Say ‘namasté’ to the new meditation club

Sara Levy

If a clear mind is something you desire, or if you just want to suddenly be very aware of how loudly you breathe, group meditation with Namasté awaits you.

Namasté – a Sanskrit greeting commonly spoken in the Indian subcontinent – was made into an official club last week, after an increasing number of students started showing interest in the weekly informal meditation sessions.

“[In meditation] you basically get to watch how your mind works, which can be really frustrating, but it teaches you a lot,” said Sonja Aikens, Administrative Assistant for the Intercultural Center. Aikens also provides basic meditation instruction.

“I would say it increases awareness about everything in your daily life, and helps your ability to pay attention,” she said.

Meditation is a method of understanding and dealing with stress in one’s life, but Aikens said that this is not always easy.

“You’re working at being present in the moment, and sometimes that’s not fun. But it’s important because things don’t go away when you’re blocking them or in denial. That’s not a very effective strategy for dealing with problems,” she said.

“In meditation you kind of investigate your mind and become aware that it has these loops of thoughts,” Aikens said. “If you’re just in the present, that’s all you have to deal with. By adding thoughts that are from the past or not really relevant, you are probably making dealing with a problem even more difficult.”

After a half-hour session of seated and walking meditation, sophomore Van Trinh said that she feels a group setting is more conducive to a relaxed state of mindfulness.

“It’s a great place for people to get together and not feel weird about meditating,” she said.

Trinh got into the habit of meditating daily over the winter break and feels that it has made her noticeably more relaxed.

She now has a meditation internship planned for the summer at the Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon.

According to Trinh, meditation practices can be brought into everyday activities, such as walking and eating.

“It makes food taste better!” she said.

Sophomore Alicia LeClair’s recent passion for meditation has made a positive difference in her life.

“I’ve had a long battery of health problems, including heart and thyroid conditions. My doctors and my parents encouraged me to start meditating more often,” LeClair said. “Now I’ve been doing it daily for a month or so, and if I don’t do it I start craving it. It just makes me feel so much more in control, because my life and my health got so out of control for a period of time.”

LeClair and Trinh turned Namasté into an official club, and are now its co-presidents. Sessions are held at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Prentiss basement. Trinh, LeClair, and Aikens encourage all Whitman students to attend these meetings, adding that it is never too late to start.

“Don’t be afraid to try it. And if you hate it and only come once then that’s fine!” Aikens said.