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Photo Credit/Flickr: Konstantin Stepanov

Mindfulness practices have existed for thousands of years and have long histories in many of the world’s cultures. Since ancient times, people have used practices like chanting, dance, yoga, and meditation to calm, focus, and train the mind. Some of the oldest records of meditation come from ancient India: dhyana, or concentrated meditation, is discussed in the Upanishads (part of the ancient Vedic texts). The concept of dhyana later migrated to China and Japan in the form of the Chan and Zen schools of Buddhism. 

Today, mindfulness is still practiced all over the world. Within the last few years, study after study has led the Western scientific community to accept what many people have always known: that mindfulness practice yields significant health benefits.

Compelling research has found clear changes in the brain and body attributed to mindfulness practice. After an eight-week meditation course, MRI brain scans of practitioners showed that their amygdalas (the part of the brain that controls stress) had decreased in size and their pre-frontal cortexes (responsible for awareness, concentration, and decision-making) had grown larger. The same meditation training was found to reduce the functional connectivity between the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex–meaning that meditation helps to keep reptilian “fight or flight” impulses out of higher reasoning and decision-making. Meditation has also been shown to improve focus and memory as well as directly combat depression and anxiety, two things with which many college students struggle.

Resources on and around the Claremont campuses make it easy to begin and practice mindfulness. On campus, the colleges offer a number of PE classes that teach students mindfulness:

  • Harvey Mudd has a Mindfulness Meditation class on Thursdays from 6:00 – 6:55 p.m. in room 2440 of the Shanahan Center.
  • Scripps offers an Introduction to Meditation and a Meditation Practice Session Tuesdays from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. and 2:45 – 4:00 p.m., respectively.
  • At Pomona, Kundalini (a meditative and breath-focused form of yoga) is taught from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Rains Center.

In addition to PE classes, the McAllister Center offers two Zen meditations on Wednesdays from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 – 9:00 p.m.

There are even more opportunities in the Village and around the Claremont area. Many local yoga studios have programming related to mindfulness:

  • The Yoga Unit (just north of Mudd) offers a mindful yoga class.
  • Claremont Yoga (in the Village) has classes involving meditation, mindfulness, and Kundalini yoga.
  • InnerWorks (a few miles east of campus) has meditation and Kundalini classes.
  • Open Door (in Pomona) offers many meditation and breathwork sessions and classes.

These classes are all available at drop-in rates of around $15 or as part of membership packages.

There is also a meditation practice group that meets Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in Claremont. The practice is $10 per person.

For more budget-friendly options, Open Door holds a Dharma Talk & Meditation Sitting from 10:30 – 11:45 a.m on Sundays. This meditation practice, which is followed by a discussion of Buddhist teachings, is open to anyone for a suggested donation of $10. Open Door also offers a $6 Community Meditation Class from 12:00 – 12:45 p.m. on Fridays.

The Myra House, located just north of campus on Mills Avenue, holds an open Zen meditation from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Sundays. Donations are encouraged but not required.

Finally, mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, for free. There are myriad online resources and tips, mindfulness apps, and guided meditations. Mindfulness does not have to be practiced in a class or cross-legged on a yoga mat. Mindfulness can be practiced through a solo hike on one of the many trails around Claremont, by completing a body scan each night before falling asleep, or by practicing mindful breathing while waiting in line at Collins.

There are already many on-campus and local opportunities to be introduced to mindfulness and to practice further. For a clearer head, better decision-making and reasoning skills, and less stress and anxiety, try setting aside time for a daily mindfulness practice, no matter how short.