A Reflection and Recap by Ian C. Edwards, PhD, LP, Director, Duquesne University Counseling and Wellbeing Center
As a way of introducing this reflection and recap of the events of March 9-14, it is important to note that the Student Wellbeing Initiative, inclusive of the Duquesne University Counseling and Wellbeing Center and the Student Wellbeing Club, with one of its emphases being on interfaith dialog, can be appreciated as an expression of Pope Paul VI’s Nostra Aetate, his 1965 “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” Along with His Holiness Pope Paul VI, we “promote unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she (the Church) considers above all…what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.” The 2nd Annual Week of Wellbeing, therefore, continued its endeavor to promote such unity and love by offering programs and events that directed Duquesne University students, faculty, and staff, regardless of ethnicity, cultural background, and religious affiliation, toward integral or holistic health, never forgetting that genuine happiness (the goal of all people) can only be found when the mind, body, and spirit rest in God.
The week’s events offered the Duquesne University Community an opportunity to engage in activities designed to develop each of the three core areas of a person’s being: mind, body, and spirit.
On Monday, March 9, in the Wellness Resource Center in the Power Center, Dr. Laurie Kessler of the Counseling and Wellbeing Center guided workshop participants on ways to utilize physical exercise to promote a healthy self-esteem, examining strategies that people often engage in that either detract from self-esteem or positively enhance it.
On Tuesday, March 10, the Fr. Sean Hogan Dining Center offered a dinner menu that gave students the opportunity to select healthy, tasty food that promoted the overall philosophy of wellbeing, which sees a person’s embodiment as a temple of God, a temple to be honored, respected, properly cared for, and nurtured.
On Wednesday, March 11, in the Spiritan Campus Ministry Center, John Michael Hartigan, from the Shambhala Center of Pittsburgh, facilitated a mindfulness workshop for Duquesne Students that highlighted the benefits of meditation from a scientific perspective and also from the perspective of the various wisdom traditions. Hartigan’s workshop demonstrated a powerful point of contact between science and religion in that the practice of meditation, both from a non-religious and religious perspective, positively affects wellbeing across the domains of mind, body, and spirit.
On Thursday, March 13, in the Duquesne Union 2nd Floor Atrium, a Resilience Mural was displayed. This mural, which began as an empty black canvas, soon became filled with numerous stories of resilience, as Duquesne students, faculty, and staff wrote down narratives of how each overcame tremendous life obstacles to ultimately turn tragedy into triumph. The symbolic nature associated with this mural is not to go unnoticed in that the empty black canvas became full of narratives written in silver and gold, alchemically transforming that which is “base” into “gold,” filling the “darkness” with “light.” Our collective stories of resilience show a powerful side of the Duquesne Community, a Community of people that knows how to grow from suffering, to bounce back when knocked down, to find hope in the midst of despair, and to rise from the ashes into abundant life.
On Friday, March 13, in the Power Center Main Studio, Pittsburgh yoga instructor, chant leader, and singer-songwriter Brooke Smokelin, along with her band and Duquesne’s own Chris Molinari, offered a Yoga class with live music and sound healing to Duquesne students, faculty, and staff. This class demonstrated that music and sound are not only for entertainment purposes, but can also be used therapeutically as a means for healing the mind, body, and spirit. To conclude the Week of Wellbeing, on Saturday, March 14th, in the Africa Room, world-renowned author, recording artist, and meditation teacher, Russill Paul, facilitated a daylong retreat on Contemplative Practice in Christianity and Hinduism. The retreat introduced the students, faculty, and staff, along with members of the greater community, to contemplative Christian practice by way of a comparison with Hinduism. The focus of the retreat was to introduce Contemplative Christianity by way of a brief overview of its history, two 90-minute meditation sessions, and two question and answer periods that followed each meditation session. Participants were instructed on how to contemplatively, reverently, and mindfully pray traditional prayers within the Christian tradition, such as the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer, and passages from the Divine Office, while centering each prayer in the heart, synchronizing prayer with the breath, and becoming attuned to the body. This retreat was a powerful transformative experience for those present, inspiring us in our own contemplative practice and encouraging us to become more intimate with God. The Counseling and Wellbeing Center looks to offer workshops and contemplative practice groups in the future that will further this experience; providing students, faculty, and staff with opportunities to come together in contemplative prayer to meditatively pray the Psalms, the Jesus Prayer, the Our Father, the Rosary, etc.
The Week of Wellbeing represented the unity and love that Pope Paul VI wrote about in Nostra Aetate and that which exists within the Duquesne Community. The Week witnessed several University departments working together to offer what we believe will promote wellbeing at Duquesne. We focused on what we all have in common – the living out of the University Mission and that all human beings desire to be genuinely happy through living a purposeful, intentional, and meaningful life.