Written by Jaweed Kaleem.
Three times last week, between classes in neuropharmacology, neural systems and journalism, Brown University junior Henry Langton changed into sweatpants, sat with dozens of classmates on cushions in a campus dance studio and meditated on his breath and his body for 25 uninterrupted minutes.
One day, the focus was bamboo breathing, a Zen breath control technique. Another day, it was the Heart Sutra, a Mahayana Buddhist scripture frequently chanted in Zen monasteries. There was also walking meditation, a mindfulness of the body exercise done while moving through the room.
Langton, a junior whose interests range from science and yoga to performing as a drum and bass DJ, wasn’t there simply for his own personal growth and wellness. If he didn’t show up — and didn’t reflect on the experience later with classmates and professors — his GPA could get knocked down.
The meditations, or MedLabs as they are called at Brown, are an integral part of an effort the Ivy League university has undertaken in recent years to incorporate the study and practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques into its curriculum. In August, Brown launched one of the first formal undergraduate concentrations in the country in contemplative studies, and Langton is one of its first enrollees. In it, students not only study philosophical and meditation approaches gleaned from Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism and Confucianism, but they try them and incorporate them into classroom lectures and discussions.
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