Zen Meditation *Web Exclusive*

Oswego State students and community members can reduce anxiety and enter into a period of deep relaxation through Zen meditation.

Oswego State’s Counseling Services and Lifestyles Center has partnered up with Zen meditation instructor Sam Gordon of the Zen Center in Syracuse to offer free meditation classes for students and the Oswego community, with Zen meditation instructor Sam Gordon, of the Zen Center in Syracuse.

Zen Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and is traced back to the teachings of the Buddha, originating in India, and then progressing to China, then Japan, and has now made its way to the United States. Zen attempts to relieve the mind of stress and worries while using the body to focus on the here and now.

The classes begin with students sitting on cushions or chairs, in positions they can maintain for 30 minutes with strict concentration and no movement. Typically those practicing Zen meditation attempt to sit cross-legged, but chairs and alternatives are offered. After the first 30-minute meditation session, instructor Gordon rings a bell, which signals that the walking meditation will begin. During the 30-minute walking meditation session, participants circle the room at a slow pace being mindful of the next step, and focusing on their movement. Then they return to their previous position and focus on meditating for the last 30 minutes of the session. After the class ends, instructor Gordon lets the class to discuss any struggles they may have encountered while meditating and offers advice.

Gordon began to practice Zen meditation in 1999 and has since continued to learn and teach at the Zen Center in Syracuse. Knowing how stressful being a student can be, Gordon hopes for students and community members “to experience the positive benefits of meditation, which comes from practicing.”

In order to fully receive the benefits of Zen, students of the practice need to be committed to working on mindfulness. According to Gordon, mindfulness can be achieved by simply “taking the time to really focus.” The class offers ample opportunities to practice being mindful during the two-hour sessions.

The director of the Counseling Services Center and staff clinical social worker, Maria Grimshaw-Clark, says that students can benefit a lot from the classes.

“The Counseling Center sees a myriad of students suffering from anxious symptoms,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “They don’t or can’t participate in groups for anxiety so we thought we would offer some tools in a unique way by sponsoring Sam to teach and lead meditation.” Grimshaw-Clark aims to help students alleviate their stress and anxiety by offering the meditation classes. “I think students can learn so much from Sam. They just have to slow down, sit and listen,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “Too many students are over-extended but they don’t have to be. Overloaded schedules don’t produce healthy minds only overwhelmed and negative thinking. Students need to check this out and don’t buy into the stereotype of what Zen is. It is free and a great opportunity to explore healthy alternatives.”

Many students may assume that they don’t have the time or the patience to partake in the Zen practice, but the benefits really do outweigh the alternative of not doing it at all. “Many students may be turned off by the idea of sitting for so long, but it actually does take you to a more peaceful place the more you practice,” Emily Chambers, a junior marketing major and Zen meditation attendee said.

Those students who typically attend the meditation classes are returning ones, so there has to be something they are gaining from the practice or they wouldn’t keep coming back. The class normally fills up right away and at least 10-15 people attend each session. This is the first full semester that Zen classes have been offered for free on campus, but according to Grimshaw-Clark, the Counseling Services Center has every intention of offering the meditation class next semester provided that students continue to attend.

The meditation classes are offered on campus every Thursday night in 300 Lee Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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