An air of serenity settled over the South Lawn this past Sunday evening as nearly 100 people gathered near the Homer statue to participate in a guided meditation in honor of the Sept. 21 International Day of Peace. At 6 p.m., participants arrived at the University’s first Meditation on the Lawn, ready to become peacefully centered for one hour of their day.
The event opened with comments from a panel of meditation leaders, including second-year College student Gibson Hylton — the lead student organizer of Meditation on the Lawn — and speakers from the School of Nursing. The speeches included commentary on the importance of interpersonal peace and the power of meditation to connect members of society.
This was followed by 20 minutes of guided meditation led by a staff member from the University’s Contemplative Sciences Center, the organization that reserved the Lawn space for the mass meditation. They had chosen to ask the Contemplative Sciences Center because of its central mission, which is to promote human flourishing in every area of life — including profound intrapersonal understanding.
Planning for Meditation on the Lawn began this past summer when a group of students decided that the University needed more events centered around thoughtfulness and unity.
Hylton and her fellow event organizers came up with the idea to have a meditation on the Lawn this past summer, initiating this event’s execution by reaching out to the Contemplative Sciences Center as a potential sponsor.
The event attracted an audience of Charlottesville community members of a wide variety of ages, many of whom were University students.
“It’s nice to… feel connected to the world and to the earth and just be peaceful,” second-year student attendee Nicole Ralsgard Taube said.
Participants sat on blankets or in the grass, and both entered and exited the event in reflective silence — a kind of silence that, according to Hylton, offers a welcome release from the tension of everyday life.
“At this time in the world when there’s a lot of turmoil, it’s… important for us to come together in peace and examine our place in the universe and how to manifest goodness within that place,” Hylton said.
Hylton noted that meditation is a skill that more people should acquire because of its benefits to bodily and psychological health, as well as its facilitation of awareness of the space that we occupy as humans.
“The goal [of the event] is to just help people learn about how to meditate because a lot of people don’t know,” Hylton said. “It’s such a useful tool for having wellness and confidence and energy and being compassionate.”
Eva Jasinski, third-year College student and event organizer, explained the reasoning behind starting an initiative like Meditation on the Lawn, as well as the unique intention behind its execution.
“We have plenty of amazing events [at the University],” Jasinski said. “But they’re not about centering ourselves and actually connecting, so that was the goal … just bringing everybody together in an event that was thoughtful.”
Once the Contemplative Sciences Center agreed to sponsor the event, much of the planning turned to getting the word out. The organizers made a Facebook group — which attracted 800 people — posted flyers, sent messages in GroupMe and emailed professors.
Going forward, the group hopes to gauge attendees’ satisfaction with the initial event, continue spreading the word and hopefully begin holding mass meditations regularly.
“We’re hoping to get a lot of feedback,” Jasinski said. “We’re hoping that soon [mass meditation] will become … hopefully a monthly event. So that way the community knows about it, it’s something to expect.”
Hylton hopes a sense of community togetherness will follow if the group beings holding regular mass meditations at the University and in the Charlottesville area.
“When there’s an event on the Lawn, it’s ... for everyone,” Hylton said. “And meditation is for everyone. It’s about coming together, about seeing past differences.”