Geography professor and Zen practitioner, Mark Miller, has brought Zen meditation to The University of Southern Mississippi at the Counseling Services located in Bond Hall on Monday from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. The sessions are equipped with the meditative sessions for about 20 minutes. Miller also holds sessions at The Yoga Room every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. for those whose schedules may conflict.
Miller has been practicing Zen meditation for several years, and his teacher, Tony Bland, who is a Zen Monk based in Starkville, has given him permission to hold these sessions. Though Miller is not a Zen master, he took the precepts—or vows—to serve as a Bodhisattva.
At these sessions, Miller will instruct students in Zazen or a seated meditation, which is a nondenominational practice. Zazen involves sitting on the ground with a pillow called a zafu, which is a small round pillow filled with either Buckwheat of kapok, in a sitting or kneeling position, depending on the students’ comfort and breathing levels.
The USM Student Counseling Services is equipped with every tool one needs to practice zazen. The meditation pillows are provided, as well as, blankets to cushion the floor for comfort. Miller provides guidance on meditation beforehand in a calm and companionate attitude.
Many stress the health benefits of Zazen, but Miller and his master Bond stress the benefits are not the point of the meditation.
“We sit for the sake of sitting… We are always chasing goals… the idea here is just to sit; not chase one more thing,” Miller said.
The practice of Zen traditionally does not promise results.
Though Mr. Miller said that they do not emphasis the benefits of seated meditation, there are a plethora of websites and sources that mention physical, health and spiritual benefits. Many websites attest that it helps with simple matters like better posture, better sleep, lower blood pressure and reduces stress, but Zen-buddhism. net claims it gives you a higher pain tolerance and even slows the aging process due to less stress on the respiratory system.
“I think it sounds a little weird but if it actually helps somebody then that’s cool,” English major Adrianna Hemphill said.
Miller’s teacher, Bland has been a Zen Buddhist for over 30 years. He holds retreats in Starkville once a month for his students, which Miller attends. Bland’s teachings come for a lineage that can be documented back to the early 1900s.
The sessions are open to anyone at any level of knowledge of meditation. Miller starts with about ten minutes of instruction on breathing, posture, observation and concentration.
“We suggest people try it out, and for some people, it just clicks,” Miller said.