New working group practices mindfulness through meditation

For Marian Hancock-Cerutti ’15, stress is nothing out of the ordinary.

Between juggling work for three AP classes, playing on the PHS girls ice hockey team, leading a community service group, and preparing for the start of the college process, she sometimes loses focus on certain parts of her life.

“As more and more things pile onto [you] during junior year, the stress becomes harder to deal with,” she said.

But recently, Hancock-Cerutti has found a means of coping with that stress—PHS’s newly founded Working Group for Mindful Meditation.

“It’s important to have something that helps you calm down and remember what’s important,” she said.

Established by English teacher Jeffrey Melillo, the group aims to aid juniors like Hancock-Cerutti in his AP English III, exploring areas of stress and developing perspective. Meeting in the Fagles room every Wednesday at break, the group focuses on practicing mindfulness through meditation and discussion.

“The goal is really to generate a conversation around what we’re doing and, as a school, to have a presence in that conversation as it becomes a national [one],” Melillo said.

Rather than working through a teacher-to-student style, Melillo’s role consists of guiding students through the process of being mindful, while students do the rest.

“I want this to be more about the students, and I’m just kind of there as a participant … My goal would be that they eventually become comfortable with starting or training other people to start another working group,” Melillo said.

Some students who attend these meetings appreciate this 30-minute break from their daily routine each week.

“The fact that it’s during break is really nice because it takes you away from all of the stress of school, and it helps you focus, put things in perspective, and just calm down,” said Hancock-Cerutti.

However, the working group does not cater just to Melillo’s students, as it is also open to teachers after school on Mondays. These teachers participate for various reasons.

Economics teacher Lisa Bergman said, “I wanted to learn more about it. I have some family and friends who practice mindfulness, [which] is a way of living, and from what I know of it, it is an approach where you are living in the moment. We multitask and sometimes we don’t appreciate [that].”

Outside of the working group, some teachers have started to turn to meditation to alleviate their respective stresses.

“Mindfulness teaches you to concentrate and take in what you are doing at the moment, living in the moment, and gives you approaches on how to face stress. Meditation is one of those approaches. It is a way of training the brain to reduce the stresses of everyday life,” said Bergman.

“It helps me relax, as I tend to be a highly stressed person, so it is essential for me to balance myself and to be healthy,” said English teacher Aaron Thayer.

Thayer brings his Peer Group class to the Fagles room every Wednesday to meditate and relax, and he believes it has had a positive effect on them.

“I think it really does benefit them since their day is really hectic, so to take time and pause and reset [their] brains really helps them to relax in general,” said Thayer.

The exercise of meditation allows the mind to temporarily depart from the present and enter a state of peace, and some have already begun to see results due to their continued attendance to meetings.

“[This group] has benefitted me personally … I can’t speak for other people, but I feel like I’m progressing,” Jai Nimgaonkar ’15 said.

On the other hand, some do not view meditation in a positive regard.

“I’m not really into meditation since I don’t find it that relaxing … [It] just take[s] up time,” Jonah Rubin ’17 said.

Being mindful and learning ways to relax can also be used outside the environment of a working group as well.

“Once you learn mindfulness, the idea is that you can then do it on your own … It has a place for everyone in our everyday lives to lead to a happier and more mindful way of life,” said Bergman.

Although its purpose focuses on mindfulness, the group does not have a specific goal in mind.

“I think that the goal is to not necessarily have a fixed goal … It’s about like-minded students and educators coming together [and] talking about these ideas because they are interested in them … I hope that we create a culture within the school where people are taking time out to nurture themselves—not just in academic ways, but in other ways too,” Melillo said.