Sunday, April 24, 2005

“Living in the moment” as the academic year draws to a close

Let’s face it. There is no more intense time at American University (probably most universities) than the two or three weeks culminating in final examinations and, for seniors, in commencement. It is a joyful time of the year, but can also be a stressful, exhausting one.

Juxtaposition of multiple obligations, from social systems not much linked to one another makes time a particularly precious resource. Consider the demands, obligations, and opportunities…

…faced by all students
Completing term papers and capstones; possibly four our five of them
Studying for and completing final examinations
· Attending the “end of year” events of every organization to which one belongs, each of them wanting to celebrate and commemorate
· Breaking or loosening intense ties with friends/lovers
Packing up and organizing a move – what to do with all that “stuff” one has accumulated
Reconnecting with an redefining one’s relationship with parents (try to remember that this can be a stressful, exhausting time for them too)

…and for seniors, all of the above, plus
The uncertainties of transitioning to a new way of life
Looking even more seriously at the intense ties of the past year or years
Seeking the appropriate ways to celebrate the last moments of undergraduate life and resisting (or not) the temptation to celebrate too much.
· And much more….

What has impressed me most, in more than three years as an Anderson Hall resident, is the maturity, good humor and multitasking skills of most students and especially as the academic year concludes I I have little advice to offer – my own two graduations, when I received my BA and PhD, were both wrenching family crises, leaving few happy memories.

Zen Buddhist masters are particularly skilled at “living in the moment” – totally immersing themselves in the experience of each moment, completing it and then moving on to the next moment. Each moment is a lifetime, unconnected to the one that preceded it.

This practice is difficult, but may offer a useful model as the end of the academic year looms upon all of us.


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