Close your eyes. Now focus on your breath. Breath deeply in and out, in and out, feeling your diaphragm rise with each breath. Each time your thoughts wander come back to your centred place, and focus on your breath moving in and out."
These are the instructions given by June Churchill as she leads a group of students and staff members on a weekly guided meditative journey to escape the stresses of everyday life and find their peaceful inner selves.
"We're realizing that the Chaplain's Centre wants to become interfaith and meditation is a nice thing that goes across all cultures and spiritual practices," explained Churchill, who has meditated for five years and has taught meditation workshops based on the Protestant faith for two years.
Even though the meditation workshops are run by the Chaplain's Centre, Churchill stressed they are non-denominational and open to students of all faiths, including atheists. The workshops are taught by four instructors on a rotating basis and include both eastern and western religions. The instructors teach a variety of styles of mediation, including walking meditation, breathing mediation, visualization, and mantra or chanting meditation.
Churchill has some advice for people who pass off meditation as mere daydreaming and think they are too busy to incorporate quiet time into their day.
"What makes meditation different from daydreaming is that you are intentional about it," said Churchill. "Once you are able to incorporate some kind of quietness you can carry that over into other activities. It can only be two to three minutes and busy people are often taking time to slow down by having a smoke or getting a coffee or a tea."
Presbyterian and United chaplain Tim Nethercott said he discovered meditation in his early twenties as a way to heal himself, to deal with depression and to feel closer to God. Nethercott has been meditating for many years, and sees it as a way for people of all faiths to find peace and fulfill spiritual needs.
"In our culture there's a kind of non-religious spirituality arising--the church doesn't always know what to do with it, but we like it," said Nethercott. "It's a kind of nature spirituality, opening your heart in awareness and awe."
Nethercott admits, after all his years of practice, he still has random thoughts enter his mind during meditation.
"You enjoy it but you watch it like bubbles going up through the water--there it goes," said Nethercott.