Meditation room open to students


Julia Saucier

Senior Maia Bhattacharyya takes advantage of the new meditation center.

Zachary Bahar, Assistant News Editor

Amidst the noise and activity that permeates the midst the noise and activity that permeates the the halls of Evanston, a new space promises to deliver silence to students through deep breathing and meditation.

“I have a profound belief that calming down, shutting up and shedding all of the crap that makes up our crazy, normal days is the best way to get healthy, center yourself and figure out what you’re on this Earth to do,” studio founder and English teacher Elizabeth Hartley said.

Hartley first envisioned the studio three years ago after returning from a school supported session at a New England monastery.

“I went to this course and when I came back I decided that I should pay this favor forward,” Hartley said. “So, I decided I’m going to make a meditation studio.”

The studio is situated on the second floor North wing in what used to be a storage hallway, and despite physically existing and being reservable by staff last year, it wasn’t until this summer that the space was finally open for student use during all periods with the exception of periods reserved for classes.

“We’re trying to make a quiet place where people can let their worries and anxieties slip away for 40 minutes, just think and be silent,” Aaron Becker, history teacher and one of the center’s supervisors, said. “I just think that we’re dizzy; we’re always looking at our phones, or doing our work, and that 20 minutes of just turning off makes me feel refreshed and replenished.”

While meditation affects everyone differently, according to Psychology Today, some results from peer-reviewed studies include: reduction of stress hormones, diminished feelings of loneliness and increased focus and productivity. These results are echoed not only by Hartley and Becker, but also by students.

“I started meditating over the summer while teaching it as a sleepaway camp counselor,” senior Fiona Green said. “A lot of my girls were really homesick and stressed, so being able to calm down through meditation was a great outlet for them.”

While meditation may have been required as part of her job, Green has taken up the practice in her own life.
“[Meditation] really grounds me as a person, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m super zen, but it really calms me down and gets rid of my stress,” Green said. “ETHS is such a hectic place, with everyone rushing around and trying to be successful, so being able to step back and calm down is so useful, especially in such a competitive environment.”
While student stress is inevitable in high school due to cramped schedules, countless extracurriculars, changing friendships and work commitments, the purpose of the center is to allow these stressors to be removed and rechanneled into productivity and peace.

“I meditated for the first time in the meditation center,” senior Sawyer Brown said. “It was a peaceful way to get out of the craziness of the high school, to not have to think about everything going on in your life. Just clear your mind, breathe and relax.”

While the stated purpose of the center is to give students and staff a space to refocus during a busy day, plans for the future of the space are in the works, including offering the ability to meditate instead of serving detention.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen like that, because there are people who are opposed to it, and just getting [the center] open has been challenging,” Hartley said. “This isn’t the kind of thing that you can shove down people’s throats, but I think that some, if not all of the administration is moving that way, and that it is a viable path going forward.”

According to Hartley, the reasoning behind this push to replace detention with meditation is based on scientific literature showing that reflecting on why you did something has often proven more valuable than sitting in a desk. “Meditation can be a good interpretation of [detention]; you go do something good for yourself while clearing a detention,” Hartley said.

While this option may not be available for some time, according to Hartley, it will eventually become available.
Until then, Becker said: “come to the studio, put your work, bags and shoes aside, sit straight, open your chest and concentrating on breathing. It’s very powerful.”