Tag Archive for spiritual life

Taylor ’21 Speaks to Choate Juniors on the Importance of Mindfulness

Tyla Taylor '21 She joined Choate counseling office coordinator Susanna Stinnett; coach and Chaplain James Davidson; Yale student Abigail Grimes, and Mindfulness Instructor Amanda Votto,

Tyla Taylor ’21, pictured second from left, served as a panelist for a discussion on “A Mindfulness Meditation Approach to Managing Stress” at Choate Rosemary Hall. Other panelists included, from left, Chaplain James Davidson, Yale student Abigail Grimes, Choate counseling office coordinator Susanna Stinnett; and mindfulness instructor Amanda Votto.

Tyla Taylor '21

Tyla Taylor ’21

By grounding oneself in the present moment, mindfulness can help create a free, calm, and content space without any judgment.

Tyla Taylor ’21, the mindfulness intern for Wesleyan’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, is working to share the practice of mindfulness with the campus community and beyond.

“Our minds are often going at full speed planning the next move, and the one after that,” Taylor said. “For me, mindfulness is paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment, with compassion and non-judgment. From my own practice, I’ve seen how it’s made me a kinder friend, a more attentive student, and better able to handle situations that are thrown at me that are out of my control.”

On Oct. 15, Taylor was invited to Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., to speak on a panel titled “A Mindfulness Meditation Approach to Managing Stress.” Taylor shared her experience and knowledge of mindfulness with more than 150 high school juniors.

“I brought up how mindfulness has helped me feel more engaged with whatever I’m doing in my life—my school work, spending time with friends, extracurriculars—and helps me navigate and feel like I have power and agency when something comes up in my life that makes me feel out of control,” she explained.

Having attended an independent college prep day school for her own high school education, Taylor hoped to connect with the students on a personal level. She spoke about the stressors students face on a daily basis.

“Mindfulness was a practice that I dabbled with in high school but didn’t take seriously until college, and I tried to let them know why it is important, and how I wish I had had this tool in high school as well,” she said. “For example, when you get a bad grade in high school, it’s easy to catastrophize and think, ‘This is so bad. I’m not smart. I’ll never get into that great college, etc.’ Mindfulness can help them detach from this thought that is creating a negative emotion, and understand how that unpleasant emotion isn’t who they are, but rather a temporary state that will pass.”

Taylor, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in education studies, also is a residential advisor for West College Residence Hall. As part of her mindfulness intern responsibilities, Taylor leads Mindful Wes, a group that meets weekly for mindfulness-based meditation sessions.

She also brings different speakers to campus and hosts events related to mindfulness. Last spring, Mindful Wes ran an “Unplugging Event” and challenged students to give up their phones for one day.

“My favorite testimony after the event was that one student reduced—and maintained afterward—her phone usage from eight hours a day to two hours a day,” Taylor said.

Additionally, as a volunteer component to the job, Taylor started an initiative at Middletown’s Farm Hill Elementary School, where she leads mindfulness exercises twice a week for two different classes. She recently taught a lesson on recognizing emotions. After that class, a fourth-grade student reported back to Taylor that when his sister had made him angry by taking his toy, instead of hitting her back like he usually would have, he took three mindful breaths and then walked away.

“It’s never too young for children to start mindfulness meditation,” she said. “It can help with their academic achievement, concentration, emotional control, and overall resilience towards stress.”

For more information, contact Mindful Wes.

Mehr-Muska Speaks on New Book during Local Authors Program

On. Sept. 16, University Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska spoke about her new book, Weathering the Storm, during a Local Author Program on Mind, Body, Spirit at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On. Sept. 16, University Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska spoke about her new book, Weathering the Storm (Wipf and Stock, 2019), during a Local Author Program on Mind, Body, Spirit at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Mehr-Muska is an ordained Presbyterian pastor, board-certified interfaith chaplain, Coast Guard veteran, wife, and mother. Her passion for learning about and teaching resilience has been inspired by the strong and spirited people she has served and worked alongside while in the military and while ministering in a trauma hospital, prison, psychiatric hospital, university, and hospice.

Mehr-Muska is an ordained Presbyterian pastor, board-certified interfaith chaplain, Coast Guard veteran, wife, and mother. Her passion for learning about and teaching resilience has been inspired by the strong and spirited people she has served and worked alongside while in the military and while ministering in a trauma hospital, prison, psychiatric hospital, university, and hospice.

Chaplain Mehr-Muska Offers Strategies for Living with Peace and Preparedness

Tracy BookUniversity Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska is the author of a new book titled “Weathering the Storm: Simple Strategies for Being Peaceful and Prepared,” published by Wipf and Stock on April 19.

