Meet Saskia, a YA meditator from England now living in California. Saskia began meditating while at university in England and found that meditating on a campus really forced her to get creative!
I started passage meditation when I was a student and 19 years old. This is my story of what it was like to meditate at college, which was a complete life saver – but took effort and creativity too.
My mom had been practicing passage meditation for a few years, and I saw how much it helped her, and our whole family. Both my parents are open-minded and experimental, but nothing they had tried before made the positive impact that meditation did. I was really impressed and started learning about the eight points in a casual way from her. I tried out some tips from her based on the eight points, like studying without listening to music at the same time. I began to discover how incredibly effective and helpful the eight points were in my own life. The she invited me to a one-day retreat during my summer vacation, which I was eager to do, even though it involved waking up really early on a Saturday morning! At the retreat, I tried meditating for the first time and discovered how out of control my mind was. Eek!
I went home from the retreat knowing that I would definitely start meditating one day, but in the meantime I would use the mantram. I set off for a month of traveling around Scandinavia, and used the mantram a lot – when I got into a difficult situation (missed the last bus), when I was bored (six hours on a train), when things didn’t work out the way I planned (a friend's last-minute change), and when something amazing happened (a new adventure!)
Following that summer, I moved to Germany as an exchange student.
Everything was new and there was so much to figure out. The mantram helped, but I knew it was time to start meditating. I needed an anchor to keep me steady amidst the emotional highs and lows, and to help make make good decisions with so many amazing opportunities on offer. When I had quiet time to reflect, I was also very aware of needing answers to deep, important questions about the direction my life should go in. I could see two paths ahead of me (though I couldn't put words to describe them) – and I was searching for understanding, direction, and courage to make wise choices to lead me to the right path.
I asked my mom to send me her copy of Easwaran’s book Passage Meditation, and started reading
it every night as soon as it arrived. It felt like Easwaran knew exactly what I
was going through, and he put into words what I had never consciously realized,
but somehow knew at a deep level.
Saskia learned about meditation from her mom who shared it with her dad as well. Today all three of them practice passage meditation!
After reading the first chapter, I started meditating. To set up a meditation spot, I simply put a cushion on the floor in a corner of my room, and used another as a back support against the wall. For the first few days, 30 minutes seemed like forever, but I stuck with it. I could see the benefits that very first day.
Although Easwaran recommends meditating at the same time
every morning, it just didn’t fit the typical student lifestyle I was leading. I decided to
meditate every day as soon as I woke up, but not worry about what time that would
be – 7 am or 1 pm! I made changes gradually, and eventually (after several years), began to meditate at the same time every day.
The results? Astonishing. I no longer felt on a roller coaster of ups and downs – I was more steady, kind, and happy. I knew the direction I wanted my life to go in. It was the best year of my life.
I then moved back to my original college town. There was
intense academic pressure, so my schedule became more routine, and meditation
times became more regular. I lived with five other people, which was wonderful and challenging at the same time.
Easwaran says to put meditation first, and everything else will follow. In a shared household, I needed to figure out how to do that in a practical way. I told my housemates that I meditated every morning and would keep my door shut during that time. They were very respectful, and never disturbed me in the mornings until my door was open, and I usually woke up before them so the house was quiet (otherwise, I used earplugs.) Then I discovered a tiny prayer room in the student union on campus which was always empty. Whenever possible, I would sneak in there to have my second meditation, usually at about 4 or 5 pm. I was SO grateful for that little room, and over time I discovered that just walking past that building made me feel calmer because it was so associated with meditation. Most campuses have a chapel or prayer room, so it’s a great thing to look out for.
Saskia found lots of creative places to meditate on her university campus (pictured left). Her favorite was the chaplaincy (middle) and it's small prayer room (right) which was nearly always empty!
Away from campus, I would plan the night before how and when I would have my morning meditation. I became really creative. I meditated in cars (stationary!), churches, empty rooms, airplanes, trains. I always carried some “meditation essentials” in my backpack: a pair of earplugs, a notebook with a few passages, and a few pictures of saints and holy images.
I was so grateful for passage meditation, which enabled me to make the most of my last year at university. The year was full of stress about exams and grades, opportunities of grad school and jobs, and precious final months with friends and housemates who felt like family. We were leaving everything that was familiar, and preparing for whatever the future held. I don't know what I would have done without meditation!
Meditating in college and as a young adult can be tricky. Sometimes it feels like you’re constantly swimming upstream, and it can be lonely. However, with a little creativity and effort, it becomes a great adventure, and the best companion to have with you during graduation and beyond.