Though college can be full of stress, anxiety and hectic schedules, Peace@UMBC is working to eliminate these unhealthy habits. Held each Friday at 1 p.m. in the Women’s Center, Peace@UMBC offers weekly meditation classes to help soothe the soul. These sessions are open to faculty, staff and students, be they novices or masters.
Led by Jill Wardell, Manager of Workplace Learning & Wellness in Human Resources, each session begins with the silencing of cell phones and the mutual agreement that “what is said in the room, stays in the room.” Next is a quick lesson on proper posture, where participants can sit upright in a chair or on one of the center’s zafu and zabuton sets, special cushions and mats made for meditation.
The group sits in a circle, and at the sound of a bell, all eyes close and the silent meditation begins. Wardell gives short instructions on breathing techniques and what to think and reflect upon during the silence. She calls this an “open” or “guided” session. Longer silent meditations are also offered, as well as master classes with guided audio recordings, and beginner classes on the first Friday of every month.
Wardell had always wanted meditation to become a widespread practice in the school community. “In 2008, I was helping plan the university retreat for faculty and I brought up the subject of stress management, and a lot of interest was shown,” Wardell said. “I had a vision of meditation happening all over campus.”
Wardell mentioned how she started Meditation Bootcamp, an eight-week program which helped launch the weekly sessions a few years later. “Year after year, we’d have a waiting list for the bootcamp. The need was growing so we opened the weekly sessions for faculty, staff and students, and that was in 2012.”
While Peace@UMBC has a few committed members, the group is always looking to expand. Anyone and everyone on campus is encouraged to attend these free meetings. “The goal is to support continual practice in order to reach that total embodiment of peace,” said Wardell. “We really want the entire school community to have these resources available to them. It’s just one way, one small way, of bringing peace to the world.”