Freshmen Zoe Rose and Marley Darvassy practice Zazen meditation in the Old Jail. (Utsah Pandey/TKS)
With the stress of college and life after college weighing down on our shoulders, many choose coping strategies that do more harm than good. While some choose to find inner peace through use religion and spiritualism, others have turned to forms of yoga and meditation and are reaping the physical and mental benefits.
Associate Professor of Economics and Business and Management Carol Scotton defines Zazen meditation as “sitting meditation,” which is a form of silent meditation that focuses on posture.
“A lot of it is just understanding the posture and why we use a particular posture, and how that kind of stilling our body allows us to still our mind,” she said. “So it’s not teaching so much as it is giving some basic kind of instructions.”
Scotton describes the two ways we think about ‘practice’; one being for the sake of improving and the other being what a person does, such as practicing law or medicine. She figures that Zazen can fall under both categories.
“It’s really more about that sense of what you do. So it’s a practice of stilling quieting things down slowing things down so you’re paying attention to your actual real life as it happens,” she said.
Scotten also added that it takes time and effort to learn how to engage in Zazen meditation.
“The practice of it’s not easy to still your mind. It’s not easy to turn that off. So the more that I do it the more that I know what it feels like. Once in awhile I’ll actually feel that sense of really experiencing what’s really happening. And that’s a wonderful thing,” Scotton said.
While sophomore Lydia Allen is not an expert on meditation, she has been practicing vinyasa yoga, often called power yoga, since she was in middle school. Being a competitive swimmer, Allen felt that she wanted to get involved in another form of physical activity that was less stressful while still fulfilling her love of working out. She feels that, unlike other sports, yoga combines the mental and physical capabilities, which have proved to be more beneficial to her.
“I’m so much more in touch with myself and in touch with my body,” Allen said. “I feel like I can listen to my body more and understand what my body needs. Like is my body tired, or am I hungry? But the biggest thing is definitely mental. I think I’ve really learned how to handle stress.”
Like Scotton, Allen feels that yoga helps her slow her mind and body down, and feels that the inability to achieve perfection makes the activity appealing.
“It’s this constant thing you’re working at and there’s no one saying you did a good job or you did a bad job because it’s about you, what you need from it, that’s what you try to get,” Allen said.
While she started with yoga to go along with training for swimming, she did not find love for it until she was able to isolate herself from the thoughts of others. Being in a class with several others facing a large mirror, Allen experienced feelings of doubt and self-consciousness when comparing herself to her classmates.
“I would spend my whole time looking in the mirror at the other people and not feeling good about myself at the end,” Allen said. “So eventually something clicked and I just thought to myself ‘No, don’t look at anyone else. This is about you’ and I only looked at myself in the mirror and it was like everyone else disappeared.”
Scotton noted that Zazen meditation intends to lessen anxiety and teach people to live in the moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future. However, she realizes that this newfound sense of self-realization may be its own cause of anxiety for some.
“It sometimes can actually create the sense of ‘Oh my God, now I’m seeing myself and I’m seeing more of who I am and that can be,’ and that’s why sitting with a group and being part of a practice is helpful,” she said.
Scotton feels that, despite meditation often being an activity done in isolation, she never experiences a sense of loneliness when in practice.
“People somewhere in the world are sitting Zazen every single moment of every single day. So I’m never lacking for people to sit with, they just might not be at the same place as I am,” she said.