The Collegian
Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Mindfulness and meditation practices offer holistic wellness approach at UR

<p>Zen Meditation, run by sangha Kevin Heffernan, takes place Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Wilton Center Multifaith Room.&nbsp;</p>

Zen Meditation, run by sangha Kevin Heffernan, takes place Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Wilton Center Multifaith Room. 

University of Richmond community members trying to make healthier lifestyle choices while navigating a busy world can find a holistic approach to wellness through several UR services, including the Well-Being Center’s mindfulness and meditation programs.  

“I think it would be beneficial for students and all people in society to learn to stop, breathe and listen,” Kevin Heffernan, UR’s Zen Buddhist sangha, said. 

The Mindfulness and Meditation program offers four opportunities for participation: Mindful Mondays, KORU Mindfulness @ UR, Zen Meditation and Sacred Pause. 

While each of these resources offers something different, they all focus on the overarching power of practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Zen Meditation, run by Heffernan, takes place Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Wilton Center Multifaith Room. 

Heffernan began practicing Zen over 30 years ago and brought his practice to UR in 2008, he said. Zen Meditation at UR began with just two workshops over the course of two weeks and has grown ever since 15 people attended those first meetings, he said. 

An evening at Zen Meditation begins with an introduction for newcomers, followed by participants finding a comfortable and sustainable posture on one of the meditation cushions and chairs, Heffernan said. 

“Then, I try to weave that into a guided meditation to get everyone settled and in the same vibe,” he said. 

Basics on posture and breathing; how to handle distractive thoughts, feelings and sensations; and working toward grounding and harmonizing in the moment are some of the concepts covered in a Zen Meditation session. The sessions end with a period of silence and some comments or statements on Buddhist teachings, Heffernan said.  

In the past, some attendees have met outside of the 7 p.m. Sunday sessions, Heffernan said. The group has made day trips to sit on the rocks at the James River early in the morning and hike in the mountains. There have also been movie nights and topical presentations and discussions.

Mindful Mondays, run by Roger Mancastroppa, associate director of academic skills, take place each Monday at noon in the Mind-Body Studio of the Well-Being Center. Participants can also attend via a Zoom.

Created nine years ago, Mindful Mondays work to help students manage life conflicts and stress. Each week, students, faculty and staff members come together to practice inner peace and quiet, allowing them to form deep connections to others, Mancastroppa said. 

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After attendees find a comfortable position on one of the many cushions in the studio, Mindful Mondays begin with an introduction to mindfulness and meditation, followed by a breathing meditation.

“It’s not strict, rigid or anything like that, it's just mindfulness,” Mancastroppa said.  

Mancastroppa encourages people of all experience levels to attend, emphasizing that beginners are more than welcome. 

The same applies to KORU Mindfulness @ UR, an evidence-based curriculum offered throughout the semester by Mancastroppa.

The program offers a course of four, 75-minute sessions throughout the semester. In a typical semester, about three or four total courses are offered, and the dates of these sessions are announced through SpiderBytes. 

Mancastroppa said Mindful Mondays and KORU Mindfulness services allow students to reconnect with a community that they were already comfortable with and could trust. 

The Sacred Pause, another program available to community members, takes place Fridays from 4 to 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. The program is run by Jamie Lynn Haskins, chaplain for spiritual life, and can be contacted at for the Zoom link. 

The Sacred Pause began in the fall of 2019 to offer a space for people to stop and process life, Haskins said. It is a place for emotions and thoughts of celebration and grief, Haskins said, in a spiritual, but not religious service opportunity.

Sacred Pause lasts about 20 minutes and involves poetry, deep breathing, reflection and optional sharing about what is going on in the lives of attendees and around the world, Haskins said. 

“You can show up in a space, you know that space is safe, and you always know what's going to happen,” Haskins said, “It is a rhythm of routine that can help lower your anxiety and help center yourself for your weekend.” 

More information on mindfulness and meditation programs can be found here.  

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