Posted by Zoe Dartley
Dr. Katrina Smith is a self-proclaimed late convert to meditation. A clinical psychologist at the college's Counseling Center, she began her training five years ago to help with the management of her personal stress levels. Now, she is teaching a one-credit meditation course on mindfulness-based stress reduction entitled Stress Reduction and Mindfulness.
Smith's course teaches various types of meditation, including yoga, body scanning, breathing awareness, walking meditation, and mindful movement. Smith believes that a class like this has much to offer to the student body.
"Students were reaching out for solutions and options. It's a large-scale way of helping students to deal with their stress," Smith said.
Two therapists working for the holistic practice "One Roof" in the Saratoga community started Stress Reduction and Mindfulness at the College seven years ago. The eight-week long class was originally developed for hospital patients suffering from chronic pain, but has since extended its reach to people afflicted with issues stemming from anxiety, depression, or any mood disorders.
Smith believes that anyone can benefit from meditation.
"[This program] is not specific to any problem. It is about centering and being present," she said.
In order to prepare for teaching the class, Smith attended an intensive one-week course taught by John Kabot-Zinn, founder of University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. Kabot-Zinn's program has found much success and is currently being offered at over 200 medical centers and clinics internationally.
"By and large, it's been most successful with helping individuals to manage depression, anxiety, and pain. However, you don't have to be diagnosed with anything to have stress in your life," said Smith of the program.
Stress Reduction and Mindfulness is offered for the first half of the fall and spring semesters this year. While the program is based in meditation, a field with deep roots in spirituality, it is not a religion or philosophy class.
"The focus of the course is not tied to Buddhism or any specific philosophy. It starts with the physical and understanding your body and gaining some control over the mental process," Smith said.
Students can find the course listed on the College's master schedule as Physical Activity course 129 (PA-129C 001).
Smith highly recommends her course to any student who is looking for a new perspective on stress.
"Meditation can be individualized," Smith said. "Each individual's problems won't necessarily be solved, but meditation can help support strength, tolerance, and your capacity to gain perspective on your problems."