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A couple of days ago I sat down and wrote myself a list of all the classes, meetings, assignments, and tests standing between me and graduation. And then I looked at it and let out a silent scream. It was a far scarier list than I had expected, and the destination—graduation—was far scarier still. I had to take a step back, block out some time, and just sit and meditate for a spell. When I finished meditating and regained peace and control of the insane remnants of my year, it dawned on me that I would not have made it through my time at Columbia if not for my own religious rituals and beliefs. That personal realization does not hold for everyone, but it forced me to recognize that for those with beliefs (even spiritual or non-religious beliefs), minding our spiritual wellness is just as vital as our physical, emotional, economic, or any other type of wellness. Yet we find numerous excuses not to place equal importance on it. One of the big detriments to paying attention to spiritual wellness is time. I have always admired my roommate, who for years now has managed to pull herself out of bed early in the mornings for mass. But many Columbians, myself included, slack off on our observances, or even just on taking time to consider our spiritual well-being, after we start to get busy. Some people slack off because their beliefs have changed. If that is the case, then there's no reason or compulsion to attend to personally obsolete spiritual observance. But for many, spiritual practices still hold great value. They just take too much time. Others worry about finding the right community or type of involvement to express and nurture their spiritual needs. Attending a regular group meeting can feel forced, cramped, and time-consuming for some, while others just do not have a group of like-minded individuals easily accessible (I fell into the latter group for my first few years here). Some students even express fears about being too outwardly religious here. In truth, I've come to believe, Columbia is one of the easiest colleges at which to be spiritually well. While we have a reputation as a godless Sodom among certain news outlets, compared to other colleges there's much less pressure against religion or against certain types of religion that do not conform to the norm. The diversity of the city helps, providing some outlet for any kind of spiritual need (although in my own case, I'm not too keen to go out to Brooklyn on a weekly basis to commune with others from my particular subset of faith). And even on campus, we have a vibrant and proactive religious scene willing to accommodate and aid any student in finding what they need. The greatest resource students have on the University campus proper is the Chaplain's office. Though the Chaplain's office does not have all the space or money in the world (and indeed some students have complained of rather dank worship accommodations in the past), it does offer a plethora of services to aid in spiritual well-being, including the option to seek faith-based counseling. This type of counseling is not restricted to believers in mainstream or established faiths. Spiritualists, agnostics, or any other sorts of believers are welcome and there has been a push by spiritual individuals at Columbia to welcome the whole community to use their services and seek them out as a source of wellness. For many, that space can be more comfortable and effective than seeking traditional counseling, or is better equipped to help them find the right space for their own spiritual wellness. In recognizing the importance of spiritual wellness, we must keep two things in mind. The first is to make sure that spiritual wellness resources are just as visible and well promoted as other wellness resources. As of now, many who aren't seeking them out actively could benefit from them but will never find them. Just as the various health officials at Columbia have begun to consider alternative medical traditions and resources in evaluating and referring students to wellness resources, so too should spiritual wellness resources receive promotion and accessibility through more established wellness programs. But the second thing to keep in mind is the most important. While finding resources and feeling comfortable pursuing wellness through spirituality is difficult, it's absolutely impossible if you don't make the time for it yourself. If you are one of those individuals who has ceased to focus on his or her spiritual well-being out of time concerns, or out of the belief that other matters are more important, but deep down you still feel you have some beliefs, try over the next week to cut out 30 minutes every two or three days to do what makes you feel spiritually well. You may find it helps you survive at Columbia far more than you thought it would. And if so, make sure to always carve the time out to use the resources available to you. Mark Hay is a Columbia College senior majoring in religion and political science. He is a coordinator of the Student Wellness Project and the acting chair for the InterPublications Alliance. The Whole Wellness runs alternate Wednesdays.

wellness Spirituality Mark Hays Columbia