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Spiritual life director suggests meditation for spiritual fitness

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

Just as an athlete dedicates time each day for exercise, Spiritual Life Program Director Bill Conover recommends people practice mindfulness meditation daily.

Unlike other forms of meditation that focus on achieving relaxation, peace or happiness, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to develop the capacity to be aware and awake and to live each moment more fully in addition to learning how to accept a situation as it is without judging it as good or bad.

The Buddhist practice, according to Conover, results in many benefits including increases in concentration, compassion and emotional flexibility (the ability to stay calm and keep perspective).

Ideally, one should practice mindfulness meditation every day for thirty minutes, but Conover said even just five minutes a day will prove beneficial. Once in a quiet, comfortable, secure room, people should position themselves in a steady position on a cushion or in a strong back chair. Making the body still will make the mind still.

Then people should close their eyes and direct all their attention on their breathing and experience all the sensations that come with it such as the coolness in the nostrils and the feeling of letting go. Whenever a thought or feeling arises, the attention should be brought back to the breathing.

Conover offers free lessons to students, staff and faculty every Monday, and he also began teaching a Mindfulness Workshop course this semester in the psychology department, which he plans to continue.

One of Conover’s students in the class wrote in an assignment that the most striking breakthrough in terms of accepting the present moment occurred during midterms when he realized he would not be able to finish a project on time.

“In the past I would have had an extreme stress reaction and likely would have been on the verge of a breakdown, but I didn’t even have a hint of being nervous, either cognitively or physically,” the student wrote. “I just recognized what was and came to terms with it right there without a second thought until later in the day when I realized how calm I had been.”

So why is it so important to live in the present?

“The present is the only place we can actually live,” Conover said. “The past is only available to us in memory, and the future is unsure. If we train ourselves to stay present, we’ll discover just how rich and amazing it is to be human and alive.”

SOURCE: Bill Conover has been the director of the Spiritual Life Program at Beloit College since it launched in 2004. He received an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from Princeton University and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Before coming to Beloit College, he served churches in Solomon, Kan., and Madison, Wis., and worked for two years in a campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Formerly an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ and now a student of Shambhala (a secular expression of Tibetan Buddhism), Conover is at home serving and supporting students of diverse faiths and perspectives. Conover can serve as a media resource on topics related to spiritual life and mindfulness meditation.

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