physically, cognitively, emotionally. Cultivating a universitywide meditation initiative is exciting and potentially groundbreaking,” Gerding says.

“My colleagues and I see it as a natural extension of the university’s wider commitment to health and well-being. Opportunities like this, in which individuals can focus on replenishing their own reserves, help make Cornell a caring place to work and study,” she says. Gerding adds that while options exist to explore other forms of meditation on campus, this effort was designed to foster a consistent practice of mindfulness throughout the university.

“CAPS’ successful ‘Let’s Talk’ program has bolstered campus well-being for years by reducing barriers to students seeking professional consultation and support,” Gerding says. She hopes the new “Let’s Meditate” outreach effort will bolster campus well-being by facilitating universitywide access to the important practice of mindfulness.

The meditations are free, and no registration is required. Half-hour sessions are offered at different times throughout the work week: Mondays in the Big Red Barn, Tuesdays in the Law School and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Wednesdays in Johnson, and Thursdays in the College of Engineering. Participants can come to any sessions they wish; no previous meditation experience, special clothing or preparation is needed.

“The Law School administration was delighted when Andrea Gerding asked if we would pilot the meditation program with CAPS,” said Anne Lukingbeal, Law School dean of students. “I have long sought opportunities to assist law students in finding healthy ways to deal with the stress inherent in our profession. This program brings a very important stress reduction technique right to our doorstep. To date, the audience has not been large, but I am excited that word is spreading of the usefulness of the program. I look forward to the day when we have to find a larger space!”

For the current schedule and information, see www.gannett.cornell.edu


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Nancy Doolittle