University Park, IL,
11:35 AM

Meditate on Focus

The human mind is evolved to problem solve. There’s no point in trying to control that. The point is to familiarize yourself with the present moment.
Maristela Zell

The soft sound of the Tibetan singing bell brings the group from their subconscious to the present as the short, guided meditation session ends at Governors State University (GSU).

As the lights slowly come back up, Maristela Zell, Professor of Social Work, asks the group how they feel. The participants avidly recount a sense of relaxation but also a difficulty in remaining focused during the meditative session. Voices outside, the hum of a fan, and the never ending barrage of emails drew the class away, but Zell quells these fears.

“The human mind is evolved to problem solve. There’s no point in trying to control that. The point is to familiarize yourself with the present moment,” she said.

This is the first of the spring semester series of mindfulness practice and mediation sessions, and the eclectic group gathered introduced themselves and explained why they had come.

Some students had been doing homework in the library and joined to regain focus, while others were staff members who avidly meditate and were excited to have a group to meditate. A few were faculty hoping to achieve consistency in thought and energy.

The weekly series, held every Thursday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., is hosted by mindfulness experts Zell and Tim Pedigo, Coordinator of Clinical Training for the Masters in Clinical Psychology Program. Coming weeks will feature mindful eating, Zentangle–a form of meditated drawing––and many more mindful practices.

As Zell considers the group during the recent class, she draws a common thread among everyone.

“If we know who we are, we can live the life we want to live, and not for other people’s expectations of us,” she said to the group.

Zell, who was taught to meditate when she was 15 years old––something she views as one of the best gifts her mother gave her––discusses the benefits of meditation with the group. She cites the mental and physical issues it can relieve, the ability to calm the nerves, and to improve focus.

But meditation goes even deeper for her.

“Meditation is a form of self-inquiry. Engage yourself and your mind,” she said.

Zell and Pedigo have extensive knowledge in the area of mindfulness. Zell is the developer and coordinator of the Holistic Social Work Practice concentration at GSU and Pedigo teaches in the Mindfulness Studies Concentration for psychology.

She shares a video with the group of Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness expert and former Tibetan Monk. He discusses the issue of the wandering mind in meditation. The atmosphere in the room lifts as many participants are comforted knowing they’re not alone in being unable to focus and that their self-awareness shows they’re on the right path.

Finally, Zell guides the group through a longer meditation after which the participants leave, prepared to take on whatever stress their afternoon throws at them.