By Jazmin Conner
Monday Mindfulness, an event held Mondays before afternoon prayer services at Hillel, provides a 20-minute relaxation session for Jewish students to become more aware of themselves and their surroundings.
Aryeh Roberts, a sophomore philosophy major, decided to start the event after attending the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, a summer program that focuses on the study of Jewish texts. His hope was that the event would foster a closer connection with God and with members within the Jewish community.
“I felt that there was a lack of spirituality, a lack of mindfulness in general in the UMD Jewish community. It was something I wanted and that I didn’t find at Maryland, and it was something that I felt like others were looking for as well,” he said.
Roberts defines mindfulness as “being conscious or aware of feelings and actions.”
“I think of it [as a] meditative experience that in some way touches on Jewish texts, Jewish prayers, [and] the Torah,” Roberts said. He believes the practice of meditation doesn’t eliminate intense moments of emotion such as anger, but rather, helps to channel them.
“I feel that it definitely gives me a sense of calm,” he said.
The first 10 minutes of Monday Mindfulness consists of singing songs without words and the second half incorporates meditation. Roberts leads the singing every Monday, but he asks a different student to lead the meditation every week. He hopes to include more non-student meditation leaders in the future.
Rafael Wind, a junior information science and criminology major, led the meditation on Oct. 29 and hopes to lead it again soon. “I was really nervous. I wasn’t sure if people were having a good time or not because my eyes were closed, and then afterwards people were like ‘wow I’m in such a different place,’” he said.
Roberts said the purpose of Monday Mindfulness is broad. “[Meditation] allow[s] ourselves to think more deeply about who we are…on the other hand, because people have different experiences, you could say it’s about not thinking about anything,” Roberts said.
Wind believes the purpose of the meditation is to help students become more present during prayer.
“Prayer is really hard to connect to when you do it three times a day and you open the book and it says the same thing every time,” said Wind. “This mindfulness just creates that space where we can go into prayers with like a clear head.”
Jacob Orbach, a senior information systems major, attends the event for a different reason.
“I think the goal is to get people in a relaxed setting for the rest of the week because we’re all pretty stressed. It’s something I’m trying to practice on my own,” he said.
Wind avidly practices meditation and believes it to be a crucial part of Judaism. “People think, ‘oh you get up and pray.’ No, you’re supposed to meditate beforehand, so you can pray properly.” Wind hopes Monday Mindfulness encourages Jewish students to meditate on their own before prayer.
The sessions have run every Monday for roughly six weeks, Roberts said, with a range of 5-10 people in attendance. Most participants are regulars, but Roberts said new students have come once or twice.
“It’s nice that it’s so small I would say. I didn’t expect it to be big, since it’s not intuitively attractive. It’s kind of weird,“ said Roberts. “It’s kind of feeling-based for a lot of people. Not everyone’s going to want to participate in something like that.”
Monday Mindfulness is held in the upstairs of Hillel before every Monday afternoon service. The event is advertised on Facebook beforehand and welcomes students from all religions.