Inquiring students and curious passersby gathered to collectively meditate in observance of the United Nations International Day of Peace at Alumni Park on Wednesday evening. The event, sponsored by the Interfaith Council, the Office of Religious Life, the Heartfulness Institute, Mindful USC and BreatheSC, aimed to allow individuals the opportunity to slow down and experience the many benefits of meditation.
The Heartfulness Institute, a nonprofit organization followed by people in over 120 countries, had instructors who guided Wednesday’s event, offering relaxation and meditation programs free of charge for communities, universities, corporations and other types of organizations.
“Today being the International Day of Peace from United Nations, we thought it would be a good day to raise awareness of the importance of meditation,” said Sreejith Periyadath, religious director of the Heartfulness Institute. “How it positively affects the individual peace, which ultimately results in world peace.”
Petra Reyes, a junior majoring in political science who attended the event, is a firm believer in meditation and its various applications for improving the self and mankind.
“I think it is really beautiful for us to be able to come together and think about World Peace Day in a way that we can collectively use our energy for healing, for peace,” Reyes said.
The International Day of Peace was first established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 and was further designated two decades later as a period of cease-fire and non-violence around the world, with the hope that nations, instead of fighting, educate and raise public awareness on issues related to peace.
Since 2002, each International Day of Peace has had a theme. For 2016 the theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,” in reference to the 17 goals all 193 member nations of the U.N. adopted at the 2015 U.N. Sustainable Development Summit at their headquarters in New York. The lofty list of goals, which can be found on the United Nations Development Program website, will guide United Nation Development Programs for the next 15 years and focus on poverty alleviation, democratic governance and peacebuilding, climate change and disaster risk and economic inequality, with the ultimate purpose of the list being to achieve world peace.
Achieving enlightenment and world peace aside, Pariyadath stressed that meditation can be especially beneficial for college students, many of whom are preparing to graduate and faced with the upcoming and intimidating responsibilities of life after college.
“In the campus, we have a great young generation who is ready to go out and take on the challenges of the world, and they should be able to know how to center themselves, how to be more peaceful and calmer when they are faced with the daily challenges of life,” Pariyadath said.
Meanwhile, for students who are only looking as far ahead as their next midterm, meditation could be the answer to managing stress.
“It is something that I think is really important for college students, and it can be so easy to integrate as part of self care,” Reyes said. “To slow down and to just like try not to think about, you know: if you’ve got deadlines, if you’ve got work, if you’ve got school, to just think about what you need personally to heal your body, to heal your mind, to heal your soul.”
The Heartfulness Institute hopes to conduct more events in the coming months in conjunction with the other meditation groups around campus.