The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Emma Soler

Hitting the Pause Button: Mindfulness at Bates

Every afternoon, a handful of Bates students sit together in Gomes Chapel. They aren’t talking or working, rather they are just being. This small group is the Dharma Society, and their regular meditation involves a sitting practice that takes place in the chapel for about twenty minutes a day. Dharma Society co-president Caleb Perlman ’19 describes the practice with the frankness of a regular meditator: “We bring out the cushions…we light some incense. We get out a gong. We do the twenty minutes. Hit the bell three times to start, once to end. It’s silent in the middle. Sometimes we chat at the end.”

The Dharma Society’s daily sits are just one example of mindfulness programming that is regularly offered at Bates. Another is Pause, a weekly secular service of dance, music, art, poetry, and silence that is designed to allow Bates students a break from their busy lives. According to Pause Coordinator Emilio Valadez ’18, at Pause, students can be present in a way that daily life at Bates often does not allow for, “Pause gives you the freedom to let your whole being just choose what you want it want to do, which is different from the set of expectations we find when studying, working, or talking in our everyday ordinary way of being,” Valadez says. “[Pause is] just being and maybe being aware of your being.”

For Valadez, mindfulness is a uniquely conscious state of mind. He says, “Mindfulness is an appreciation and an awareness of ways-of-being.” To illustrate his point, Valadez lays out three examples: a person that finds joy through others, a person that wants to find solutions to tough problems, and a person that is consumed by stress. In each of these situations “being mindful is being aware of the way-of-being they are expressing” reflects Valadez.

For Perlman, group meditation, like the kind practiced by Dharma society, allows for a unique community experience: “There is something intangible about breathing and being aware of what’s going on in the space and being aware of other people that are doing that to,” he says. “Being in the presence of another person, that could be enough.”

Yet Perlman says that mindfulness can be challenging. He likens it to weightlifting for your mind, “It’s not necessarily always pleasant and comfortable in the moment,” he says. Yet it’s worth it in the end, because, “you can live in a mindless state but it is not as pleasant or efficacious.”
According to Perlman, a lack of mindfulness can even show up in our eating habits. Oftentimes, we may find ourselves fast and thoughtless when in commons, our thoughts miles away. To Perlman, “We live in an environment of abundance…if we’re just mindlessly eating, we’re not going to tune into the actual desire to eat.”

His suggestion for eating more mindfully in Commons? “Get small bowls of things, then do multiple trips.” That way, he says, you can break up your meals. Plus, you’ll be distracted between trips by conversations with friends, which will slow even the most hurried eater. This slower eating can lead to more awareness of when you’re hungry, subsequently improving your relationship with food.
To get involved with these mindfulness practices, stop by the chapel at 4:15 p.m. on weekdays for Dharma meditations or 9 p.m. on Wednesdays for Pause. All are welcome to both events. Also, look out for a mindfulness event on February 26 from 5-7 PM in Commons, complete with Zen coloring, a mindful eating exercise, and a yoga class in the Whelan Balcony.

Taking No Waste November by Storm

November is a magical month. Leaves fall to the ground, providing a lovely crunch with each step. Morning walks to Commons are characterized by cool air and bright sunlight. And as Thanksgiving break quickly approaches, Bates students, staff, and faculty alike are delighted.

But November offers us more than just exquisite weather and some much-needed time off. It also provides us with an opportunity to examine what we waste and why we waste it. So, in honor of No Waste November, I took to Commons to ask Bates students how and why they reduce their food waste.

Beanie O’Shea ’18 said that she takes her time choosing what to eat at meals; that way, she can be sure she wants to eat everything she puts on her plate. “I take a lot of laps before deciding. A lot,” she said. “I also use smaller plates, so I can’t fit as much.” According to O’Shea ’18, reducing our individual food waste helps us to be aware of how lucky we are.

“At Bates, we’re very fortunate with what we can have access to in terms of food. [Reducing food waste] is one of the things we can do to address not only environmental issues, but also to address our privilege and to really think about what it means to have access to so much,” she said.

Bryce O’Brien ’20 and Celia Feal-Staub ’20 take multiple trips to get food in Commons rather than filling their entire plates on the first go. “You can always go up for more,” O’Brien ’20 tells.

