Graduation: Endings and Beginnings

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Our guest author, Gina Consolino-Barsotti, is a nurse practitioner at Elmhurst College where she teaches Koru and works in the student wellness center.

It’s that time of year, where life as we had known it for the last few months begins to change: The gray skies, muddy pathways, and barren trees are replaced with golden daffodils stretching upwards towards the sun; Grape sized leaves adorn the once sleepy maples and the honey bees are coming out of hiding. Days are growing longer and if you pause and inhale deeply, you can even notice the perfume of spring.

When life is changing, it is easy to ruminate on all that is wrong.
Despite this being a season of beginnings and awakenings, for college students, such as yourselves, the spring can often be experienced as a season of great change, transition, or endings. I see it as your once flaccid backpacks are now burgeoning with books, as you tread across campus to the library for last-minute studies. I see it in your faces in the student health center, sometimes the bags under your eyes a variety of translucent blues and grays. You are exhausted from the end of semester projects, applications, presentations and the like.

Are you despairing because of the uncertainty of the next step?

Will you graduate?

Will you get that primo job?

Will you be successful in graduate school in the fall?

What will happen with your partner this summer?

Your worries are multitudinous like the stars, yet with these endings, paradoxically, emerge new beginnings, new opportunities. It just depends on how you look at it.

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Yes, that’s right, how you look at it.

Glass half-full or half empty. These transitions are both endings and beginnings. Seeing the excitement and challenge that comes along with the transition and change is a skill and a gift that can be enhanced by engaging in mindful or meditative practices like being aware of the breath.

One of my earliest meditation teachers, used to remind us in our breath awareness practice that if you are breathing, you are alive. She repeated over and over during our class:

“The fact that you are breathing suggests there is more right with you than wrong with you.”

When life is changing, it is easy to ruminate on all that is wrong. After all, our brains are sort of programmed with a natural negativity bias, assuming the worst which can lead to ruminating thoughts and big emotions.

Seeing the excitement and challenge that comes along with change is a skill that can be enhanced by mindful practices.
But this breath, our breath, becoming aware of our breath is one way that we can begin to see the reality of our every-day lives, not just some RATED N (Negative) version. You are here now, reading this blog, so some part of you is yearning to see things differently and to experience less suffering. Just for a moment, I want you to close your eyes… breathe in deeply… breathe out… Now try this again 4 or 5 more times, noting where you feel your breath the most, whether it is in your nostrils, your expanding chest, or your ballooning abdomen.

Friends, you are breathing; you are alive. Remember, as you breathe today, there is more right with you than wrong with you. As you travel about your day, immersing yourself in studies, work and other extracurriculars, know that your breath is always with you. It is your touchstone to the reality of your life and your being. As the great Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh once said:

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

I invite you today to use this anchor, so you can truly see the beautiful awakenings and not just the endings of this time of year.

Tell us how the end of the school year is going and what’s to come next below .

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

About the author

Gina Consolino-Barsotti
Gina Consolino-Barsotti

Gina Consolino-Barsotti MSN, APN-CNP has enjoyed working with college students as a nurse practitioner at various institutions of higher learning in the Chicagoland area for over fifteen years. Currently, she sees college students for a variety of health concerns at Elmhurst College’s Wellness Center and serves as a course director for the class Enhancing Healthcare through Our Stories. She is excited to be offering Koru Mindfulness to the Elmhurst College Community and surrounding areas. She lives outside Chicago with her adventurous daughters, two feline friends, and her equally adventurous husband.

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The Mindful Twenty Something by Holly Rogers
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