Meditation: The solution to all of your problems?

Edward Jones believes that every single person in the world should meditate. His reason to believe this is simple; it has helped him change his entire perspective.

Life as a college student can be extremely stressful. Many students have heard of the practice of meditation, but few have actually participated in it.

I spoke with Ven. Jo Jo, a monk who teaches a meditation class on campus every Tuesday evening about his advice for college students.

He answered with one word: meditation.

“Stop and breathe and relax,” Jo Jo said, “Unfortunately it’s not a quick fix. Meditation is a skill . . . like perfecting violin or baseball.”

He said that meditation would help very much with what students do. They just need to take the time to learn and to practice.

One evening per week he leads an hour of meditation, open to any students, faculty or community members.

Afterwards, he leads a talk or discussion, sometimes even a Buddhism-related craft project.

“Usually my talks are geared more towards how to apply the practice to everyday life,” Jo Jo said. “I realize that most students here are undergraduates; they’re in that exploring stage. I try to structure it so that it caters to that exploration, so that it makes them feel welcome and wanting to explore. It’s very informal. I want a nice, relaxed, casual atmosphere.”

A typical Tuesday evening session with Jo Jo consists of 25 minutes of sitting meditation followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation, and then another 25 minutes of sitting.

“In sitting meditation you don’t have the distraction of the body,” Jo Jo said.

“You can just go deep into your mind and start uncovering all the different defilements: anger, hatred, greed.”

He explained that, in meditation, you’re discovering these defilements and then you’re gradually weeding them out.

On the other hand, walking meditation is a break for your body.

“You immerse yourself in the experience and sensation of walking,” he said.

“It creates an easier bridge between formal meditation practice and your everyday life.”

Jones, a senior, is one of Jo Jo’s regular attendees and has been interested in meditation since high school.

“I think it’s a very cumulative thing,” Jones said, speaking of the benefits of meditation.

“It’s difficult to say one particular area where it has helped me because it’s affected my entire perspective. Perhaps the way I live my life.”

He also touched on meditation’s specific benefits to schoolwork.

“I find that in terms of school, I don’t become emotionally attached and I enjoy my classes and the relationships I have,” Jones said.

“There’s not as much emotional impact. I don’t get stressed out.”

Isn’t less stress every college student’s goal?

Perhaps just one hour of meditation a week will help students achieve this.

Jones teaches a meditation class of his own, Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Gail Day Chapel.

Jones emphasized what a unique privilege it is for Jo Jo  (a Bhikkhu) to teach on the Puget Sound campus.

For those who may not be familiar with the term Bhikkhu, it applies to an ordained male Buddhist monk.

Jo Jo first became interested in Buddhism when he was only 13. It was much later in his life, however, that he was ordained.

“Sometimes when you get to a certain point in your mental cultivation, the everyday interests of life just kind of lose their flavor,” Jo Jo said.

“The only thing you become interested in is helping other people along the mental cultivation path. That’s the point I got to, and that’s why I decided to become a Bhikkhu.”

Jo Jo was ordained through Korea, but would travel to Japan occasionally and spend time there. He returned to his hometown (Tacoma) to teach meditation.

He personally meditates at least twice daily, once in the early morning and once in the evening.

“If you’re not studying, you’re practicing, and if you’re not practicing, then you’re teaching,” Jo Jo said of the Bhikkhu lifestyle, “If you’re not doing any of those three things then you’re sitting down and meditating.”

Perhaps all students should consider meditation if it can truly have such a positive effect.

And if you don’t have any previous experience, that’s fine, you have to start somewhere.