“If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy.” —–— Ravi Ravindra
Weekday or weekends, Chapman is happening, from parties to Greek events to Student Union gigs, from guest speakers to live theatre to special showings. Senior Ariana Kornblau is busy too. But she finds time in her crowded calendar for a quieter goal.
Kornblau, an integrated educational studies major, is head of the Health and Healing Club on campus. While its members participate in activities as varied as yoga, meditation, and health education workshops, they have a common thread: To get in touch with their own sense of peace.
“When I let thoughts, commitments or responsibilities take importance in my life, that sense of inner stillness can be fleeting,” said Kornblau.
Kornblau is not alone in such Chapman priorities. The Health and Healing club has a growing following. Also, there is organized yoga on campus. Some students join local off-campus yoga or meditation sessions several times a week. Gail Stearns, dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel on campus, leads groups in everything from seeking peace through religious workshops to what she calls “mindful meditation.” Stearns says her goal is to help more students and faculty “to live more deeply in the present.”
Aside from all that, some Chapman students have become followers of a growing philosophy called The Stillness Project, an Australian-based movement that holds events world-wide to promote meditation and inner peace. Its stated website goal is “to unite millions of minds across the globe to connect through peace, harmony, and inner stillness.” Kira Bolwell, a freshman peace studies major, is an avid follower of The Stillness Project, and calls it meaningful for those who lose track of their goal of inner peace.
“It is natural and susceptible to get consumed in the busyness of the world and the occurrences around us,” she said. “But it is vital for each individual’s happiness and overall well being to have the ability to focus and connect with the present moment.”
The four pillars of The Stillness Project:
- Don’t ignore the noises around you while you meditate. Noise is inevitable.
- Let go of expectations. Finding inner peace is more difficult some days than others.
- Get comfortable in your space. Surround yourself with what you love, and a setting that makes you comfortable — whether it be in a woods, your dorm room, or even a Chapman lawn.
- Choose your own mantra, something that works for you. According to its leaders: “Your mantra is your vehicle.”
At Chapman, these followers say, there’s so much going on, it’s easy to lose track of inner stillness, but it is highly important to have the ability to focus back within your self, reflect, and find that calmness again.
Said Kornblau: “When I am deep in my yoga and meditation practices, engaging in classes five times a week, I definitely feel immersed in my sense of self and sense of calm.”
Whether it’s the Stillness Project, the Health and Healing Club, or the Gail Stearns classes, one sideline theme emerges: Compassion for others.
Explained Kornblau: “When someone realizes that they are put on this earth to serve others rather than purely themselves, there is a shift in consciousness.”
Stearns says her Mindful Meditation encourages “education, compassion, tolerance, and understanding,” in partnership with other clubs on campus involved with spirituality, health, and healing. Another advantage of these groups, says Kornblau: Making new friends among like-minded people.
“We are the first club on campus to both encompass and encourage those who follow a holistic lifestyle, or would like to,” she said.
Some join because they’re battling other issues. For example:
Jacob Walker, a junior majoring in screenwriting, said he struggled with OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder. But since meeting students like Kornblau, he’s been able to put most of life’s “noise” behind him. Walker attends the Health and Healing Club as well as a Buddhist retreat facilitated by Chapman.
“Although I’m not there yet fully,” he said, “by finding time to explore philosophy and new ways of thinking, by going out of my comfort zone and going on adventure, by finding quiet time, I have found some calm.”
These like-minded students point out that one great conduit for this search is yoga. Noelle Reich, a freshman majoring in communication, said she struggled with having a busy mind all her life. That led to anxiety and the feeling of unease. She cites grades, the future, and finances as factors that hang over students who want peace in their lives.
“My thoughts are everywhere and nowhere all at once – which is both a blessing and a curse, she said. “When my thoughts become the source of my unhappiness, finding stillness allows me to project positive energy, compassion, and understanding into the world,” she said.
Reich cites yoga as a way to gain a greater understanding of the world therefore helping her feel more present in the moment as well as within herself.
And if you are really into all this, then you are probably a follower of mbg. Just in case you’re out of the loop, that’s the lingo for mind-body-green, a national pro-meditation movement that promotes healing by bringing the brainwave pattern into an Alpha state, where you acquire feelings of calmness and serenity. Followers say it’s a nifty way to make your problems seem smaller.
Zealous advocates like Kornblau say one way to follow all this is to read the best authors on inner stillness, such as “A Life in Balance” by Kathleen Hall.
Hall emphasizes your breath. She says your breath is “the pivotal connection between your body and soul.”
Complicated thinking? Not really. Hall says just take three deep abdominal breaths. “It will leave you feeling focused, cleansed, and re-energized,” she said.
Kornblau is a believer: “Without conscious or mindfulness breathing, we are doing our body a disservice. By reminding ourselves to breathe, we are sending a positive signal of power, investment and calm throughout our bodies. The secret to a happy and healthy life is by allowing breath to be your guide.”
Another Kay Hall follower: Quay Koontz, a freshman pharmacy major. Noted Koontz: “When I catch myself getting worked up or upset, I remind myself to breathe in a constant, deep way. Breathing is such a good way to center yourself and remind yourself that no matter what happens, you’re still okay, and you’re still breathing.”
The most zealous Health and Healing Club members have also read “The Art of Living Consciously” by self-esteem author Nathaniel Branden. He calls such living “a form of life, an art form.” Be prudent about your choices, and how they affect the greater good of the world, Branden says. Humans have a mindset to simply survive and to thrive in their environments. By doing so, often times we forget to live and be present in the moment. We rather live mindlessly – not thinking about the now – just about what is next.
One more important component, these advocates say: Don’t forget to be a part of nature at the same time.
Reich calls nature “the most underrated form of medicine.” Enjoying beauty around her helps her achieve that calm she’s seeking.
Added Koontz: “Once I made the connection that I am also part of the earth, I found my peace.”
Kornblau’s advice: Just find out what works for you. But she’s convinced that whatever route you choose, finding inner peace carries high dividends in the end:
“Rather than living from my head, I am living from my heart. My life has been stripped of the unnecessary. Finally, I can live a life feeling confident and satisfied in my own body.”