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Three Minutes to a More Positive School Day

Mark O'Connor and his family in Kyoto meditating with monks

When Mark O’Connor ’20 traveled to Kyoto less than a month ago to visit his brother, a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Fuji, he found plenty to take in. Japan’s cultural epicenter for centuries, Kyoto boasts breathtaking ancient temples, vivid gardens, beloved shrines, and bustling streets. But when O’Connor and his family got the opportunity to meditate with a Zen Buddhist monk, the St. John’s Prep sophomore found a lot in common with the wellness practices he learned at St. John’s.

“I learned a lot from meditating in Ms. Kiley’s classes,” says O’Connor. “What we experienced in Japan was very similar to what we learned from Ms. Kiley.”

Mary Kiley’s Religious Studies class is by no means the only place on campus where students are encouraged to meditate. The Wellness Center hosts silent meditation every week from Monday through Thursday at 3 pm. At the Middle School, students are invited to meditate inside the Ford Family Student Center on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7:25 am to 7:50 am.

De-stress and refocus

“Students are always thinking, always engaged, and not necessarily on the task at hand,” says Steve Brown, director of the Wellness Center. “The act of stopping and taking the time to sit with only their breathing and their thoughts, or, especially, quieting the mind to the point of not having any particular thought, can be a huge challenge, but if they practice regularly, we find that they see improvements in focus, stress management, memory, and even experience an enhanced sense of compassion for others. The key is regular practice. Just like any other skill, it requires time, effort, and feedback.”

For his part, O’Connor is all-in.

“After learning more about the history of meditation and actually seeing monks that do it all day and how even keeled they are, it showed me even more how to calm myself in class and handle everyday stress,” he says. “Ms. Kiley does a great job of teaching her students how to meditate and you can definitely see the difference it makes for the students in her class. I love that the Prep offers students a chance to meditate and I think it’s  definitely helped many students deal with stress and anxiety.”

“Research suggests that just three minutes of meditation daily makes a positive difference, so all of my classes begin that way,” adds Ms. Kiley. “Since it settles us all down, it’s a great way to start a class. A little bit like the disciplined training of an athlete or musician, the repetitive nature of seated meditation also lowers stress, facilitates spiritual growth and increases focus. Because our campus embraces this concept and lives it like an action verb, I think Prep students are learning how to better ‘live in the present moment’ by experiencing the discipline of meditation.”

Posted by Mr. Chad Konecky in Wellness@SJP on Monday January, 29, 2018

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