Meditation @ Mac: addressing anxiety in Mac community


Weyerhauser Chapel provides a space for meditation sessions. Photo by Owen Pearlman ’23.

Izzy Gravano, Arts Editor

In his own words, Rev. Marc Anderson is Macalester’s “zen grandpa.” He serves as the Buddhist Chaplain in the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL), where he facilitates Meditation @ Mac twice a week. The 30-minute sessions are open to students, faculty and community members.

Meditation @ Mac existed prior to Anderson’s arrival six years ago. When he first started as a volunteer Buddhist chaplain, a student organization was already holding meditation sessions. Anderson was officially hired two years later when College Chaplain and Associate Dean Rev. Kelly J. Stone started her tenure at the college. The students who had previously facilitated the meditation sessions decided to disband their organization — leaving a gap in the college’s spiritual programming.

“My view of meditation practice, even though I come from the Japanese Soto School of Zen Buddhism, is that I don’t see Buddhism as a prerequisite,” Anderson said. “If students are interested in that part of it, I’m available to them — but I’m trying to offer meditation as something that’s available to everybody.”

Rev. Anderson approaches meditation on a college campus differently than he might elsewhere.

“Some form of contemplative space is really essential for everybody to be healthy,” Anderson said. “It’s not just that you’re less anxious and your blood pressure goes down, but it has all these other impacts that are harder for people to grasp because it’s because it happens differently for everyone.’

Meditation is widely recommended by medical professionals and academics alike. On Macalester’s campus, Disability Services sees a range of students with anxiety and stress — two common reasons why someone might begin meditating.

“I find that meditation is a great resource for our students to reduce anxiety,” Disability Services Coordinator Josie Hurka said. “It is one tool in the toolbox for a healthy life, so it’s nice that Macalester offers meditation here free of charge and open to everyone.”

A dozen or so students regularly attend Meditation @ Mac. Anna Turner ’22 sees the benefits, but like many students, can’t find the time in the week to make her way to the chapel.

“I’ve never attended Meditation @ Mac, but I’ve always wanted to.” Turner said, “I like that it’s a group atmosphere and so low stakes; hopefully I can convince my friends to come with me, ”

For Macalester students, Anderson can’t recommend his sessions enough.

“There are few things [in life] that I would guarantee, but meditation is one of them,” Anderson said. “Not everyone is ready for it, but I’ve never met anyone who’s been committed to it and not found it to be a good thing, and I can’t think of anything else that I could say that about.”

“You just have to come in the door,” he continued. “And try it out.”

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