The book offers simple and proven strategies to develop resilience that will be of benefit to anyone who is yearning to feel more peaceful and prepared. Mehr-Muska draws upon wisdom from different spiritual and religious traditions and from secular scholarship.

“With enthusiasm and passion generated from personal experience, I present the reality that resilience is not inborn, but is instead a simple set of characteristics that can be cultivated,” Mehr-Muska said. “I detail these characteristics; invite readers to identify areas of strength and areas for growth; and provide concrete, proven strategies for building these critical resilience characteristics.”

A Coast Guard veteran, interfaith chaplain, and pastor, Mehr-Muska shares the stories of her own struggles with self-esteem, sexual assault, and miscarriage that inspired her to research resilience. Mehr-Muska brings these characteristics to life using inspirational secular and multifaith stories, as well as compelling scientific evidence. She ties each chapter together with uplifting stories of personal friends who bravely and gracefully overcame obstacles and embody each of these essential characteristics.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New Yorker: “The Shapeshifting Music of Tyshawn Sorey”

“There is something awesomely confounding about the music of Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11], the thirty-eight-year-old Newark-born composer, percussionist, pianist, and trombonist,” begins this profile of Sorey, assistant professor of music. Sorey was recently featured in the Composer Portraits series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

2. The Register-Mail: “Video Slots Take Heavy Toll on Some Players”

In this article exploring the expansion of video slot gaming in a region of Illinois, Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson shares what he has learned through his research about how gambling affects our brains through the pleasurable release of dopamine. “You hear gamblers talk about chasing losses,” Robinson said. “Basically, they are talking about how gambling and uncertainty can even change how you respond to losing. It sounds counterintuitive, but for gambling addicts losing money triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost to the same degree that winning does.”

3. The St. Thomas Source: “V.I. Studies Collective Asks, ‘What Is a Virgin Islander?'”

Professor of English Tiphanie Yanique, a core member of the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, recently led a workshop on St. Thomas at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Wesleyan, Yanique comes from St. Thomas and has written fiction about life in the Virgin Islands.

4. The Forward: “8 Practical Tips on How to Lead a Progressive Seder This Year”

Asked for advice on leading a “progressive seder” for Passover this year, Wesleyan’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and University Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva suggested adding a shoelace to your seder plate to express solidarity with the migrants fleeing their homes to cross into the U.S. “In thinking about the 92,607 migrants and refugees who in March of 2019 alone were detained after crossing the US Mexico border, I was struck by the fact that one of the first things that our US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) does is force these tired and vulnerable people to remove their shoelaces,” he explained. “Apparently anything, even the shoelaces of young children, considered ‘nonessential and potentially lethal’ is confiscated.”

5. Reading Religion: “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias”

“Through the medium of cartoons, Gottschalk and Greenberg examine complicated concepts such as Islamophobia and stereotypes in a manner that is both accessible and comprehensive,” according to this review of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, coauthored by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 and recently re-released in an expanded and revised second edition. “This book is accessible enough to include on an undergraduate introductory syllabus, but also specialized enough for readers who are familiar with the concept of Islamophobia, or the study of the Muslims in the United States, to benefit from.”

Alumni in the News

  1. PeabodyAwards.com: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (PBS/WNET TV)”

Randall MacLowry ’86 is the producer and editor; Tracy Heather Strain is the filmmaker for this documentary, which PBS notes as “the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.” The couple cofounded The Film Posse, Inc., to work together in creating documentaries of high quality, and according to a press release, “spent more than 14 years raising money to develop the independently-produced film, which the couple produced with Strain serving as director and writer, and MacLowry and Chad Ervin as editors. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and its television premiere on the PBS biography series American Masters in January 2018.”

2. Women and Hollywood: “Tribeca 2019 Women Directors: Meet Bridget Savage Cole [’05] and Danielle Krudy [’07]Blow the Man Down” 

“Wesleyan University graduates Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy met on a film set in Coney Island. They immediately bonded over a shared love of character-driven stories and juicy filmmaking styles. They have collaborated on numerous music videos, shorts, and writing projects. Blow the Man Down is their first feature-length film,” writes Gabriela Rico, who follows with the directors’ candid Q&A. Blow the Man Down premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26.

3. Vanity Fair: Fosse/Verdon: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Cast and Creators”

Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones, who moderated a panel that included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, provided excerpts of the conversation: “‘I picked up a book off the shelf, and my job was to read the book and put it in Tommy Kail’s [’99] hand,’ said Miranda. The Hamilton creator had gone to Wesleyan University with Sam Wasson [’03], author of the 2013 biography Fosse—on which the FX series is closely based. In June 2016, Hamilton director Kail and Miranda began planning a way to bring Fosse back to the screen.”

