When was the last time you took a second to reflect? From the day we step into our freshman dorm rooms, we’re taught that college students should be busy, booked and stressed from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Here in Ann Arbor, we especially feel a need to maximize all of the great resources Ann Arbor has to offer, oftentimes sacrificing our personal comforts and mental health in the process. Ultimately, what these self-induced pressures often result in is a tunnel-vision view of our real priorities.

Few are aware of the biological benefits of engaging in meditation. Studies conducted at the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University concluded that mindfulness techniques consistently displayed improved cognitive abilities, and even higher GRE scores. Additionally, MRI studies have shown that enlarged hippocampal and right orbito-frontal regions in meditators were associated with enhanced memory capacity and affective experience, as well as emotional regulating abilities.

Meditation and Zen habits are gaining more traction in our culture every day, and for good cause. Other similar studies have shown that meditating 20 minutes for just four days resulted in improved test scores than control groups.

Big questions are hard to answer and even harder to ask. Awaken Ann Arbor is a relatively new student organization dedicated to helping students learn how to meditate, find a more meaningful purpose in their lives, and grow spiritually without emphasizing dogma. Awaken’s weekly meetings aim to foster a more spiritually minded student body on campus, and offer a community of like-minded individuals to learn from sharing meaningful life experiences every week.

These processes are a workout for your brain, and getting started is the hardest part. Awaken Ann Arbor provides certified instructors who guide group meditation sessions for all levels, and the dialogues that follow connect students with the knowledge and resources needed to help maximize our potential here at the University of Michigan.

All ages, skills, and perspectives are encouraged to join us at Awaken’s meetings every Sunday at 12 p.m.

Remember, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next-best time is today.

To get involved, e-mail Will Ellis at elliswil@umich.edu.

Nathaniel Macanian is an LSA junior.

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