New campus organization meets to meditate

Student founds campus club centered around self-care


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

Katie Christian (right), club president, and Kyle Hagen (left), vice president, demonstrate their different approaches to meditation. The Organization for Meditation meets from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays throughout spring semester.

The first time she could remember meditating, Katie Christian was in fourth grade. As she read her friend’s book about meditation, she said she felt her curiosity blossom.

Now, years later, she has expanded her practice. Christian said meditation eventually helped her process her emotions and manage anxiety.

“(Meditation) makes me feel a connection to life,” Christian said.

Earlier this semester, Christian formed Organization for Meditation (OM), an organization centered around meditation, mindfulness and self-love. OM is the first student organization of its kind at UW-Eau Claire, according to BluSync.

While working as a respiratory therapist, Christian gathered more knowledge about the wide world of meditation and its relation to breathing. Many of her patients live with anxiety, Christian said, and benefit from breathing guidance.

Christian uses her job experience to teach about meditation and relaxation. She said each person has their own definition of meditation.

“If I describe meditation,” Christian said, “it would be being mindful, taking some time to site with yourself and being conscious of your diaphragmatic breathing.”

Basically, diaphragmatic breathing is achieved when one inhales through their nose so their stomach expands outward instead of inward. Using this method of breathing is more efficient and strengthens your diaphragm, according to the University of Georgia’s psychology department.

Mentally, Christian said meditation teaches one to control their thoughts by acknowledging and dismissing them as they come.

Meditation has deep historical roots. The practice dates back to 500 BCE Hindu scriptures, according to the Positive Psychology Program. Eventually, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism all developed their own versions of meditation.

Meditation began to gain traction in Western societies during the 1960s and 1970s when universities released research about the benefits of mindfulness, Positive Psychology stated. Further research allowed healthcare professionals to understand meditation could be separated from religion.

When Christian enrolled at UW-Eau Claire as a non-traditional communication student, she strolled through fall 2017’s Blugold Organization Bash (B.O.B). She said she noticed there weren’t any student groups that centered around meditation or relaxation.

Christian said she kept hearing students say: “I’d love to join, but I don’t have a ton of time.”

Realizing students were overworked and stressed, Christian said it was clear what she need to do. She took charge and created “an (organization) for self-care:” Organization for Meditation.

In this day and age, Christian said, meditation is necessary — no matter your stage in life.

“We’re less mindful than ever now that we’re plugged in,” Christian said. “We have to take a moment to get that mind-body connection back.”

For example, Christian said, infants naturally breathe with their diaphragms. As we get older, we stop breathing this way. Christian said she believes this correlates with the stress we encounter as we age. She said it’d be best to meditate for 20 minutes every day to help with this.

“Start trying to work it more and more into your day,” Christian said.

Though the club started off with two members, it has grown to about 15 meditators. Christian said the increase in membership is thanks to OM’s showing at the winter B.O.B.

The club is still finding its ground at Eau Claire. Social media sites are being established, and Christian said she hopes fundraising will allow for expenses like tea to be covered.

Kyle Hagen, a second-year information systems and psychology student, said he met Christian in a class about meditation. Recently, Hagen was appointed OM’s vice president. He’s been meditating for about three years.

“I’m not a professional by any means,” Hagen said.

Christian and Hagen said each person should find their own specific type of meditation. Hagan’s style — more scientific — compliments Christian’s spiritual focus.

“I really appreciate the scientific proof and the real bonuses from meditation,” Hagen said. “I apply mindfulness to everyday parts of my life.”

Ideally, Christian said, she wants the club to create a sense of community where members support one another in meditation discovery.

“That’s one of my goals — that people find their people,” Christian said.

OM gathers from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Tuesday in the penthouse of Hibbard Humanities Hall. Christian said attendance is not mandatory — members can come and go as they please. Tea is provided.

During meetings, the organization meditates. Bring your meditation cushion (or “Zafu”) if you own one. Most importantly, Christian said, come as you are.