When I was teaching engineering students at Western Michigan University, I did an exercise midway through the semester where students had to move from one side of the room to another based on agreeing or disagreeing with the provided statement. It was an exercise in critical thinking and practice in explaining their thoughts. One of the statements was:
In this moment, there is plenty of time.
– Victoria Moran
In recent articles, I wrote about using variations of resilience and mindful practice to recover from my Bird Box trauma and recharge and reset during times of chaos, like toddlers crying and the car is falling apart. This statement about time speaks to another way of resilience and mindful practice.
I noticed that through the many semesters and classes of students, there were some differences between the groups. My engineering students who disagreed with the statement about time often referenced the never-ending list of homework assignments, quizzes, tests, and projects looming ahead of them. They noted feeling regularly stressed, often appeared more anxious, were less easygoing, reviewed the syllabus in most class periods, and asked too many questions to clarify expectations for intentionally creative and open-ended assignments — perhaps implying that they did not trust their own judgment. (Please note that this was a career development credit/no-credit class meaning no one had to worry about their grades.) These students without fail described never having enough time.
Students who agreed with “in this moment, there is plenty of time” appeared more relaxed, seemed to more openly discuss life (outside of assignments), and even seemed to smile more often. They described gratitude for the little things and recounted joys in a sip of coffee, watching the trees outside while working on a group project, listening to a funny but dry joke told by a professor, or managing to call their parents between classes occasionally.
Both groups turned in thoughtful assignments on time. And although I didn’t ask, I will assume that both groups probably drank coffee, looked at nature, enjoyed some professors, and called friends or family.
This was clearly a matter of perspective and, interestingly, proved to represent some resilience as well. Faced with stressful or anxiety-provoking events in their internship searches and interview processes, the students who agreed with “In this moment, there is plenty of time” were more calm and self-assured.
Instead of expanding the water for a tennis ball to float in either a pool or tub, they were expanding the ball itself. In fact, it wasn’t a tennis ball after all. It was the tiny universe in the marble on the cat in Men In Black. This is what is meant when meditations encourage breathing into something – be it discomfort in the body or discomfort in the mind. In creating space, we are able to find gratitude for the little things, become more at ease, and perhaps even smile more.
Want to learn more about how to integrate mindful awareness into your own life to better manage your stress? Consider joining Kelsey for the next Mindfulness for Stress Reduction 4-week workshop.