4. Broadway World: “MCC Launches Season with Ross Golan’s The Wrong Man Directed by Thomas Kail [’99]”

The Wrong Man (“the wrong man meets the wrong women in the wrong place at the wrong time”) is a new stage musical, written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (book, music, lyrics), Tony Award–winning director Thomas Kail and three-time Tony and four-time Grammy Award–winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Performances begin on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

5. Boston Globe: “Cape Air on Course for Seaplane Takeoff in Boston”

Jon Chesto ’93 writes: “Dan Wolf [’79] needed to get his hands on an amphibious aircraft before he could fulfill his yearslong quest to bring seaplane service back to Boston Harbor.

“Now, the chief executive of Cape Air has an entire squadron.”

In this tale of Wolf’s acquisition of the seaplanes, Chesto notes some Wes-related history: “Wolf first learned to fly a seaplane at the Goodspeed Airport along the Connecticut River, while going to school at nearby Wesleyan University. That was nearly 40 years ago, but there’s a connection to this latest deal. Shoreline Aviation was run by John Kelly [MALS ’70], who taught Wolf during his college years. They obviously stayed in touch: Cape Air has used Shoreline planes during its Boston Harbor test runs.”

 6. MIT News: “Candid Conversation about Race: In MIT Talk, Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] Urges Direct Discussion about Racial Issues at a ‘Polarized’ Moment in U.S. History”

Peter Dizikes, of the MIT News Office, writes: “Candid discussions about race relations are vital at a time of ‘pushback’ against social diversity in the U.S., said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the former president of Spelman College, in a talk at MIT on Thursday.

“‘It seems to me pretty clear we’re living in a pushback moment,’ Tatum said, referring to resistance against both political progress by blacks and a diversifying population. She added: ‘I think that today, most people would agree, we are more polarized than ever.’”

Tatum’s talk at MIT’s Wong Auditorium covered topics including the difference between race and racism, what is possible in the political arena, and the “long-running conditions of material inequality in the U.S.”

7. WBUR.org— “WBUR Announces Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize Winner”

From the website: “WBUR announced today that Hannah Dreier [’08] is the winner of the 2019 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at This American Life in partnership with ProPublica, where Dreier serves as an immigration reporter.

“Dreier’s winning entry, ‘The Runaways’ is an hour-long investigative report that documents how the Suffolk County Police Department in New York failed to investigate a series of gang murders when the victims were immigrant teenagers. Days after the story aired on This American Life, the Suffolk County legislature forced the police department to conduct an internal investigation into how it had handled the MS-13 murder cases. ‘The Runaways’ proves that investigative reporting continues to effect change.”

Students Volunteer at Nonprofits during Interfaith Service Trip

During the Interfaith Service Trip, representatives from Wesleyan volunteered at the Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newtown, N.J.

During the Interfaith Service Trip held over spring break, representatives from Wesleyan volunteered at the Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newtown, N.J.

Wesleyan students and staff traveled to Johnsonburg, N.J., March 18-22 to participate in the fourth annual Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Interfaith Service Trip. The group had representation from the Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim communities.

The student participants included Nacala Gadsden ’21, Joy Adedokun ’19, Fitzroy Pablo Wickham ’21, Brynn Assignon ’20, and Fatima Sepulveda ’21. The trip was led by University Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska and Sandy Durosier ’13, area coordinator for residential life.

“The purpose of the trip was to engage in community service and learn about other faiths,” Mehr-Muska said.

The group stayed at the faith-based Johnsonburg Camp and Retreat Center and volunteered their time at the Barnyard Sanctuary in Johnsonburg; Trinity Methodist Church Thrift Shop in Hackettstown, N.J.; and Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newton, N.J.

“Each of these incredible nonprofits happened to be run by women, and the students were able to see the complexity and rewarding nature of developing and sustaining important, life-giving community organizations,” Mehr-Muska said.

Muslim Community Honored at Common Ground Event

On May 12, the campus community expressed its solidarity with Wesleyan’s Muslim community during a day-long event titled Common Ground.

Common Ground began with a prayer (jumaa) on Andrus Field where non-Muslims and Muslims were invited to pray together or to bear silent witness. After a short ceremony, the community gathered to share Islamic Hallal pizza. Participants also attended presentations on the history of Muslim-non-Muslim friendship and solidarity around the world, including Jewish-Muslim relations in early modern Africa.

