The Pruitt Center for Mindfulness and Well-Being opened in 2018. The center holds events every week including virtual yoga and Mindful Mondays.
Photo by Lindsey Jalivay
This semester, I embarked on a mindfulness journey. I was curious if mindfulness would even work. Sure, the school had the Pruitt Center, an entire office dedicated to the practice of mindfulness, but was it just another way to waste my tuition money? How could some breathing in and out change anything?
With my stress levels rising quicker than the sea levels, I knew I had to do something. That is when I received an email from the Pruitt Center for a 4-week mindfulness class by Randy Barker. I signed up as a skeptic that breathing in and out would solve my problems.
The first class was on a sunny Tuesday morning. One where I would rather have gone on a walk than be Zooming into a mindfulness class. The first class included three different mindfulness exercises—breath awareness, dynamic breathing, and body scanning. The first exercise was breath awareness. Simply put, it involved focusing on how your breath feels going into and out of your body. After the first mindfulness breath experience was over, I started to feel tension I did not realize I had melt away. The next exercise was dynamic breathing. This involved breathing in and out quickly through your nose, while bending down and flapping your arms like a chicken. Dynamic breathing looks like a weird chicken dance. Its purpose is to give you energy while calming you down; the funny thing is that I did feel more calmly energized. A substantial change to my normal chaotic energy.
The next week I was looking forward to our Zoom meeting. I was eager to see if I could add any more skills to my toolbox that might help reduce my stress and anxiety levels. During the second week, I learned about Gathas, meditations paired with words, poems, and other literature. While we were learning, we breathed in when saying “breathe in” and breathed out when saying “breathe out.” It was a little stressful trying to remember to breathe in when saying it. When I shared my experience, Barker reminded the class that not every mindfulness technique works for everyone and that he liked to introduce us to different techniques so we could find ones that worked well for us.
Before the third class, my car, Squishy, broke down. I was panicked when I found out my rear axle was broken. The repair bill was both higher than I could afford and the total value of Squishy. While I sat in the waiting room until a tow truck could arrive, I started doing breath awareness exercises. I focused on how my breath felt cold as I breathed in and my nose preferred to take more air in through my right nostril. I felt the air travel down my throat and expand in my belly. I continued doing this until a sense of calm came over me. This calm made it so I could think more clearly about my next steps.
During the fourth and final week, I learned that I am not the biggest fan of raw baby carrots. This week’s exercise was mindful eating. While mindfully eating, I had to observe and feel the carrot before I ate it. The texture of the carrot was overwhelming, and I saw more shades of orange than I cared to see in my carrots. I then had to smell the carrot and, honestly, I have never thought or cared about what a carrot smelled like. The carrot smelled like wet, watered-down sweetgrass that made me feel nauseous. I then had to bite into this disgusting carrot and chew very slowly, savoring it or, in my case, hating every bite as the flavor built up to get more intense. I will not be eating raw carrots for a while.
I learned that mindfulness techniques do work for me. Discovering the fact that the techniques are science-based has allowed me to invite mindfulness into my life. I am not perfect, but I do use some of the techniques that I learned to calm me down when my anxiety skyrockets or to clear my head after a long day. As Randy Barker says, your breath is always with you. He is right it is, and we could all use a little less stress in our lives right now.
The Pruitt Center is located in Swenson Hall 3117. You can email them at email@example.com for more information.