MU community finds peace at Joan of Arc

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Alice Gormley, a librarian at Raynor Library and member of the Marquette Contemplative Community, leads the group through different meditation techniques to relieve stress.   Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/rebecca.rebholz@mu.edu

Alice Gormley, a librarian at Raynor Library and member of the Marquette Contemplative Community, leads the group through different meditation techniques to relieve stress.
Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/rebecca.rebholz@mu.edu

In the chapel, 11 students and adults sat completely still, participating in a simple action—meditation.

“We are always thinking about the future, the past and making lists,” said Alice Gormley, a librarian at Raynor Library and member of the Marquette Contemplative Community. “We are never truly in the present, which is why meditation is so great.”

The Contemplative Community at Marquette introduced a weekly meditation to capture the benefits of meditation. The hour-long session is open every Tuesday at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel at 4:30 p.m. to anyone in the Marquette community who needs a break from life to sit in silence.

“We wanted to create something open to faculty, staff, students and alumni – the whole motley group,” Gormley said. “You don’t have to have any spiritual affiliation to come. If you do, that is fine, but if not you can (practice) whatever tradition you have. We all just sit quietly.”

Although any type of meditation can be done at the session, the Contemplative Community participates in “mindfulness meditation,” which strives to develop attention to and awareness of breathing, thoughts and emotions.

In a study done at Emory University in Atlanta, mindfulness meditation was found to improve emotional stability and response to stress.

“Mindfulness meditation is simply learning to pay attention and to be in the present,” Gormley said. “It actually is a lot harder than you think because being in the moment isn’t the same as thinking you are in the moment. It’s a challenge, but ultimately it is very relaxing and teaches you how to disengage yourself from all the stressful triggers in life.”

“I feel like sometimes people just get so caught up in everything,” said Bronwyn Finnigan, assistant professor of philosophy and a member of the Contemplative Community. “Putting everything aside for an hour – not even an hour, just as long as you can hold it all off – is great.”

Finnigan incorporates meditation into many of her classes as well to give her students a chance to catch up with life.

“You can mediate on a problem or something that has been pulling at you,” she said. “You are able to just sit in silence and contemplate on it. Other times you can just listen to your breath. There is nothing to pull at you, and you don’t have to do anything when you meditate. I think it is a very important thing to have in life.”

Techniques and questions can be asked during the Tuesday session for anyone who is curious about the program. Sarah Walsh, a senior in the College of Engineering, was able to learn more about meditation for her Ignatian spirituality theology class during the Tuesday session.

“I thought it was interesting to see how people can calm and center themselves with an hour of meditation,” she said after attending the session. “It was a full immersion for me because I didn’t know anything about it before, but I really enjoyed it.”

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