Davison Art Center presented an open house to exhibit two recently acquired works that illustrate the Egyptian ”Arab Spring.”

“Common Ground” was co-sponsored by several student organizations including the Interfaith Council, Muslim Students Alliance, and the Wesleyan Unitarians group. The event was organized by Muslim Chaplain Sami Aziz; Peter Mark, professor of art history; Melissa Katz, visiting assistant professor of romance languages and literatures; Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, professor of science in society; and Richard Friswell, visiting scholar for the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Photos of the Common Ground jumaa and service are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

eve_muslimsolidarity_2017-0512012439

Students Learn about Jewish Culture by Making Hamantaschen

Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a hamantaschen making workshop March 1 in Exley Science Center. Hamantaschen (also called ozney Haman or Haman’s ears in Hebrew) are tasty, flaky treats with fillings that are often made during the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim is celebrated on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). The festival commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman the Agagite’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther). The points on the cookie may be symbolic of Haman’s three-cornered hat.

Chabad at Wesleyan opened on campus in 2011 with social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty. “Chabad is a home where all Jews are welcome no matter what affiliation, denomination or sexual orientation,” said Rabbi Levi Schectman. “We give you the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your Jewish heritage. Most importantly, Chabad is a place where being Jewish is fun.”

Chabad at Wesleyan also hosts an annual challah bake, a shofar making, a Chanukah celebration, “Sushi in the Sukkah,” a matzah bake and more.

Wesleyan also offers additional spiritual opportunities.

Photos of the hamantaschen making are below: (Photos by Jonas Powell ’18)

eve_hamantaschen_2017-0303110646

Fox ’19 Writes on Wesleyan’s Jewish Community, Campus Political Climate

Anna Fox ’19 wrote an essay in The Forward about Wesleyan’s Jewish community and the campus political climate surrounding the Israel Palestinian conflict. Though, as a Zionist, she was anxious about coming to a campus with a pro-Palestine reputation, she was met with a pluralistic community, “diverse opinions” and “students exchanging ideas thoughtfully—though rarely in agreement—and leaving the conversations with respect, compassion and nuanced approaches to their ideas.”

She writes:

The passion I see in my peers who engage with Israeli-Palestinian politics, regardless of their political affiliations, gives me so much hope about the future of the Holy Land. My voice is not just heard, but valued. My views have been challenged, certainly, and I often leave conversations grappling with the questions they provoked, but I am always met with compassion.

And this campus makes me feel closer to Israel. My community’s plurality doesn’t alienate me, but pushes me to think deeply about the conflict. When the Bayit embraces students with diverse political opinions, and when we have the opportunity to engage with the issues that we feel so deeply and passionately about, my peers and I are able to develop our opinions in an informed and responsible way. […] The openness of dialogue in this campus’s Jewish community never allows us to be blindly opinionated, or to trust that we are always right. Rather, we are constantly assessing the subtleties of our opinions, strengthening and shifting them as we continue to learn more about the world around us.

Fox concludes:

It’s tempting for adults to dismiss college students as starry-eyed idealists. But as young people, we know that at the end of the day, we have the potential to make the world a better place. When we have the spaces to explore this potentiality fully, we bring a new vitality to the conversation. We engage with one another, and we challenge both our peers’ beliefs and our own. We grow as Jews and as people. Jewish communal leaders looking to understand our generation ought to listen to us.

 

Mehr-Muska Leads Interfaith Student Group on Service Trip

Pictured are (top row, left to right) Arielle Ashley '19, Maya Dorn '19, Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska, Carlos Eguiluz Rosa '19, Betty Bekele '19, and Alicia Strong '18, and (bottom row, left to right) visiting international student Claire Butler, Ashey (a service pet), and Jon Heinly, an intern from Yale Divinity School.

Pictured are (top row, left to right) Arielle Ashley ’19, Maya Dorn ’19, University Protestant Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska, Carlos Eguiluz Rosa ’19, Betty Bekele ’19, and Alicia Strong ’18, and (bottom row, left to right) visiting international student Claire Butler, Ashey (a service pet), and Jon Heinly, an intern from Yale Divinity School.

Over spring break, University Protestant Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska led an interfaith student service trip to Harrisburg, Pa. Six students, representing Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic traditions, as well as intern Jon Heinly from Yale Divinity School, and a service dog participated. The group also included international students from Ireland, Ethiopia and Jamaica.

The group stayed at a Mennonite camp and worked on a number of service projects, including volunteering with a class for refugees learning English, sorting donations for refugee resettlement, doing construction on apartments for single mothers and their children, and cleaning campgrounds and facilities at the camp.