Student-Inspired Virtual Meditation on the Lawn Attracts Global Audience



Student-Inspired Virtual Meditation on the Lawn Attracts Global Audience

UVA Students Inspired a Virtual Meditation on the Lawn
Event Sparked 30-Day Gratitude Challenge on Social Media
More than 400 UVA students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and supporters from around the world participated in a live virtual meditation and wellness webinar hosted by UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center (CSC) on Sunday, May 3.

 The one-hour event was held via Zoom with footage of the Lawn in the background. It featured a guided meditation from UVA Associate Professor of Nursing Sam Green and a panel of speakers including CSC Executive Director David Germano, UVA head wrestling coach Steve Garland, and UVA palliative care liaison nurse Jonathan Bartels. Following the panel’s remarks on practices of mindfulness, resilience, compassion, and well-being, the speakers participated in a live Q&A session in which webinar participants inquired about such things as how to begin meditating and for how long to practice. 
Leslie Hubbard, CSC’s Program Director for Student Engagement and Contemplative Instruction, moderated the event and kicked off Sunday’s lineup with a committee of UVA students who’d inspired CSC to hold the event. The committee was led by second-year Gibson Hylton and included second-year Catherine Bingham, third-year Alex Wassel, and fourth-year Leah Silverman. 
Hylton had previously worked with Hubbard to organize a group meditation on the Lawn this past fall and explained that she was motivated to organize that event because she’d personally benefited from beginning a meditation practice and wanted to share that experience with others.
“People come together for sporting events. People come together to celebrate. I wondered if people would come together to meditate and to sincerely look at how amazing it is just to be here,” said Hylton.
Shortly after UVA closed in March, Hylton again sought assistance from Hubbard, this time to help her committee plan and publicize a virtual meditation event that would offer fellow Hoos not only a moment of contemplation and connection during a difficult time of separation from Grounds, but a chance to celebrate their beloved Lawn from afar.  
Hubbard went a step further and recruited several UVA partners, including UVA Athletics, HoosWell, the Compassionate Care Initiative, the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program, UVA Sustainability, and Mind&Body at UVA to create a comprehensive wellness event for the wider UVA community and public. The event was held at a particularly poignant time in the midst of UVA’s final exams and on a weekend that marked the conclusion of Earth Week 2020 and the beginning of both National Nurses Week and Teacher Appreciation Week. 
Participants from New York, Kansas, Colorado, and California joined others from India, France, Taiwan, and many other places across the country and globe for the Zoom webinar. David Germano provided context for the event, discussing CSC’s mission of student flourishing and the critical importance of self-awareness and contemplative practices—from formal meditation to informal activities that make up the “art of living,” such as jogging, walking in nature, or engaging in deep conversations with others—to the flourishing and well-being of all. Sam Green then led participants through a 15-minute mindfulness meditation suitable for both beginners and experienced meditators. 
Following the meditation came practical words of wisdom from coach Garland, who shared a five-step strategy he personally uses and teaches his wrestlers for cultivating resilience and motivation particularly during times of struggle. He called this strategy TACOS, an acronym for Thanksgiving, Acknowledgement, Commitment, Others, and Self. 
The last speaker, Jonathan Bartels, described the example and history of the “medical pause,” a contemplative practice he developed at UVA to provide healthcare workers a moment of reflection after a patient has just died. The medical pause is now widely used in hospitals across the country. Bartels went on to describe another contemplative approach he developed called “guerrilla mindfulness,” a practice that takes only five minutes and can be done even in the midst of chaos, such as what’s currently being experienced in emergency rooms on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A frequent topic throughout the event was the practice of gratitude, which research has shown is profoundly important to well-being. CSC concluded the webinar by announcing a 30-day gratitude challenge beginning May 4 and encouraging the entire UVA community to participate by sharing a daily message of gratitude on social media using the hashtag #hoosgrateful. Learn more about the challenge here.
Find more information on the event and related resources here.
The mission of the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia is to promote human flourishing at all levels of education by advancing the study and application of contemplation—experiential and immersive forms of learning and practices that allow for intentional exploration and transformation of oneself, others, and the wider world. Contemplation is a critical pathway to flourishing, which is realizing well-being and one’s fullest potential in all aspects of life (physical, social, emotional, cognitive, academic, and professional) and actively contributing to the well-being and flourishing of other people, other communities, and the natural world.