Koru Mindfulness: An Escape from the Busyness of College

by Pete Janny, Managing and Sports Editor

Koru Mindfulness arrived at Manhattan College this past fall and is expected to be a fixture on campus for a long time to come.

Established several years ago at Duke University, Koru Mindfulness is a methodology designed to train college students about the fundamentals of breathing techniques, meditation, and visualization. Since the creation of the Center for Mindfulness in 2013, the curriculum has gradually made its way to various colleges and universities around the country and has been praised for its ability to help students manage stress. While it is not meant to serve as a form of therapy per se, this group activity has the potential to deliver therapeutic benefits through its emphasis on mindfulness techniques.

The first meeting of the semester took place on Wednesday, January 29th in the counseling center in Miguel 501 and saw a nice turnout. Leading the group of students through the experience was Nicol Zambrano, Assistant Director of the Counseling Center. Over the 75 minutes she spent with the students, Zambrano introduced a few types of breathing exercises and guided the students through meditation rituals. Zambrano is no stranger to teaching this specific type of class.

“I’ve been running the group since the fall and I had three groups before this,” Zambrano said regarding the school’s growing partnership with Koru Mindfulness. “I’m really excited about the turnout as we have a lot of students who are interested in mindfulness and meditation.”

A class of this kind can do favors for anyone, regardless of age. However, Koru Mindfulness specifically targets college students due to the predictable stress that many tend to endure.

“These are life skills that anyone can benefit from but this course in particular was designed for college students and emerging adults. The skills taught are tailored towards college students knowing that they are on a tight schedule and have a lot of responsibilities,” Zambrano said.

One of the more humorous moments of the session came when Zambrano showed the students the proper way to breathe with one’s belly. Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, occurs when the body uses the diaphragm instead of the chest to generate breaths. This overlooked way of breathing felt strange to many considering most people instead naturally use their chests to breathe. Unsurprisingly, the students started to get the hang of the exercise as time went on.

“The belly breathing exercises and the relaxing breathing exercises really stood out to me because it’s something I’m not used to and something I want to get better at,” sophomore Alexandra O’Neill said.

Although mindfulness is a form of meditation, they are not considered interchangeable. While meditation is more known for the way it helps empty the mind of negative thoughts and worries, mindfulness aims to confront these same emotions in a direct way by accepting and embracing them. The learning curve may seem steep to some, but in reality, every person has the capacity to become more aware of his or her thoughts.

“I used to meditate but mindfulness is quite different,” sophomore Pemba Sherpa said.

To be mindful means to be fixated on the present with total disregard for past or future concerns. One recommended way of staying in the moment is by taking notice of the little things in life that all of us tend to take for granted. This heightened awareness can be activated in every circumstance, even during routine activities such as eating or brushing your teeth.

“Often times we neglect what’s going on in the present time and instead worrying about the future,” O’Neill said. “I think being mindful and present with all the little things in life will help us become appreciative of life itself.”

Every introductory class associated with Koru Mindfulness runs for four weeks with there being one 75-minute session each week. Although students can no longer register for this ongoing class, there will be more classes offered later in the semester. Zambrano hopes that more students will find the time to take the class even if they have no prior experience with mindfulness.

“You just have to have an open mind about things because no one knows how to do it until you start practicing it,” Zambrano said.