Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

Piper Logo
November 18, 2014

Just Breathe

Room Promotes Meditation, Relaxation

By Kelly Saavedra

Angela LuskHere comes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s a time of planning, preparing food, shopping for gifts, visiting with friends and family … and a whole lot of stress.

So, take a break from the chaos and give yourself a gift by visiting Carnegie Mellon’s Mindfulness Room. Located on the first floor lounge of West Wing, between Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall and Gesling Stadium, the Mindfulness Room has a peaceful décor designed to help you relax, recharge and, well, just breathe.

Walls painted a soft, banana-cream-pie yellow and sparsely decorated with inspiration surround this cozy space, which is populated with plenty of pillows for meditating — a practice many regard as an anchor in life’s storms.

Emily Melillo“If we observe our daily lives, most of it is spent reacting to external circumstances,” said Hari Chandan Mantripragada, who earned a doctorate in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon in 2010 and leads guided meditation sessions in the Mindfulness Room on Thursday evenings during the spring and fall semesters.

“Meditation is a tool that helps us anchor ourselves to our inner peace, making us less dependent on external stimuli, however intense they may be. We become truly free and find more fulfillment in our lives,” he said.

Mantripragada’s sessions typically draw anywhere from 10 to 20 people. He begins each session with a brief description of the two styles of meditation that he will guide participants through, mindful (pun intended) of newcomers or those who may be returning after a gap.

Michael BookerThe first style of meditation involves rhythmic breathing, chanting, emptying the mind and filling the mind with positive things. The second style, which also calls for rhythmic breathing but in a different way, teaches awareness of the body and focusing and holding attention on an image.

“There is no rush, and an all-pervading calm hangs over the room the whole time,” said Kunal Ghosh, assistant head for Undergraduate Affairs and a teaching professor of physics, who regularly attends the meditation sessions.

“I feel more agitated on the days when I don’t meditate. On the days when I do meditate, I find myself less quick to respond emotionally to negative words or acts, if I even choose to respond at all.”

Ghosh added, “I also find that my brain remains very fine-tuned after I meditate, and my concentration in any task I use it for, even solving a physics problem, increases quite a bit.”

Chow and SuDavid Creswell, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon, recently wrapped up a study on mindfulness meditation — the act of staying focused on experiencing the present moment.His experiment involved study participants who gave speeches and performed difficult arithmetic under harassing conditions.

He found that three consecutive days of mindfulness meditation practice for 25 minutes each day reduced their psychological stress.

Creswell meditates regularly and thinks of it as exercise for the mind — the more you do it, the bigger the benefits.

“I have been so delighted to see the Mindfulness Room become available to the campus community,” Creswell said. “Everyone should check it out.”

Meditation sessions are held in the Mindfulness Room on Thursday 
evenings during the Spring and Fall semesters. Above, CMU staff and students display what mindfulness means to them. (Top to bottom) Angela Lusk, Housefellow for Stever House; Emily Melillo (A’19); Michael Booker (E’16); Ida Chow (A’18) and Emily Su (DC’18).