A 6 a.m. bus trip is hardly the way most students kick off a restful weekend.
Yet, for a dozen students from St. Joseph’s College’s two campuses, a trip to the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Upstate New York provided an opportunity for contemplation and discovery through meditation and mindfulness.
“We’ve partnered with Student Life and the executive dean’s office at SJC Brooklyn for a decade now to conduct an annual visit to Dharma Drum as part of my psychology PSY 326 Mindfulness and Clinical Intervention course,” said Peter Lin, Ph.D., professor of psychology at SJC Brooklyn.
“By taking students away from the comfort of home and turning off their phones for the day, we’re able to make this trip a unique experiential opportunity to discover and feel the impact of what we discuss in class in a full and meaningful way.”
The daylong retreat presented four different meditation sessions: sitting, walking, aural and tea, with each one designed to foster the development of mindfulness.
“Over the course of the semester, I’ve regularly discussed how I am having a hard time feeling secure and rooted in New York City,” said Brianna Makowka ’19, a psychology major at SJC Brooklyn. “At the retreat, when I had a moment to myself, leaning up against a tree, I felt instantly grounded, with a sense of belonging and oneness with my surroundings. It helped put the issues I’ve been working through in a different perspective.”
With levels of anxiety at an all-time high among college students across the nation, the therapeutic benefits of meditation and mindfulness are emerging as a useful mental health tool to manage stress. Recent studies have shown that a regimen of meditation helps relieve students of anxiety and depression in as little as one month.
St. Joseph’s is one of the few U.S. colleges that offer a minor in the Mindfulness and Contemplative Living. The Dharma Drum retreat is one of the key requirements for students who are interested in this interdisciplinary minor.
“Mindfulness is universal; it teaches us not to instantly react but to take time and formulate a healthy response to the challenges that confront us,” said Nicole Stamatiades ’19. “When we practice mindfulness, we come to realize that the past is long gone and that the future cannot be foreseen, so what matters is what we do in this very moment.”