The Krame Center at Ramapo College recently partnered with the Center of Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, introducing new programming this fall semester designed to create awareness about the meditative practice of mindfulness.
Inspired by their personal experiences with mindfulness, the Krame family was keen on establishing a safe space on campus for students, faculty and staff, as well as the surrounding community. With the support of President Mercer, the Krame Center, housed in the Anisfield School of Business, is an outlet for contemplative and meditative practices that are firmly rooted in the concept of mindfulness.
“The mission is not just to promote the use of mindfulness practices in the classroom at Ramapo, but also in student life to promote a more reflective and meditative approach to learning amongst the students and the student culture, which by the way is what university was originally all about both in Asia and in Europe,” explained Dr. James Morely, director of the Krame Center and professor of clinical psychology. “The whole mission of universities is to bring wisdom, not just pack minds with information so that they can get jobs. It’s about wisdom so that people can live full, rich, purposeful and meaningful lives. So our mission is to promote mindfulness and meditation in a reasonable, secular, non-religious way but to also give students what they are really looking for when they come to college, which is an access to wisdom and purpose in life.”
Meditation is one of the popular ways to channel calmness from within. Since many people experience difficulty managing their stress levels, the Krame Center coordinates events that foster a peaceful atmosphere and encourage attendees to take a moment to pause and reflect on their lives.
“I like to relax my mind and clear off my mind after a busy day of schoolwork, studying, homework and everything,” said sophomore Michaela Mattera. “It’s very nice to calm myself down and clear all the crazy thoughts, walk away and come to myself again.”
Community members, especially practicing clinicians and educators, are also participating in the regular events hosted by the Krame Center. Karistin Sharma, a pain psychologist and resident of Montvale, regularly uses meditation therapy with her patients and practices it at home. After attending a lecture held earlier this year, she became interested in the other programming offered by the Krame Center and looked into attending the evening meditation sessions so that she could connect with a community interested in the same thing.
“I notice that I am more able to distance myself from my thoughts. I don’t believe in all my thoughts, which is good because a lot of our thoughts are not true,” said Sharma. “I have a greater ability to watch my thoughts and choose, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go down that path. I have been down that path.’ So the repetitive ruminations are not as common.”
The Krame Center continues to pursue its mission of promoting mindfulness through the CFM’s Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction program.
“With a similar mission and vision to ours, the genuineness of what we’re trying to do is what they’re trying to do. They are looking for different places to partner. I think we are really looking to grow our business and offer the community as much as we can here,” said Magner. “They already have a fantastic name and we didn’t want to recreate the wheel. Since MBSR is something that we want to do, we want to do it in the right way and we want them behind us to make sure we are putting out their product in the proper way.”
This eight-week program, offered on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings, was conceived by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and seeks to increase participants’ abilities to focus on the present moment without judgment. Through a series of exercises and meditations, students in the course will learn how to respond positively to stress. The Krame Center, however, is expanding MBSR and is now training educators interested in teaching the course.
“We’re growing the MBSR program but in addition to that, we are now teaching instructors so that people who want to teach the program don’t have to go all they up to the University of Massachusetts. We are now a hub for CFM in order to get the word out and educate,” said Magner.
Other programs offered through the Krame Center include half-day silent retreats, introduction to mindfulness sessions and workshops for educators.
As mindfulness continues to sweep across the nation and work its way into educational institutions, the future of this practice remains uncertain.
“In some respects, it could be a passing fashion. On the other hand, I think American culture, an industrialized civilization, is starving, is empty, is spiritually dead. We have lost our sense of balance on what life is about,” said Morley. “Money and success is not what it’s about. Collectively, we are coming to this realization that something is wrong…Mindfulness could be a fad but it could also be a great awakening.”
The Krame Center, however, envisions a bright future for itself where it can continue to evolve and spread awareness about mindfulness.
“I’ve been here for one year and it’s a totally different place from when I started only because we did not anticipate the partnership with CFM … We are looking to become one of the top places within the Northeast for people. They think mindfulness, they think Krame Center and they come here. We are really looking to grow and expand within and without,” said Magner.