Students seek Zen with meditation group

by Katy Rushlau / Beacon Staff • March 22, 2012

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Students gather around Lessen’s living room for their weekly meetings.
Students gather around Lessen’s living room for their weekly meetings.

From large coffees to yoga mats, every student handles stress differently. One commonality is that most are in search of relief from the hectic, multitasking lifestyle. The Emerson Meditation Movement is helping students move from juggling to balancing by emphasizing individual spirituality and expression. 

The small group, founded last March by senior Jeremy Lesser, consists of eight to 10 students who meet every Wednesday at 6 p.m. for meditation and spiritual discussion. Lesser said his hope when starting the group was to promote growth for the individuals and for the organization.

“I simply hoped to bring people together in a way that allowed for both internal and external growth,” said the communication studies major. “While meditating, the focus is on one’s self, but in discussions the focus becomes the group.” 

He said Emerson Mediation Movement participants gather for weekly meetings at his off-campus apartment. After dimming the lights, the members sits in a circle and burns candles and incense to “get the mood underway” before the opening five-minute meditation. The group, Lesser explained, then sips tea while discussing a selection of quotes, songs, or anything seemingly important or interesting. Lesser said conversations revolve around spirituality, life milestones, and other emotional sentiments.

“The group has helped me see that there are a lot of people in this community that want to share and connect with one another on issues that go beyond the surface of things,” said Lesser. “It has helped me have faith in both myself and others more than ever before.”

The gatherings, which have no established time limit, generally wrap up with a longer, timed meditation session in which participants reflect on discussions and can relax from the life’s stresses, according to Lesser.

“Meditation to me is a way to silence the noise of everyday life,” said Lesser. “The things that are really important, such as community, compassion, empathy, friendship, and recognizing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, can come to light in the mind through meditative practices.”

While the group focuses on a spiritual practice, there is no specific religion they are targeting. Junior and member Juliana Hudson said meditation is an opportunity to relieve stress and pressure from the fast-paced lifestyles that many Emerson students experience. 

“I’ve been meditating for about a year now,” said the communication studies major. “I have awful anxiety, and meditation has helped me a lot. It helps me to stay present in the moment rather than getting lost in my thoughts.”

Hudson also explained that meditation, for her personally, focuses on a higher power or divine presence instead of one particular God or spirit.

“I do not speak for the whole group here, but I meditate to remember a divine presence,” said Hudson. “When my thoughts subside, all I hear and feel is nothingness, which is the most liberating feeling in the world.”

Both Lesser and Hudson were concerned about the lack of spirituality on campus. Hudson said Emerson, as a whole, has very few activities centered around religious or spiritual expression. 

Lesser said meditation is a practice that improves the individual and should not be seen as an exclusively religious activity.

“I think there is a general disdain for all things deemed religious on this campus, but this applies mostly to a western lens,” said Lesser. “Meditation is not any more spiritual than any other practice in life.”

The group is always welcoming new members to join in the close-knit community of the Emerson Meditation Movement, Lesser said. The club, according to Lesser, seeks members exclusively by word-of-mouth but welcomes any person willing to explore spirituality with an open mind. 

Emma Krause, a senior communication studies major, said she recently joined the group to improve herself physically and emotionally. She said she was drawn by the warm people and atmosphere that the sessions provide. 

“I knew that a lot of great people were involved and that it would force me to designate time every week for me to check in with my body and ensure everything was physically, spiritually, and emotionally in tune,” said Krause. “Often we don’t designate enough time for this essential self-maintenance, and I loved that the group provided an outlet for me to do so.”

Krause, who is in her final semester, said that the group enjoys starting new traditions such as sharing home-cooked goods that they indulge in during the meetings. 

“I’m an avid baker, and the group gives me an excuse to try a new recipe each week,” said Krause. “I love that I’ve met some great people and made new friends to share things with, even in my last semester at Emerson.” 

The students pride themselves on being a more intimate gathering of close friends. The movement, Lesser said, receives no funding or SGA recognition, which he said benefits their ability to maintain a smaller size and closer friendships. He said the participants often hang out outside of the sessions but have no formal activities planned. 

Hudson expressed gratitude for the relationships meditation and spirituality have brought into her life. She explained that overcoming a difficult time was made easier with reflection and spiritual practices. Sharing it with other, similar students has made the spiritual journey that much more fulfilling, said Hudson. 

“Being in this group has made me feel a lot more connected to Emerson students,” said Hudson. “[The] meditation group has helped me to find like-minded people who I can be open with about spirituality and can talk about things that I have to keep inside otherwise.”

Lesser described meditation and spirituality as a practice that helps the individual appreciate life and all it has to offer.

“Our time on this planet is short,” said Lesser. “A focus of being in the moment is necessary because in reality, there is only one moment to be had, and it is the one you are in right now. And right now. And so on.”