Chrissie Cirovic heard about Bastyr University's Hawaii Meditation Intensive trip and quickly saw three possibilities:
- Tropical paradise on spring break? Check.
- Elective credit? Check.
- Maybe learning meditation? Check.
The weeklong immersion became an easy decision for the third-year naturopathic medicine student.
"I've known about the benefits of meditation for a long time," she says. "But I've never successfully done it on my own. I figured if I was ever going to learn it, this would be the chance."
In March, Cirovic joined a dozen other students taking the trip through Bastyr's Center for Spirituality, Science and Medicine, which works to promote spiritual and scientific inquiry. They learned a variety of meditation techniques, soaked up the tropical environs and dined on a vegan diet abounding with local fruits and vegetables.
Leading the group were Joel Levey, PhD, and Michelle Levey, MA, who work as a sort of hybrid personal and organizational coaching team, teaching clients meditation and other techniques to renew creativity. The two have worked with a diverse array of clients, including Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. military and medical schools.
"The experience shows you that learning is not only about sitting in the classroom," says Anup Mulakaluri, another naturopathic medicine student who attended. "If you go out and open yourself up, education comes to you."
The group opened each day with a dancing meditation that encouraged students to open themselves to the four directions: east (representing newness), south (fullness), west (ending) and north (the unknown). After breakfast the Leveys led a guided meditation. Afternoons often included excursions to beaches, forests, temples and highlights of the North Kohala Region of the Big Island of Hawaii.
Cirovic was happy to discover a capacity for meditation despite her hurried nature. She learned that meditation doesn't always require long periods of silent stillness; even walking down hallways or driving can be done with mindfulness. Instead of seeing other cars as rivals, mindful driving might mean offering them a blessing for a safe journey, she says.
Like Mulakaluri, she found trip was valuable both for personal growth and for caring for future patients.
"If I can't heal myself, how can I sit with other people and help them with healing?" she says. "Not that I have to attain some perfect state, but this is kind of the first step. If I'm seeing a patient who's anything like me and can't manage their stress very well, I know that if meditation works for me it can work for them."