St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Wellness Center has expanded their programs this school year to incorporate a new meditation room. Director of the Wellness Center, Laurie Scherer explains “A lot of studies show that any kind of mindfulness practice helps with attention, concentration, well-being. Some even show it to help anxiety and depression.” The Center has long upheld practices focused on meditation, running a Mindfulness groups and other such events in previous years. With this newest addition, the practice of meditation is being made available for all enrolled students.
The room where the mediation room is now situated had previously been both a closet and an office, but now consists of two chairs surrounded by cloth and decor chosen by the Wellness Center staff to instill calmness. Scherer says the Wellness Center “had to be very creative with our space” in order to make the room a reality. Students using the room are provided with a Muse headset, a black band that goes around the forehead and rests on the ear. The meditation equipment measures the brain’s EEG feedback and stores the data in a free phone app. It plays a selection of soothing sounds, ranging from a rainforest waterfall to the ocean. As the user’s EEG settles and calms, the sounds quiet with it, until only bird chirps can be heard. “When you hear bird chirps,” Scherer explains, “you know you’re done.” This sound system removes the need of the meditator to worry about time or other outside concerns, allowing the user to focus on control and meditation.
“This is for the students who would like to try it but don’t know where to start,” Scherer says. “I think coming to a place specifically set up to do it makes it more formal and more serious.” The structure of the Muse headset, as well as the time slots at the Wellness Center and a small journal provided to each student, gives mediation a clear order that is helpful to a beginner. While the room was originally intended only for students recommended by therapists, the Wellness Center has opened their program and are advertising it around the school. Scherer estimates that the current users of the room are half those recommended by therapists and half student walk-ins. It has been open since the beginning of the school year after being budgeted for over the summer, and students have been giving positive reviews. Participating students can walk in during the Center’s hours and reserve a thirty minute slot, though Scherer explains that as little as three minutes are actually needed for beginners.
The Wellness Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Weekdays, during which the mediation room is also available. The Center provides therapy during these times as well as a nurse from 1-4 p.m. The meditation room, which Scherer says she and the staff are “excited to provide it to the students to use it for free,” is only the newest addition to the wide variety of services provided for students at SMCM.