The University of Redlands is celebrating 10 years since it opened the Meditation Room, the first contemplative classroom of its kind in the country.
This is no ordinary college classroom. The posted guidelines ask students to remove their shoes, turn off their mobile devices, and place all belongings into cubbyholes. There are no desks or chairs. No computers or projector screens. The space is like no other on campus—tranquil and centering.
The mission of the Meditation Room program, “changing the world from the inside-out,” is carried out in a pioneering curriculum that gives students hands-on learning across a range of inner arts and sciences, such as yoga, meditation, and compassion.
No matter their major—business, psychology, pre-med, education, environmental studies, creative arts—students say classes help them to be better learners, overall.
“Meditation makes me more motivated. I go to my other classes with a new desire to learn and gain knowledge.” —Matt Loretz ’08, sociology major
Why are these kinds of classes important? Because there is a direct link between the inner world and the outer world.
“My major is Peace Studies. How will I ever be able to negotiate peace among the nations if I am not at peace within myself? —Laura Closson ’09, Middle East social justice and peace studies major (Johnston)
The courses are not easy, however! Self-knowledge, as in the dictum “Know thyself” and often viewed as a foundation of liberal arts education, challenges students in unique ways.
“Compassion is probably one of the hardest classes I’ve taken because it asks me to do so much that I’ve never done before—to see what needs to change inside of me, and then do it!” —Natalie McDonald ’08, double major in English and religious studies
If they stick it out, students report a wide range of benefits, including skills that are important in every area of life: attention, self-awareness, emotional self-regulation, reduction of text anxiety and public speaking anxiety, compassion for self and others, appreciation of diversity, relational healing, and creative expression.
“You can’t get away from your inner self! It’s impossible. So taking a class to learn how to face it, work with it, and deal with it is a 100 times—really you can’t even put a number on it!—more important than all the other things you learn in college.” —Travis Lane ’08, sociology major
Even improvement of physical health can be a byproduct.
“In December of last year, four months ago, my average blood pressure was tested to be around 145/80. A healthy 22-year-old should not have hypertension. The last time I checked my blood pressure, last week, it was at 118/55. The significant difference is most likely a result of my decreased stress coming from my daily meditation practice.” —Steven Mee ’14, chemistry major
And some students report transformations that set them on a whole new course in life.
“Quest of the Mystic and Compassion were two unique and powerful classes that transformed the way I view others, as well as the way I view myself. I was forced to look inward and confront truths about myself and take action to be the person I was meant to be. This was the catalyst for the greatest change in my life: getting sober. It motivated my decision to go into the mental health field and helped me find my purpose, which I believe is to help others work through their suffering.” —Courtney Mera ’14, English major
Thousands of students have now passed across the threshold of the Meditation Room and into the world. They carry with them an inner education that few college graduates have ever had the opportunity to encounter.
We will hold an event on Wednesday, February 21, from 4–6 p.m. in Larsen Hall so we can come together to celebrate the more than 10 years since the founding of the Meditation Room in 2007. The public reception will include a video and photo gallery, research highlights, and personal stories from participants. Please join us!