Soothe Yourself With Free Weekly Meditation

Duke Cancer Center offers a weekly drop-in practice that's open to all

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John Orr, who has trained as a Buddhist monk, led the Oct. 29 free meditation session in the Duke Cancer Center Quiet Room. Pictured above, from left, are Orr, Laura Baumeister and Mary Deerr-Boling, all of whom work at Duke. Photo by Marsha A. Green.

Mary Deerr-Boling settled into a bench in the Duke Cancer Center Quiet Room. Following the instructions of a meditation instructor, she placed her hands on her thighs and closed her eyes. She listened to sounds, focused on sensations and turned her attention to the air in her nostrils as she breathed in and out.

"Focus on hearing, sitting, touching, breathing," said John Orr, the meditation instructor. "If you attention is drawn to another object, simply note that and guide the attention back to hearing, sitting, touching or breathing."

Deerr-Boling, a radiology supervisor at Duke Hospital, was among a dozen people participating in a free, weekly drop-in meditation session offered by Duke Pastoral Services and Duke's Advanced Clinical Practice program. Led by various meditation instructors from Duke and the community, sessions are held in the Duke Cancer Center Quiet Room at 12:30 p.m. each Monday. During the 30-minute session, instructors  encourage participants to discover and practice new methods of calming their minds and bodies to promote better mental, physical and spiritual health. After a few minutes of instruction, there's 15 minutes of silent meditation. The class ends with a few minutes for questions, comments and reflections.

Most of the participants are Duke employees, said Annette Olsen, the hospital chaplain who oversees the group along with Jon Seskevich, a nurse clinician and stress management expert at Duke University Hospital. Patients, visitors, vendors, volunteers and students also attend.

The sessions began in the hospital chapel in 2007 but moved to the Quiet Room when the new Cancer Center opened earlier this year.

"This room is so conducive to meditation," said Orr as he gestured to the curved benches, soft lighting and glass sculpture that resembles a small pond in the center of the circular room "This was my first time leading a group in this facility, but I am looking forward to returning."

Deerr-Boling also plans to return. She started attending the meditation sessions this year after she took on a new role as a supervisor in radiology. On Oct. 29, she and her manager, Laura Baumeister, attended together for the second time. Deerr-Boling said she feels more relaxed and grounded after each session.

"Monday mornings are usually very hectic, and it is nice to have this break in the middle of the day," she said. "It helps to change my perspective."