Finding a way to shut off my hyperactive thinking has always been difficult, and I often feel frustrated and disappointed. However, I recently stumbled upon Thrive X, a weekly meditation class at the Portland State Academic and Student Recreation Center. With the slow creep of finals, essay deadlines and peaking stress levels, I figured there was no harm in giving meditation another shot.
Thrive X aims to prioritize mental health awareness by offering a class that brings diversity and a certain newness to the ASRC. “I think it’s a combination of more awareness of the importance of mental health,” said Kali Paine, Thrive X coordinator. “[And] not even necessarily mental illness but just the importance of maintaining your own kind of mental well-being.” Paine explained how these classes are for anyone in the PSU community who wants to focus on improving and becoming more in touch with their mental health. Experience is not required.
I walked into room 450 feeling unsure of what to expect. A circle of blankets spaced equidistant from one another spanned across the floor, and once everyone took their seats, it was time to begin. Each week, Thrive X focuses on different aspects of mental well-being, and in the class I attended, the focus was compassion.
The instructor was Jogen Salzberg, who has practiced meditation for around 23 years including a 15-year full-time residency at the Great Vow Monastery in Clatskanie, Ore. Salzberg began his journey with meditation when he hit a rough patch at age 18. “I started meditating and I immediately found that it started to relieve my anxiety, and I started to actually feel calm and connected and embodied and have mental wellness,” said Jogen. “But then I started to tap a deeper wellspring of meaning, which I didn’t even know was possible. And so basically, I was like, ‘Well, I’ll take more of that!’”
After Salzberg introduced himself, he gave everyone in the class a chance to do the same, encouraging students to share their experiences with meditation. The responses varied from no experience to individuals who’ve been practicing for years. Salzberg spoke about the importance of having compassion for ourselves in order to be able to relay compassion to others. While meditating, we were encouraged to stay in the present, focusing on either our breathing or our heart center to better ground ourselves in the moment.
Salzberg’s guided meditation prompting students to participate in various activities in order to gain self-compassion and appreciation. He asked that with our inhale, we absorb any ill feelings we may have had, and with our exhale, we release those feelings in the form of light, envisioning bright rays exuding from within ourselves. We were also instructed to acknowledge the inner critic that resides within us all and to acknowledge how it is simply a voice within our minds. The voice is not who we are, but rather the nonsense standing in the way of feeling compassion toward ourselves.
The most resonating meditative technique Salzberg used was when he asked us to think of a bad habit we’re holding onto and to attempt to find a way to be empathetic with the emotions this habit made us feel. This exercise truly helped me understand myself and why a particular habit made me feel the way it did, aiding in the release of some negative energy and anger I had been repressing.
By the time we had finished with our practice, I was shocked to see the full 50 minutes of class had passed. I ended up leaving Thrive X feeling relaxed and even a bit refreshed; taking time out of my day to just sit and be in touch with myself felt lovely and necessary. Most importantly, I left the class feeling empathetic for who I am. I sometimes find it difficult to let go of ill feelings I may have toward myself, and the instructor helped me hone in on these feelings, address them and cope with them in a healthy way. I learned I should be kinder to myself, not only due to the importance of self-love, but because doing so will help me better love others.
If you’re at a hard point in your life and want to focus on your mental health or you’re just looking to try a new and unique class on campus Thrive X can be found at ASRC 405 at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays until March 21.