According to O’Brien ’20, sustainable habits can have positive economic impacts in the long term. “If students were consistent in cutting down on food waste, Bates would adjust the menu sizes and save a lot of money,” he said.

For Feal-Staub ’20, reducing food waste is about using individual actions to affect collective change. She said that “if every individual person reduces their own food waste in Commons, Commons would then know better how much food to make at each meal. This would mean that Commons as a dining hall would make less food, which would make a bigger impact than any individual person.”

Maya Chessen ’21 says that she cuts back on wasted food by testing out new foods in Commons before she serves herself large portions. “If I don’t know what something is or if I’ll like it, I’ll take a really small amount, so if I don’t want it I don’t throw out too much,” Chessen ’21 states.

According to Chessen ’21, extra food that isn’t composted is wasted, and subsequently hurts our planet. “It’s really important to reduce waste, not only because it’s bad for Bates financially, but because it has really negative environmental impacts too,” she said.

Whether you choose to do laps before serving yourself, take multiple trips up to food stations, or start with small portions of new foods, your actions in Commons can have positive and important impacts. Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be hard. If every Bates student wasted just one ounce less per meal, Commons could save approximately $46,000 annually. That’s just two fewer chicken nuggets, three fewer French fries, or a third less of a slice of pizza. So, during this No Waste November, consider cutting back on your food waste using simple strategies that can and will have complex, sweeping impacts.

 

CHEWS OP-ED: Bates Dining Makes Local Eating an Easy Choice

Picture this: On a brisk Wednesday night, you walk into Commons with friends in tow, ready to devour a plate of hearty veggies, grains, and meats. Upon doing your first lap to check out the food, you notice some unusual notations on the food labels. “Locally sourced,” they say, denoting that the food available to you comes from nearby. You scoop yourself some steamed potatoes from Lewiston, a few burgundy beef tips from Greene, a bit of kale salad from Lewiston and Turner, and some pollock primavera from Portland.  Then, you proceed to enjoy a plate of some delicious Commons food.

If you attended last week’s “Local Night,” which was part of Commons’ Adventures in Dining, you might’ve experienced the lovely local food overload described above. The event highlighted the strides Bates Dining makes to bring fresh food to hungry Bates students.

It’s easy to eat locally in Commons. Take a minute to consider the fact that about twenty-five percent of Commons’ food comes from inside Maine. Twenty-five percent!  That means that about a quarter of the time you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Bates, you’re eating fresh, locally sourced food.

And it gets even better. Thirty-five percent of Commons’ meat comes from Maine, and seventy percent of the dairy available is local. One hundred percent of the milk and of the half and half that you pour into your coffee, tea, and cereal is locally sourced. And one hundred percent of the ground beef served is local as well. That’s impressive.

Commons has a long history of making the conscious choice to serve locally sourced food.  According to Cheryl Lacey, Director of Dining, “Bates has been purchasing locally for over 25 years, not because it was the latest trend but because it was the right thing to do. It’s the most sensible and conscientious way to support the health not only of students, but also of the environment and the local economy.”

Eating locally has both individual and community benefits. Local food is often fresher, more flavorful, and safer to eat. It’s also more environmentally-friendly, as fuel consumption decreases drastically when food doesn’t need to be shipped from across the country or the world to end up on your plate.

Plus, eating locally is a way to support local farmers. At Bates, eating locally means investing in the Lewiston and greater Maine economy, and enjoying high-quality food while you do so.

In the next few weeks, keep your eye out for some special opportunities to eat locally. This week, you can check out the map in Commons’ napkin dispensers to learn about Bates Dining’s Maine sourcing. At dinner on October 9, munch on fresh apples while chatting with representatives from Greenwood Orchards in Commons. And, at the end of this month, compete in a pumpkin carving contest for the chance to win an exclusive local food basket or a gift card to a local restaurant.

And, next time you’re in Commons, don’t sleep on the cider from Turner, the breakfast sausage from Lewiston, the ice cream from Skowhegan, or the granola from Hiram. Pay attention to the pizza dough from Auburn, the breads from Waldoboro, and the beef from Portland. And simply enjoy the lucky opportunities that Bates students are given to eat local food.

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