Every Monday in Founder’s Hall, room 255B, professor of business and director of the internship program, Mary Dittman, runs a meditation class open to FMU faculty, staff and students, titled “Just Breathe” from 1:30-2 p.m.
“When I was in college, I really struggled with anxiety,” Dittman said. “For me, meditation really helps calm my anxiety. It also helps me when I’m feeling exhausted or overwhelmed; it helps me focus.”
Around 2016, before the genesis of “Just Breathe,” a former professor of the English department at FMU ran the class while Dittman was a student. After the professor left, Dittman continued her meditation practice and traveled to California to study at The Chopra Center.
“I knew I wanted to start the meditation group back up,” Dittman said. “I didn’t really invent it, but I resurrected it.”
The idea for the “Just Breathe” group and “meditation Mondays” were hers; however, she changed the format following what she learned at the Chopra Center. While it is a different group of people, the concept is the same. One difference between the new sessions and prior ones stems from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started doing it by Zoom last year because of the pandemic, and we usually have three or so who regularly join by Zoom,” Dittman said.
Though the popularity of the video conferencing application is relatively recent, it allows for more geographical flexibility. Dittman has a regular attendee who used to attend FMU that currently resides in Virginia.
The meditation class starts with everyone sitting quietly and closing their eyes, allowing attendees to create a quiet space before proceeding. Dittman asks them four main questions for the meditation: who am I; what do I want; what is my dharma or purpose; what am I grateful for?
After voicing the questions, Dittman gives the group ten minutes of complete silence for meditation. During this part, Dittman has the attendees repeat a mantra for concentration purposes.
“A mantra can be very helpful for having an anchor,” Dittman said. “It’s like a touchstone.”
Dittman uses a Sanskrit mantra, “so hum,” which translates into “I am.” According to what she learned at the Chopra Center, it is normal for people to close their eyes, grow quiet and allow themselves to feel anxious. She uses a Sanskrit mantra because if she used English words, the natural word association performed by the human brain would perpetuate the wandering mind.
At the end of the silent 10 minutes, Dittman guides the participants through setting intentions. Intention setting is the easiest once the brain is relaxed and tired. Dittman compared this phenomenon to hypnotist shows held at night since it is easier to manipulate the brain when it is more tired.
Dittman said she believes everyone can benefit from meditation.
“I think that sometimes people just suffer in silence because everyone else seems to be fine,” Dittman said. “I wish I could get everyone to try meditation because I know how much it has helped me.”
Students interested in signing up for “Just Breathe,” can participate in Founder’s Hall room 255B on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. or email Dittman at email@example.com for the Zoom link.