Meditation may invoke images of monks or hippie communes, but what is its place in our day-to-day lives? As Spirit Rock, one of the best known insight meditation centers in the U.S., explains on their website, it is the practice of “focusing attention on the breath … It allows one to see through the mind’s conditioning and thereby to live more fully present in the moment.” The website goes on to explain that meditation is a practice of calming the mind and being present within our experiences. Mediation can be relevant to each of us. Staying present in our chaotic juggling act of friends, class, work, home life and self-care seems a tall order as the semester kicks off, but for many balance can be found through mediation. Hence, having a community to gather and sit with can be a grounding and transformational practice, no matter your background, interests or faith.
For over a year now, the Bozeman Dharma Center has provided a space for mediators in our community. Started in 2013, the center hosts three local mediation groups: The Bozeman Insight Community, the Bozeman Zen Group and Bozeman Dharmata Sangha (Tibetan Buddhism). Though movie screenings, daily sits, book groups and daylong or weekend retreats the center aims to “inspire practice and honor the inner life — solitude and silence, creativity and growth, compassion and wisdom.”
Over the last year and a half, the center has been popular in the Bozeman community yet remains unexplored by many MSU students. This is likely because it is located on the northeast side of town, an area difficult for students to get to without a car. That is about the change for the MSU community, however.
Patrick Bednoche, a first year graduate student in psychology, serves as the campus liason for the Bozeman Dharma Center. Partnering with Travis Whitaker, also a psychology graduate student, and faculty advisor Judy Weisler, Bednoche and Whitaker have started a mindfulness meditation group on campus. Bednoche, who has meditated for 12 years, says the meditation group will serve as an outlet for students that “specifically focuses on emotional stress and … promotes stability in their emotional lives.”
For Whitaker, meditation became important in his undergraduate studies when he was exposed to it in class. He explained how, while taking upper division statistics classes, his stress levels were high and his mind wouldn’t stop racing. When he started attending meditation sits however, “I’d come out and my mind would be quiet … It was great for taking you away from school and the overwhelming nature of the classes you were taking. It would bring you back to a base, a center.”
Starting on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. the MSU Insight Meditation Group will meet at the Christus Collegium. These meeting are open to anyone who wants to attend. The group will meet every second and fourth Thursday of the month.
The group will start out with shorter sits to accommodate beginners and, as Bednoche shared, “all experience levels are welcome.” Whitaker went on to emphasize the inclusive nature of the budding community, saying: “We want to be open to all forms of mindfulness meditation, not specific to just one spiritual group.”
The positive impacts of meditation are something interwoven in my personal life. I was raised in a family where meditation was encouraged. Meditation teaches one to watch their breath and thoughts. Throughout my life I have seen the practice of turning inward and practicing mindfulness transform relationships within and outside of my family. While meditation practices can always be non-denominational in practice, compassionate practices and meditation are a constant comfort while navigating the tides of adulthood. Indeed, it was not only meditation, but having a meditation community, that helped me deal with difficult and emotional mental states in the past.
From this experience, and the stories I’ve heard from others, I can only believe that providing a space for students to gather their thoughts, observe their emotions, and come together in community to share space and experience is a positive step for MSU. While universities provide opportunities to learn about the world we live in, too often students don’t prioritize time to learn about ourselves. The grounding and rewarding practice of mindful meditation provides space for self-inquiry and creates a culture of self-examination, both positive steps for our community.
Meeting and Contact Info:
Second and fourth Thursday of every month
Christus Collegium (corner of Eighth and College)