Not everybody has loved the mindfulness initiatives this year. This is particularly evident during the mindful minutes at School Meeting, which have been characterized by excessive coughing and token participation. We are required to partake in mindfulness regularly, whether we like it or not. We can do it willingly and best take advantage of these opportunities or we can sit and be unhappy. There are choices to be made and our choice matters.
Mindfulness can benefit us all in meaningful, tangible ways. It is a path to a better understanding of the self, which I believe to be essential in finding a settled, calm spirit. It allows you to develop a mindset with which you can overcome obstacles and move forward purposefully and more happily through life. Mindfulness is more than meditation; it is the practice or state of being conscious.
Very few people on this campus will hesitate to tell you how busy they are. Feeling busy is a state of mind and not a good one. If we allow the demands on our time to weigh us down, they will—at the expense of our happiness. I will not argue that we do not have a lot of work—this is true. However, 24 hours is a lot of time. How many hours do you spend watching Netflix or browsing Instagram? How long are you actually working for? When you say you studied forever for that test, was it focused studying? Asking these questions and answering them is hard. I firmly believe that if we understand ourselves and the obligations we take on well, any amount of work is manageable, and we will never consider ourselves to be “busy.” To me, these realizations are worth the struggle because they will allow us to more consciously consider the things that are most important to us.
The administration clearly believes in the benefits of mindfulness, and their confidence is grounded in research. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to improve health; it can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress levels. In fact, researchers at Harvard University found that participants who meditated for 15 minutes a day during an 8-week program used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year. Mindfulness can also improve memory, attention, and cognition.
Finding the motivation to do work can be hard sometimes. Mindfulness can help with this. When you truly understand your goals, intrinsic motivation is the result. Intrinsic motivation is stronger than any other kind of motivation, and it will allow you to be focused and targeted in your actions. By finding these personal truths, we can eliminate suffering when faced by seemingly overwhelming amounts of work.
There is a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world: suffering that is self-inflicted or unintentional, suffering that can be understood and overcome. If you have a negative experience, what kind of emotions do you feel and why? Coming to these realizations is a consequence of being conscious. I firmly believe that the benefits of mindfulness — a peaceful spirit and mind — fully outweigh the costs: the time spent.
Mindfulness is something that must be committed to fully and wholeheartedly. The most effective motivation and thorough understanding comes from a place deep within. To reap the benefits, you must embrace the experience and keep an open, unreactive, thoughtful mind. Perhaps these things are not for you. I think that is fine, but I ask you to deliberately consider where the decision to dismiss mindfulness came from, and why you made it. At least try it out before rejecting it.
I appreciate the school’s efforts to better the quality of life on campus. To fully take advantage of these initiatives, we as individuals must make the decision to commit to becoming more than we are. I urge you to buy in and try it out. You and you only have the capacity to transform yourself into a happier, more thoughtful, and more successful version of yourself.