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Meditation cushions in front of a stage in Rollins Chapel

When applying to college, I considered the usual factors like academics, location, financial aid, and campus life. Despite my growing list of factors, I sometimes forgot the most important questions, "Would I be happy here? Does the school look out for me?" These weren't questions I really reflected on until I came to Dartmouth. 

As I'm about to graduate, I think student happiness is one of the most critical aspects to consider. Many senior officials at Dartmouth will tell you that they don't just care about the intellectual state of student minds but also their health and happiness. Personally, I'm proud that the college is committed to mental health. College is stressful, so students need the proper social support to succeed academically. I've used several free on-campus mental health resources, from massage chairs in the Student Wellness Center to counseling at Dick's House. When I learned that Dartmouth would be bringing monastics from Deer Park Monastery in California and Magnolia Grove Monastery in Mississippi for "A Week of Monastic Wisdom," I prioritized attending as many events as possible! 

Let me take you on a week of mindfulness on campus and share what I have learned. 

Monday, April 22

My mindfulness journey started with an hour-long "Mindfulness Orientation Talk" at Rollins Chapel. The monastics invited students to sit on cushions on the floor and walked the audience through some techniques to center ourselves, including deep breathing exercises and listening to the sound of a bell. It's sometimes hard to get into meditation because people believe your mind needs to be entirely blank for five to ten minutes. The monastics pushed for a more approachable strategy, encouraging students to rest their minds for just a minute. They stressed that it was okay for thoughts to enter our mind, as long as we acknowledged them and then recentered ourselves. Personal highlights of this session included hearing from Brother Pháp Lưu ("Brother Stream"), a Dartmouth '97, and singing a short song about human strength and resilience with the community.

Diana prepares for meditation talk in Rollins Chapel

Tuesday, April 23

I checked out a "Qigong Session" with my friend Amanda '23. The weather was beautiful and sunny outside, so the session was held in front of Baker Library. A brother walked us through a series of movements that let us feel the flow of energy coursing through our bodies. Many movements involved balance and fast, sweeping motions meant to elevate our heart rate. One notable exercise the brother showed us was holding our arms out like we were squeezing a balloon. Then, he asked us to pulse our fingers together to about one inch apart so we could feel a magnetic energy forcing our hands together. I'm not a master quite yet, but I hope to improve my energy flow so I can feel that magnetic force more strongly in the future.

Students performing Qigong in front of Baker Library

Wednesday, April 24  

A small group of students gathered in front of Moore Hall to attend a "Mindful Walk." The monastics pointed out that many students on campus walked very quickly with headphones in and with little attention to their surroundings. They urged us to walk slowly and in complete silence to enjoy the sun shining on our faces and the birds chirping in the background. I have found that my mind and body are often not aligned, with my mind wandering to an assignment I must do as my feet carry me to the dining hall. As I participated in the mindful walk, I found my body-mind connection to be in sync, as my sole purpose was to enjoy the walk and appreciate my body for caring for me.

Diana '23 participates in mindful walk beginning at the solar panel near Moore Hall

Thursday, April 25

I attended the "Sustainability Dinner" hosted at Dartmouth Engineering. When I arrived, the monastics provided a brief overview of their approach to eating. After waiting for each person to self-serve their meal, we would chant the "Five Contemplations for Eating" at the sound of the bell. Then, we would eat slowly in silence for 15 minutes. One brother advised us to put down our fork after each bite and to chew our food thoroughly before eating again. The initial silence was overwhelming initially, but I found the vegetarian meal even more delicious when I slowed down to savor each bite. While I originally planned to stay for just an hour, I stayed for 2.5 hours! The event also stayed true to sustainable ideals, as the monks emphasized that we should only take what we could eat. 

Diana '23 enjoys a mindful meal with monastics and Dartmouth community in the Thayer School of Engineering

Friday, April 26 

I put everything I had learned this week into practice with a four-hour "Mindfulness Retreat" in Rollins Chapel. The session included mindful sitting, meditation, walking, and eating. I also unlocked a new "mindful sharing" skill: we were invited to make a lotus flower with our hands when we felt compelled to share a learning with our small group. My group navigated complex topics like emotional repression and depression but concluded on a positive note as we talked about how to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life. I walked out of the session proud of myself for making my mental health a priority for this week.

Diana '23 eats a vegetarian sandwich as part of the mindful eating portion of the monastic retreat

The "Week of Monastic Wisdom" is just a smaller programming subset meant to kick off "Mindful May." For May, Dartmouth has organized a mindful tip, workshop, or webinar each day to encourage the community to make small changes to navigate challenges. I already have some events I plan to attend, like  "Gentle Yoga" and "Breathing Techniques to Alleviate Stress." I came into college thinking that I would never need mindfulness or meditation. But everyone goes through a challenging period, whether in college or not. Still, I'm grateful that Dartmouth has the structure in place for students to access many resources if they find it calls to them. 

Calendar of "Mindful May" events

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