Every Thursday at noon in the Campus Worship Center, Julie Lehman leads a group of students and faculty through mindfulness, a practice of meditation meant to relax participants and make them aware of their inner self.
Sitting in a circle, participants close their eyes, visualizing their current mental environment. Group members focus on themselves and are encouraged to enjoy the meditation.
Lehman says the mindfulness group is for everyone, showing participants how to recognize themselves, and live in the present. It’s a time to practice self awareness and being in the present, without judging the moment.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about the past, or thinking about the future, so we need to focus on where we are, in the present,” Lehman, Hesston’s campus counselor, said.
Lehman says that mindfulness is more than just awareness, it’s self improvement. From self-image to stress relief, the advantages of practicing mindfulness show with time. Having a safe place for people to learn about themselves is the key.
“I love the sense of relief people feel when they can let go of stress, and it means a lot to me to try and create that environment for people on campus,” Lehman said. “We’re less likely to be tossed around by the external things, and we can keep a more level head, which is a powerful thing.”
Whether you think of yourself as a stressed person or not, mindfulness offers a way of dealing with your thoughts, and helps you control your present. Emotion and logic can find a balance when someone is practicing mindfulness. Lehman recommends mindfulness before a big game or performance, simple because mindfulness comes as a calming technique to prepare yourself, to do your best.
“It’s a way to enhance a good feeling, and be aware of, and feel your own body, keeping you keenly in tune with life,” Lehman said. “There has to be some pause, or realization for you to reconnect to where you are and what you’re doing so that you feel mindful of yourself.”
Focusing on the present is the goal of mindfulness. Lehman is a big believer in the results and process, and is a long time practitioner of mindfulness. Whenever she feels rushed or stressed, she can take a step back and relax, realizing there is more than what she is currently feeling.
“I first started learning about mindfulness about nine years ago when I was just learning about therapy,” Lehman said.“I was dealing with my own anxiety, and needed a way or a tool to allow myself to take a deep breathe, to reconnect to the present and not worry about the future, and that I don’t have to plan for it, just living that moment when it arrives.”
Lehman says that while some are skeptical about mindfulness, they might think of it metaphorically. For instance, when someone takes a shower, they clean their body. Likewise, mindfulness cleanses the mind and self. Relax, Lehman says, and trust something new that could be part of a new successful process.
“Just give it a try, see it as an experiment,” Lehman said. “You can hate it, you can even hate it while your trying it, but just be open and allow yourself to experience something.”
Those who practice mindfulness say the experience is the true purpose. It’s a process that makes you feel normal and human while connecting you to yourself. The best part, according to Lehman: It works.
“It’s simply awareness of your body in the present moment, and its sounds too simple to even notice, but I think that’s where the magic is.”