Read

3 Ways to Bring Mindfulness into Student Life

Published:
February 15, 2024
August 5, 2020
Check out these 3 ways to practice mindfulness for college students.|Check out these 3 ways to practice mindfulness for college students.

I used to be the kicker for my college football team. During one particular game on a mid-November afternoon I returned to the sidelines after a successful kickoff and my teammates met me with congratulations to wish me a happy birthday. This was completely disorienting. How did they all know it was my birthday?

As it turns out, my grandpa had talked to the press box announcers, and as I was preparing to kick off, the announcers wished me a happy birthday in front of the whole crowd. Everyone in the stadium heard that it was my birthday, but I had no idea this was even happening.

Looking back, I realize that I didn’t hear the announcers because I was simply focused on the task at hand. This is the sort of flow state or “zone” that athletes experience in a game where the noise of the stadium crowd disappears into the background. Since that occasion, I have often wondered if we can experience this kind of flow state in college outside of athletics, like when we read books, work on an art project, or are absorbed in a moment of mindfulness or prayer.

Simone Weil was a French political activist and philosopher, and she explored this very idea. While we call it a flow state or being in the “zone,” Weil (her last name is pronounced, “vay”) called it being attentive, which was really about living day-to-day life in a more meaningful way. She pointed a way to lead a richer life, and built out these ideas in really concrete ways that are especially relevant to college students today.

Attention in neighborliness

Weil spoke of neighborliness as a way to capture the fact that we are profoundly interconnected. Neighborliness is simply taking action to express that connection — it could be as simple as holding the door for a stranger or a warm interaction on the quad. It can also look like acts of service, welcoming new faces, or expressing grief when someone experiences a loss in their life.

Attention to the needs of others is the central point here — stepping out from our own concerns to embrace the concerns of another. It is a commitment to the ideal that other people are not opportunities for our own personal gain, but must be treated in the most sincerely human way possible. As Weil put it, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say: ‘What are you going through?’” In fact, for Weil, giving our full attention to the person in front of us is the most generous thing we can do.

This kind of attention is about receiving a person as fully as possible without judgment or preconceived expectations. It is about hearing what they have to say, understanding their unique experience, and simply offering to help them in their need. When we are selfless enough to attend to the needs of our neighbors (and, who isn’t our neighbor?), we find that we are becoming the best version of ourselves.

Attention in education

For Weil, education isn’t simply about self-improvement — it is about self-transcendence. In school, we commit ourselves to an endeavor or a problem until we find the solution, and we become better for that struggle. In Weil’s words, “In every school exercise there is a special way of waiting upon truth, setting our hearts upon it.”

The discipline required to dig deeply into subjects that we like the least is actually an important test of our character and our resolve. When we feel like giving up when confronted with the most complicated problems or the most mundane tasks, we face a choice — and choosing to push forward fashions us into better people. Weil says that the critical moment is when we choose commitment and follow it with enduring effort — that’s the moment that transforms our hearts. One of the effects of that choice is that we become more receptive to joy.

This is a strange thing, but it makes sense. Even if we don’t enjoy an assignment, we find fulfillment in the face of a task well done, especially when the task was difficult. Education is like a refining fire that tests our strengths, reveals our weaknesses, and calls more out of us. Education is an invaluable opportunity. Few things refine our minds and our hearts in such profound ways.

Attention in prayer

What lots of people are calling mindfulness today has many similarities to prayer for Weil. The same dynamic is active in prayer that we saw in her description of neighborliness and education: it’s about setting our minds and hearts beyond selfish interests.

Prayer has been defined as simply raising our hearts to God — and if God truly is everywhere, then the very simplest form of prayer is just paying attention. Any time we create space to reflect and ponder the important things in life — values, relationships, God — we are praying.

Prayer can be as simple or as complex as you want. It could look like a five-minute routine at the beginning or end of the day: in the morning to clarify the goals and challenges of the day; at night to review how well those goals and challenges were met. You could even do this while eating breakfast or doing yoga. Joining others in prayer helps us bond and find community.

Prayer isn’t simply a self-help practice. While it is really important to ask the question, “What do I need?” prayer helps us take another step to ask, “What do others need?” and further, “What can I do about that?” When prayer leads us to love people better, it just might be the highest form of attention that we can attain.

Attention to our neighbors, education, and prayer are all intertwined for Weil — it’s all about being fully in the present moment, open entirely to what the person or situation in front of you is offering. Doing any one of these well helps us do the other two better. Sort of like a three-legged stool, they can form a solid foundation for a college experience that is marked by joy.

Creators:
Patrick Schmadeke
Published:
February 15, 2024
August 5, 2020
On a related note...
Ash Wednesday Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

Ash Wednesday Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

Grotto

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

Grotto

4 Ways to Make Almost Any Meal Taste Better

4 Ways to Make Almost Any Meal Taste Better

Anna O'Neil

Meet Dan Berrigan, Prophet for Peace

Meet Dan Berrigan, Prophet for Peace

Renée Roden

I’m a Member of the Knights of Columbus and I’m Not Old

I’m a Member of the Knights of Columbus and I’m Not Old

Andrew Weiss

Choosing Family over DI Football: A Story of Growth

Choosing Family over DI Football: A Story of Growth

Grotto

Accepting Grace Doesn’t Always Look Graceful

Accepting Grace Doesn’t Always Look Graceful

Amelia Ruggaber

We’re in the ‘Why the Hell Not’ Stage of this Pandemic

We’re in the ‘Why the Hell Not’ Stage of this Pandemic

Mike Jordan Laskey

3 Things I Want to Remember After the Pandemic

3 Things I Want to Remember After the Pandemic

Molly Cruitt

9 Ways to Set Aside Sunday as Special

9 Ways to Set Aside Sunday as Special

Megan O’Brien Crayne

Free Download: Guide to Making Meaningful Resolutions

Free Download: Guide to Making Meaningful Resolutions

Grotto

4 Catholic Things that Help Me Manage Mental Health

4 Catholic Things that Help Me Manage Mental Health

Stephanie DePrez

"Brief Encounters of the Jesus Kind"

"Brief Encounters of the Jesus Kind"

Marjorie Maddox

What It Takes to Build a Business of Beauty

What It Takes to Build a Business of Beauty

Grotto

Share Your Thoughts Directly with Pope Francis | #TellItToFrancis

Share Your Thoughts Directly with Pope Francis | #TellItToFrancis

Grotto

4 Informal Ways to Pray (No Words Necessary)

4 Informal Ways to Pray (No Words Necessary)

Emily Mae Mentock

6 Signs You Might Be an Introverted Extrovert

6 Signs You Might Be an Introverted Extrovert

Patricia Valderrama

5 Simple Ways To Not Let The Summer Pass You By

5 Simple Ways To Not Let The Summer Pass You By

Lillian Fallon

I Was Hiding My Pain, Not Healing

I Was Hiding My Pain, Not Healing

Alessandra Harris

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Spotify Playlist | #GrottoMusic

Grotto

newsletter

We’d love to be pals.

Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll meet you in your inbox each week.