When Medill freshman Stephanie Kontopanos arrived at Northwestern, she had been practicing meditation since seventh grade.
But it wasn’t until he attended a fall meditation session offered by Religious & Spiritual Life (RSL) at Northwestern that he found community. When he learned about the first MindfulNU group held during Winter Quarter, he decided to sign up.
Here, as part of MindfulNU, he encountered a transformative message by writer and poet Kahlil Gibran.
“You’ve come a long way, more than you know – and all is well.”
It was shared by Eric Budzynski, director of religious life and church music, to remind participants that as a whole, they are more than the sum of their parts.
“Those two words have become so important in my life to the point where I take them up as proof when I’m in trouble, when I’m going through something scary and uncomfortable. maybe,” said Kontopanos.
Creating a community of ideas
The cohort was developed and co-led by Budzynski and SESP senior and RSL Mindfulness Intern Cormac Callanan to help students engage in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) practices in an accessible way.
A certified teacher of MBSR, Budzynski has been offering the eight-week intensive course at Northwestern for five years. But he found the 2.5-hour weekly meetings to be too much work, especially for elementary students.
Understanding this, Budzynski and Callanan hope to strike a fine line between the traditional form of drop-in meditation sessions and the traditional practice of the MBSR program. The duo transformed MBSR into MindfulNU, which runs for six weeks each quarter.
During the weekly meetings, Budzynski and Callanan lead the students in a time of reflection, then think and ask questions about their experiences, followed by a teaching segment, in which they both lead to the cohort through a theory in meditation, such as using meditation or communication.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Callanan said. “One of the parts about the [drop-in meditations] sometimes people come and sometimes they don’t. You can see someone for six months, and then that’s how they run with it. So, I think one idea is that we want to have a community that is intended. “
Weinberg senior Eli Ganz expressed his gratitude for being part of this kind of teacher community — a group of students, Budzynski explained, “who don’t have a specific reason to come together,” but do so, with the Trust others in their will. open up and grow with other cohort members in the program.
“We’re really close,” Ganz said. “There’s a special bond with those people coming to this place and being vulnerable together and taking a leap of faith in this project.”
Learn how to let go
In a journey that can be isolating and difficult, Kontopanos says that finding wholeness through creative endeavors, along with his cohort members, is rewarding.
He shared an icebreaker that stuck with him. To prepare for the meeting in advance, team members write down something they want to release on a piece of paper, throw it in a pile and select a member’s paper to read aloud. big in circle.
“When everyone went and read the concerns or the things they wanted to release, we started to see the pattern,” said Kontopanos. “It just helps you to be humble and realize that we’re going through the same things.”
Ganz found this take on mindfulness refreshing and noted that MindfulNU allowed time for not only personal growth, but community growth as well.
“A lot of mindfulness these days is almost marketed as learning to be more productive and improve your life,” says Ganz. “I think it’s a result of that, but the goal is not to be more productive. And it’s not a ‘personal’ thing. In fact, when you learn to open more places for yourself, we learn to open more places for others in our lives.”
MindfulNU will be running its program again in Spring Quarter. For more information on how to join, visit this website.
Esther Lim is a junior in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.