“It allowed me to realize how simple it is to experience a sense of calm, a sense of ease, peace, and happiness, all of those positive things, just in the current moment.”

That gust of wind you felt on campus Friday, Nov. 17 may have been from the participants in the One University- One Breath program.

The Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation put together the One University One Breath program with guidance from meditation teacher Eckhart Tolle, who has remarked, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.” Participants pledged to take one conscious breath every day from Oct. 16-Nov. 17. They received bi-weekly emails with resources, inspiration and support to assist with their pledge.

“This is something I could practice wherever I was, no matter what time of day, or regardless of what I was doing,” said junior Duncan Anderson, a participant in the program. “It was such an eye-opening experience for me because it allowed me to realize how simple it is to experience a sense of calm, a sense of ease, peace, and happiness, all of those positive things, just in the current moment.”

With the support of the Wellness Center, the Center for the Common Good, the Office of Spirituality, and the Ashoka Changemaker Social Innovation Collaboratory, more than 300 students and faculty, staff, and administration members pledged to participate in the program. Participants gathered Nov. 17 as a community to share their experiences.

Participants discussed how they deepened their meditation practice because they knew they had a community of people alongside them. They said mindfulness and showing up is the foundation of making change, and this program was a great support system.

One-month challenge just the beginning

The Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation has a multi-year plan of programming around mindfulness. The programming begins with a video presentation explaining why mindfulness is important, and also challenges faculty, staff and students to make one conscious breath happen for everyone in their communities.

By year two, project administrators expect to have established educational opportunities for those interested in learning more about mindfulness. Additionally, during year two, they also plan to pause and take time to celebrate growing mindfulness as a community. Celebrations would include filling the quad with as many people as possible, both students and neighbors from nearby churches and schools, to take a conscious breath together.

Organizers also plan to populate their website with stories from participants describing their experiences. Finally, they aim to integrate mindfulness into general messaging about the university and its values; they want increased conscious awareness to become part of how the institution orients new people, new students, and new hires.

Overall, the program challenges everyone in the St. Thomas community to come together as one university to take one breath, in and out.

“We don’t necessarily need to sit down and meditate for 30 minutes or an hour to find that sense of calm and that sense of ease,” Anderson said. “We can do it with just one breath.”

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