The Krame Center for Contemplative Studies and Mindful Living, a relatively new addition to Ramapo College, has been working for months to bring mindfulness, a method of relaxation and focus, to campus. Now, the Center has been running frequent workshops for students and faculty to bring this undertaking to fruition.
Mindfulness is, “a purposeful way of focusing attention in the present moment. It promotes a presence in the here and now that is often lost in today’s fast paced society,” the Krame Center’s website stated.
According to James Morley, a professor of clinical psychology and the director of the Krame Center for Contemplative Studies, the Center came about after the Krame family, who were particularly impacted by the practice of mindfulness, chose Ramapo as the place they wanted to cultivate this practice.
“Our mission is to make Ramapo College a regional center for the teaching, research and the promotion of the practice of mindfulness and contemplative living,” said Morley.
The second half of the mission, contemplative studies, is described on the Krame Center’s website as, “a new and emerging discipline that applies rigorous research methods to the study of contemplative and mindful practices as expressed across many cultures, traditions and historical eras.” The combination of mindfulness and contemplative living attempts to focus people on the present, to decrease anxiety and negativity.
“I do think this would help,” said sophomore Kimberlee Augis of this program. “My anxiety is about things that happened yesterday so if you’re in the moment you can’t worry about yesterday.”
The Center remained low key until this year, with most of their programs in the planning stages. Morley, an ex-faculty president, was asked to become the director in August, and joined a team of other members, including Professor of education at Ramapo Carol Bowman, who were tasked with bringing mindfulness and contemplative living to the community. According to Morley, a professor was chosen as director to keep their programming within an academic framework.
“We wanted a professor to be the director because we wanted to give it a completely academic grounding,” he said.
Morley explained that colleges and universities were formerly philosophical centers that became more science based as technology enhanced. One of the Krame Center’s missions is to bring the philosophical aspect back to Ramapo College, and apply mindfulness to modern science.
“Professors are very afraid that mindfulness and contemplation could be related to religion but it’s not,” Morley explained. “It has nothing to do with religion at all. It’s just a method of calming your mind and focusing on the present moment.”
In the past, the Center has run programs for faculty to train them in contemplative pedagogy, a form of teaching that incorporates mindfulness and experiential teaching to enhance students’ class-time. Just recently, professors were invited to a roundtable to discuss how they have worked contemplative pedagogy into their syllabi.
Programming for students continues throughout October, largely facilitated by Morley and Bowman. Some past programs include yoga and mindful eating workshops. Future sessions will be centered around teaching students the purpose and techniques of mindfulness. The neurological research, which shows that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, depression and increase focus, will be discussed along with learning the physical breathing of meditative techniques associated with mindfulness.
“Students can focus better and they can reduce negative emotion like fear and anger, then they’re going to also have more self control and more positive emotions, and therefore much more positive relations with other students,” said Morley of the implication of mindfulness in student life.
Moving forward, the Krame Center will continue to put on workshops and are also looking to start an official club. The aim of this club will be to promote the practice of mindfulness and contemplative living, attend mindfulness retreats and work towards creating things like a “sitting spot” on campus, where students can feel free to clear their minds and meditate. According to junior Rebecca Colson, programs like the ones initiated by the Krame Center are important, as they place an emphasis on mental health, not just academic excellence.
“I think it’s important that students keep calm and know how to de-stress themselves, especially in situations in college,” Colson said. “I’m a junior, so I’m starting to get towards the end and that push is really hard, but I really think that it’s important that mental health and physical health are kept up with. Besides your studies, you need to take care of yourself. I think it’ll be a tremendous asset to us here at Ramapo.”