A tall woman sits next to me on a calm cloudy afternoon in Fort Reno, just behind the tennis courts. “Focus on your breathing”, she says, “or find a sound to concentrate on.” She instructs the group to clear our minds, and try and catch ourselves when we find them wandering off. I concentrate on the soothing sounds of balls being hit on the tennis courts and cars driving by on the street, managing just for a few brief moments to find some peace.
The reason Jen Dillon started these meditation classes wasn’t solely to teach students how to find their zen, but rather how to relax themselves to perform better on their SAT/ACT tests, and to relieve overall school induced stress. Dillon is the founder of Adept Prep, a tutoring company in Tenleytown, that specialises on standardized tests as well as core classes like Physics. According to a New York times article titled “Using Meditation to Help Close the Achievement Gap”, multiple studies have shown a correlation between meditation and higher grade point averages.
Rachel Snyderman, a former student of Dillon’s, was first introduced to the practice of meditation by Dillon’s classes. “The class made going through the college application process a lot more manageable because it let me put the stress into perspective. It also became a place where I could let go of my anxiety not by ignoring it, but by accepting it,”she says.
“In this practice, what we are trying to cultivate is relaxed attention…. It allows us to answer the question in front of us instead of the one we predicted,” says Dillon. She goes on to explain that on exams like the SAT, students will look at a question in front of them, but because they are not in the present moment, they will often miss read the question and therefore answer it incorrectly. The process of meditation can help students to better concentrate on the material in front of them, by teaching them how to focus their attention on the present moment.
Many people are daunted at the thought of meditation because it is so difficult to stop an active mind from thinking, even for a few seconds. However, Dillon says, “a common misconception about meditation is that you’re supposed to stop thinking, that’s not possible.” She encourages people to instead focus on a f sound or movement, such as the rise and fall of your chest as you breath. Then inevitably when your mind wanders, you pull it back, and that is what strengthens your brain.
The college process, and high school in general, is stressful for everyone. Dillon hopes that through meditation, these things become less aggravating for students both in school, and beyond. Her class meets at Adept Prep (by the Wilson tennis courts) every Thursday from 6:00-7:15 p.m. The first class is free, however the times are subject to change so students should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-230-0287 if they are interested.