Presence

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $3,250

Letter of Intent:

Letter of Intent:

 

Presence’ Mission:

 

The mission of our RSO is community building amongst students, around the topics of wellness and balance through the exploration of mindfulness practices. Through individual and group practice of meditation, students will support each other’s practices in being actively aware and focused in the present moment.

 

The founding of Presence was inspired from our (Ethan and Shelby) time working together at the UW Resilience Lab. We worked with Dr. Anne Browning, Director of the Lab, to analyze incoming data regarding the mental states of incoming freshmen. We discovered that an enormous amount of students struggled with themes of belonging, social connection, and self-esteem. Through discussion, the two of us came to share that we too had personally struggled with these themes as UW students. Furthermore, we came to recognize that both of us had found support during these tough times through our own personal practices of meditation. We shared the experience of using meditation as a tool to better understanding ourselves, as well as exploring how to heal in the face of personal challenges. Presence was born upon the realization that meditation, having been so useful for the two of us, may be useful for other students as well. Having wished that meditation had been more accessible at UW in our time of need, we hope that it now can be accessible for students in their time of need.

 

Both from personal experience, conversation with other students, and exposure to mental health data at the UW; It has become glaringly obvious how great the need is at our school for students to be able to experience genuine connection and community. We have experienced how meditation inspires groundbreaking inner-clarity and centeredness, and are adamant about building a community that is based upon the same values of transparency and honesty, as well as true-self expression and acceptance. Presence is a place where students can learn from one another's personal experiences and journeys, and inspire personal growth via the support of a student-led, student-run community.

 

In order to best facilitate our practices as a community of students, the external resources we require are an (1) appropriate meeting venue and (2) access to a meditation app subscription.

 

Programming:

 

Social Sustainability

 

  1. Forming Relationships; Local university district business owners & UW students:

In a neighborhood that is diverse among many sociological lines, this is an excellent opportunity for community building in the University District. Students are accustomed to staying within the parameters of the UW campus, and encouraging students to venture beyond on their way to the Hatha Yoga Center on 47th will assist students in becoming more familiar with their surrounding community. The University of Washington and small business owners will gain the chance to work with and know each other better, building a more cohesive social fabric between University Street and surrounding campus. A small case-study of the kind of relationships that may assist the University District in revealing commonality and oneness amongst the diversity that has demonstrated at times to be isolating amongst individual perceptions.

 

  1. Meditation as Preventative Medicine:

Silent practices of thinking deeply and contemplating, have shown to induce relaxation and a sense of inner peace. There have been many studies done regarding mindfulness meditation and mental health, suggesting that it has positive effects on anxiety and depression. For many, meditation is a tool used in coping with minimal to severe anxiety. It has been known to help individuals understand and manage intense feelings such as anger, fear, and such that may have negative effects on one's life. Student run contemplative sessions such as these will introduce self-sustaining emotional healing, and support students in juggling their diverse circumstances.

 

  1. Accessible (metro buses, off campus housing, on campus housing, walkable):

Hatha Yoga Center is a 14 minute walk from Central Campus, making it an accessible commute from class or studies. For those living on campus in dorms, the commute time is a standard 13 minute walk from both eastern Haggett Hall and southern Mercer Court  (9 minute bus ride using tuition included bus lines 45,71,73, also possible for southern dorm residents). For those coming from off-campus, University Street is a hub for a wide range of bus routes making it accessible for those who commute via metro or light rail. For those who drive, there is street parking, however limited, on a first come first serve basis at an hourly fee. Ethan and I also offer to help transport students if need be.

 

  1. Diversity: Mindfulness, introspection, contemplation, meditation; whatever you want to call it, can be a useful life enhancing practice in anyone's unique life. That being said, we understand that such practices can fit differently into different peoples’ lives. We recognize that every person comes from a different background, has different experiences, circumstances, demographics, identities. Such factors may play a role in affecting who feels welcome, comfortable, and safe around mindfulness practices. We want to make clear that Presence is a place for anyone and everyone, and aims to present a space that is accessible to all individuals. Furthermore, within the subject of meditation; Presence welcomes all practices, preferences, questions, and attitudes.

 

  1. Co-op styled structure: We believe a community-run, democratic, honest and transparent organization is crucial maintaining an organization that fosters student empowerment, passion, and belonging. We (Ethan and Shelby) see our roles as facilitators, and aim to encourage fellow students to engage in facilitation and leadership roles as they wish. In structuring group meetings that actively engage members in providing feedback, suggestions, expressing their views, and guiding group meetings, we aim to ensure that each student understands that the organization is existant to represent their wishes as they see fit. This is invaluable in the University setting, as we make space for students to participate in a ‘ground up’ organization in contrast to much of the ‘top-down’ philosophy embodied by many of institutions and classes at the UW. Presence hopes that this model will inspire students to take ownership in their introspective journey, and spread their passion to the rest of the group and all others they may encounter. Presence also abides by the seven cooperative principles of: Voluntary and open membership, democratic management, participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation, and community.

