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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Though overlooked, meditation allows for key introspection

<st year my Argument & Inquiry class (A&I), a required course all freshman take in their fall term, was on Stoic philosophy in the Antiquity period. Stoicism has recently become more and more mainstream in modern life as a way to live less affected by negative events outside of your control. This ancient way of life has become attractive to students, and all people, in the modern world because many people find themselves stressed and negative as a result of outside sources, such as a difficult class or job.

One of the required activities for my A&I was to enroll in a global event called Stoic-Week, where participants live as stoically as possible. At the end of the week, I noticed a significant change in my average mood and stress levels. Though living this way for the rest of my life would not be sustainable, the activity that helped me the most was the meditation exercises, which I think are sustainable.

Meditation is not what most people think it is. Instead of clearing the mind of all thoughts, is it actually just allowing the thoughts to pass by, without judging them or dwelling on them. For example, you might think about that paper you have to write by tomorrow—instead of jumping down the rabbit hole and thinking about what you want to write about, how much time you’re going to devote to it, etc., you just accept it, and you allow your mind to move on to a different thought. It is about calming your mind and forgoing the remaining stresses in your life. In doing so, one is able to focus their mind on things more immediate in their life, especially focusing on awareness and to simply observe your thoughts without judging them as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. It’s about mindfulness about your thinking habits and eventually preventing unhealthy mental spirals.

After my first term ended, it was much less convenient for me to continue with my meditation as I was not in the A&I anymore, and I thereafter noticed a large difference in my mental health. At the beginning of this year I started up meditation again, and again I noticed that my mindfulness and mental awareness were much better.

With better mindfulness and mental awareness, you can more specifically identify when your mental state spirals, and you can more directly intervene, preventing the inevitable stress and negative emotions that would result from this kind of unhealthy mental state.

I think for students, meditation is often overlooked as a way to relieve stress, even though I have found it to be one of the most effective methods to relieve stress. It allows you to come into direct contact with the machinery of your mind, determining what is stressing you out and how to simply accept the source of stress, instead of mentally dwelling on it and stressing on it. I have found that, since I have started meditation again, I can more quickly and easily identify what is making me feel the particular emotion I am feeling: why I am happy, disappointed or stressed. Knowing what is causing these emotions is the most important step to beginning to unravel the negative ones, and taking back control over your mind.

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