Wellness and Mindfulness Community

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

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When McWane Hall opens in the 2019-2020 academic year, it will feature the new Spiritual Wellness and Mindfulness Residential Learning Community.

This community was created by the Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Steve Dawson, and the Associate Chaplain, Nathan Albert.

In an email from Courtney Kelsey on Feb. 17, students were invited to “Join the Spiritual Wellness and Mindfulness Residential Learning Community.” The email continued, “The Spiritual Wellness and Mindfulness Community allows students the opportunity to explore personal and spiritual rhythms that can decrease stress and anxiety, increase the ability to have a well-balanced life, learn self-care and patterns of easeful living, develop healthy patterns of technology and social media use, and experience communal support and accountability by peers and staff.”

Dawson said, “The way that the community is organized is, originally, I put in a proposal for a community focused on meditation and yoga and Nathan Albert…he put in a proposal. He put in one that would be focused on ancient contemplative practices, such as centering prayer. […] The folks in Residence Life said that they thought these were two good ideas and it would be possible for us to sort of combine them and work together.”

“The community is open to all interested upperclass students for the 2019-2020 academic year,” according to the email. “Residents of the community must actively engage and participate in the community or they will be administratively removed from the community.”

Dawson said, “[T]here are two tracks in the community, so people who want to focus on the ancient contemplative practices can, that is one track. And people who would be more interested in focusing on the yoga meditation, that would be another track. But certainly, there would be opportunities to experiment and practice, you are not locking into one or the other track.”

Originally, there were 30 spots open for interested students. According to Dawson, “We have had eleven or twelve sign up for that. But this is the first year or so, we may not have 30 people this year, but we intend to. We intend this to be more than just a one-year deal.”

There would be options for interested students to participate in events without yet committing to the group, if they are undecided. “I would imagine some of the activities, you could have them as public activities.”

Dawson, who is also the faculty advisor for LC Sangha, a meditation group, said, “I was thinking to myself, if one of the problems with developing a mindfulness practice is just being able to carve out time for and then go someplace, what if we were to take this and put it in the residence hall as a community? Then you would not have to go to it, it would already be there.”

Dawson continued, “There are a number of benefits related to stress relief, alleviating anxiety and things like that that come from meditation practice or a mindfulness practice.”

In the new building, Dawson said, “My understanding is that they have space for that, a room that can be used for a variety of different things, and certainly, being able to do some yoga together or meditation or some of these other things. There is a rooftop area or a patio that we would have access to.”

“I hope, like any community, it is an opportunity for people in the community to make connections and close bonds with one another, that sense of being engaged in a common pursuit,” said Dawson. “For the individual members of the community, it would be a way to hopefully develop some sort of mindfulness practice that they can take away, something that they can continue to work with when they are no longer part of the community or after they graduate.”

For more information about the community, please contact Steve Dawson at dawson.s@lynchburg.edu or Nathan Albert at albert_nd@lynchburg.edu.