Oberlin Meditators Help Students Manage Stress, Mental Health

Julia Herbst

It’s Tuesday night at 8:15 p.m., and Wilder 325 is filled with students seated on cushions and meditating in the semi-darkness. Most of these students are members of the Oberlin Meditators and regularly participate in weeknight and/or morning “sits” in Wilder.

College junior Aki Gormezano and College senior Kristina Goldenberg took over OM, which was founded in 2007, as a way to continue practicing meditation regularly after returning to Oberlin after participating in a silent meditation retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California during Winter Term 2010.

“My personal hope for the group is that it provides a space for people who are really interested in meditating … and [that it’s] supportive of everyone’s practice,” said Gormezano.

Today, the Oberlin Meditators are an active presence on campus and regularly gain new members interested in studying meditation.

College senior Max Zahn, member of OM and co-chair of the Oberlin Buddhist Fellowship, believes that clubs like OM are vital in addressing mental health issues on campus.

“I think there’s a real momentum behind meditation at Oberlin right now and I think [that’s] because there’s a real sense that mental health at Oberlin is this … issue that people don’t talk a lot about, but is really something [relevant because of] the stress and the isolating tendency that our busy schedules at Oberlin can have,” said Zahn. “I think clubs like OM and others that are using these kind of sustaining and healthful methods are going to be more and more valuable as we’re trying to find ways to deal with the busy, technologically saturated lives that we’ve all come to live.”

Although each person practices and experiences meditation differently, many of the members find that meditation helps them manage daily stress and become more mindful.

“I find that at Oberlin it’s a way to keep myself and my thoughts and my focus just completely balanced throughout the semester,” said College senior and OM member Laura Geller. “There are so many stressors that we deal with at Oberlin. Having this time just for myself, … to let everything go, all thoughts of stress and homework and everything else outside that and take in the bigger picture of what I’m doing here and why I came to Oberlin. It’s not just to be stressed out the entire time,” Geller said.

For College first-year Dennis Kachintsev, practicing meditation has an important impact on his everyday life.

“It’s really helped me not act impulsively,” said Kachintsev. “I have been known to get angry and say things I shouldn’t necessarily say and meditation has definitely helped me curb that, and at the same time it’s just been really nice to have a clear head.”

Many of the members of OM also want to share the tools and benefits they’ve gained from sitting with a larger community.

“I’m very prone to getting very depressed, and keeping up a regular meditation schedule actually works better than any other thing I’ve done for my depression,” said College junior and OM member Ike McCreery. “For me, meditation has made my life a lot better, and so that goal sort of extends to the group. I see OM as a way of reaching out and making other people’s lives better through meditation.”

Another way that the organization is attempting to create community is by hosting their first-ever retreat this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Common Ground in Oberlin.

The retreat, which was organized by College junior Daniel Gould and a committee of OM members, will draw on different practices, including yoga, mindful eating and artwork.