Finding the Calm
Jing Ye, Psychological Counselor, was born to a bourgeoisie family during the Great Cultural Revolution in China. She grew up in Shanghai and in a small town near the Yangtze River. Now a world away from Shanghai, Ye works as a fulltime and on-call licensed psychological counselor for the College Counseling Services. Additionally, she attends meditation retreats several times each year, leads a weekly mediation group in the Rose Chapel, gives occasional classroom presentations on mindfulness practice and organizes retreats. She even assisted with a COOT trip this fall, offering her meditation expertise to a group in the woods of Maine in order to enrich the first-year COOT experience.
As a child, Ye often watched her grandfather sit on a wooden bed in the perfect lotus position without any cushion. Describing her grandfather, Ye said, “I thought that was how old people nap. [But] before I turned ten, I would go to a park with my grandfather before dawn to practice Tai Chi, meditative movements. His grace and presence left a deep impression on me.”
Growing up, Ye faced humiliation and fear because of her bourgeoisie background. In response to the threats and thundering revolutionary songs that Ye encountered on a daily basis, she sought her own peace.
“The only comfort I could find was to go inside of myself. Suddenly my world expanded to trees, fields, clouds, and silence. The only available books to read were about revolution and class enemies. I spent a lot of time as the only child and ostracized school kid observing, finding peace and comfort from the subtle changes and movements in the trees, sunlight, and clouds. I felt more alive than later when I had security and respect in life,” she said.
While not many students on the Hill can relate to Ye’s personal experience growing up in China, each person can certainly relate to the need for moments of self-reflection. The meditation group, lead by Ye, meets at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Rose Chapel; all are invited and there are no pre-requisites. The weekly meditation group is a welcoming environment, composed of first-timers and veterans to mediation. The group allows individuals of the College community a chance to pay attention to their bodies, hopefully encouraging participants to learn about their individual self and mind.
As many participants echoed last week, the group energy is incredible. In Ye’s words, “One rides on it, which makes [group] meditation practice easier than to do it on ones own, at least during the beginning stage. The group discussion after [each] half-an-hour sitting is often inspiring.”
In regards to her own meditation experience, Ye noted that her conscious, everyday attention to meditation is what allows her to be less affected by trivial events, whether pleasant or unpleasant. She describes the results of her meditation as “freedom and liberation that no fame or money can match.”
In addition to the Tuesday meditation session in the Rose Chapel, other opportunities for group meditation include the Music of Meditation class offered in the fall, which provides students with the ability to study music, ritual and meditation in Rinzai Zen Buddhism, monastic Roman Catholicism and Hinduism; a student lead mediation session set up by Jamila Keba ’11, Monday-Thursday mornings from 8:20 to 8:50 in the Rose Chapel; and occasional campus-wide meditation retreats.
In Ye’s words, “Meditation is not esoteric or automatically spiritual. We simply cannot afford to be frequently and deeply affected by what happens to us, something we have little control over. It is evident that operating from our head alone is far from enough. As human beings we need to cultivate beingness to balance our lives, and to experience simple joy and contentment from that place.”
Through the practice of meditation, one can find calm amidst the chaos of life on the Hill.