 

Environmental Sustainability

  1. Green space meditation (perusing in parks, around wildlife, green spaces on campus):

Connection with nature facilitates inner peace & stillness. Being in the presence of the great outdoors reminds us that we are connected with nature and the world at large, not separate from it. In engaging contemplative and still practices in the outdoors, students are provided the opportunity to get curious about nature on their own terms, and gain a recognition for its strong presence in their life. Students gain the opportunity to get more in touch with nature, and to further understand the importance of recognizing the role that nature plays in our lives and our ecosystem. Personal connection and positive experience with the outdoors is the first step in fostering a community which engages in the world both on behalf of their own needs and the intertwined needs of our earth. Additionally, engaging in physical activity also serves to connect us on a deeper level with our bodies, which are often forgotten when sitting in class most days.

 

  1. Physical + Mental Minimalism:

Mindfulness as a philosophy which explores one’s inner state, students may explore the relationship of thoughts and feelings, mind and heart. They may gain insight into the differentiation as well as relationships, between emotions and thoughts, assisting students in decision backed with genuine contemplation and thought. Taking a moment to breathe, relax, and contemplate will assist students in observing their habits and actions, in so allowing students to recognize which behaviors are serving them and which are not in comparison to their values. Students can recognize internal and external values, beliefs, practices, and intentionally select from there how they would like to proceed. Outcomes of these practices, can include themes of consumerism as hugely a part of our western, American culture. Students can have a better understanding on how actions such as shopping, consuming, etc. has an impact both on themselves, their community, and world at large. Exploring topics of sustaining satisfaction versus instant gratification.

 

  1. Meeting Space Requirements:

 

Space must provide students with a welcoming and comforting environment which is conducive for personal practices, such as silent sitting meditation. Academic spaces on-campus at the UW can be stress inducing because they are wholly competitive & busy environments.

 

A space off-campus is necessary for students to effectively shift away from an academic mindset in order to engage in vulnerable and therapeutic mindfulness practices. To quote a study published by the Springer Journal of Public Health, “Personal control, socially supportive relationships, and restoration from stress and fatigue are all affected by properties of the built environment” (Evans, Gary W. “The built environment and mental health”). Keeping this in mind, we fear that attempting to get students to engage in meditation practices in existing on-campus spaces (HUB, IMA, housing facilities) will be ineffective. Students will be unable to escape the mental busyness and happenings of student life (which often are culprits of stress), which will lead to a lack of club retention, community building and general sense of stillness.

 

The mindfulness class pass had meditation class series once (hosted in HUB), but decided to discontinue them due to a lack of retention. After speaking with the mindfulness program director, Danny Arguetty, we collectively identified the venue as a potential factor in explaining why students’ attendance rates trickled down.

 

Pros of off-campus space:

  • a (physical and mental) “vacation” from academic/campus life
  • accessible, walkable distance from on campus-housing
  • ”homey” feel, warm carpet, lighting, quiet space, built for purpose of yoga/meditation practices (not a mixed use space, conversely an established foundation built for mindfulness practices)

 

(2) Meditation App Subscription: Headspace

 

Shelby and I have both experienced great success using Headspace, a smartphone app which provides guided meditations, anxiety relief, and student specific “packages”: studying, balancing health & work, etc. Our goal is to provide Headspace to our members to prevent a lack of financial accessibility, which in our experience, is the largest barrier to the use of meditation apps. A student subscription costs $9.99 annually, and this relatively low cost would enable us to provide 25 members with this access. The use of this app would also help build community within the club itself, as you can add meditation “buddies” (other users of the app) to see and view each others’ meditations and activity. Members will provide us with a receipt for reimbursement.

 

Budget:

 

Presence Budget through Spring Quarter 2019 (1/28-3/15 and 4/1-6/7)
Item Unit Cost Units # of Weeks Total Cost
Meeting Space: Weekly Hourly Rent $35.00 1.5 hours 16 $840
Headspace- Meditation Subscription $10 25 people Subscription covers a full year $250
Total Cost       $1090

 

We are asking the Campus Sustainability Fund for $1000 to cover our expenses.

 

After evaluating several off-campus options, we settled on Hatha Yoga Center on the Ave & 47th. We have developed a great relationship with the owner, Ki, and her studio is able to provide all the necessary fixtures for a meditation practice (soft carpet, cushions, blankets, speakers).

 

Accountability and Feasibility

  • A close relationship with Danny Arguetty, the mindfulness director, will continuously provide us with guidance and support with regards to our club structure and with what’s been successful with students in the past.

 

We are excited to move forward and get our club rolling!

Thank you for taking the time to read this over and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

Ethan & Shelby

Presence Co-Presidents

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Ethan Jone