One of Bowdoin’s most dedicated meditation practitioners, Will Bucci ’19, does not merely enter a room, but rather bursts in, usually with a huge smile. Exuberant greetings quickly ensue. You feel as if you have made his day.
Maybe Bucci, a psychology major and music minor, was born this way. Or maybe his meditation practice has led to his infectious joyfulness. It’s probably a bit of both, but he credits meditation for a lot. “Meditation for me is accessing this state, this beautiful state of loving kindness, higher awareness and conscientiousness,” he said recently. “Feeling the vibe, vibing with yourself and your surroundings.”
Benny Painter (with Nepali monk Llama Sherab) and Megan Retana
Bucci is one of the several students on campus who offer regular meditation sessions to the Bowdoin community. Bucci’s Wednesday evening class, Reinvigorating Your Life, is free and open to the public.
Benny Painter ’19 offers a Monday class for students at 9:30 p.m. He has also just started a new campus club with Megan Retana ’19 and Peter Jacobson ’20 called Mindfulness over Matter, which aims to pull together a community of students interested in meditation.
Bowdoin Director of Counseling Bernie Hershberger, who also leads a regular meditation class on campus, said it’s a gift to have students teach one another the benefits of meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. (Zoe Borenstein ’18 and Roy Tsao ’16 are teaching a new yoga class this semester.)
“It makes these mind/body practices accessible, and students love to learn from one another,” Hershberger said. “The whole campus grows more conscious bit by bit of the importance of how to pause and ease the suffering that comes from constant anxiety.”
Painter was introduced to meditation when he was in Middlesex High School, in Concord, Mass., where meditation is now required of all its students. “It was a huge, integral part of my education,” he said. “I grew to love the concept of viewing things like compassion, gratitude, generosity, and equanimity as skills that, in order to get better at them, you have to devote time to developing.”
Painter, a government and legal studies major and visual arts minor, said the practice is so important to him that he is considering a career in which he advocates for bringing meditation into schools. “It is such a beautiful practice and I want to spread it around as much as I can,” he said. Particularly in an intense academic setting like Bowdoin, meditation can be another “tool in a student’s toolkit,” he said.
Retana said the new Mindfulness over Matter group will, among other offerings, invite students to join regular meditation sessions and workshops, “helping students and others manage self-care and college life.” She began meditating last year to alleviate anxiety. “I delved into my practice, and it left me with a sense that I could handle what the day would bring to me,” she said. “It’s empowering.”
While meditation can help sooth frantic or brooding thoughts, Retana — who is an Africana studies major and English minor from Brownsville, Texas — also explained that it can deepen both awareness and gratitude, which in turn leads to a greater sense of peace. “Using all five senses, being to able to experience all things and to be grateful for all things, this gives me a sense of calm and stability,” she said. Meditation has become so important to her wellbeing that her mom regularly reminds her that it is as important to do in the morning as putting on clothes.
For people unsure of how to start a practice, Bucci recommends beginning with a one-minute meditation in the morning before breakfast, perhaps focusing on a specific intention, such as being kind or grateful. “So you are choosing how to start your day, rather than have it be determined for you,” he said. These regular short sessions can lead to an extended practice.
Bucci said he initially started meditation in high school, in Gardiner, Maine, as a way to improve his focus and his schoolwork. Since then, it has evolved into much more for him. “Meditation has allowed me to be more introspective,” he said, “more aware of my emotions when they’re rising in my body, more aware of this internal sea.” Whether one is experiencing nervousness, anxiety, or anger, he recommends people first note these states, then “take three deep breaths, be aware, allow them to be there, and then let them go.”
He repeated: “Awareness, acceptance, letting them go.”