Jessica Chang practices yoga.

Jessica Chang, who expects to graduate Harvard Divinity School in 2022, bases her practice on “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” which explains that, “The yoga posture should be strong and comfortable.” Chang says, “You want to be focused and stable, and soft and effortless. I try to remember this is true not just on the mat, but in every act I take: as student, colleague and friend, spiritual care provider, as seeker of truth. It’s hard, but I do my best!”

Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

The serendipity of solitude

In small ways and large, Harvard practices mindfulness

5 min read

A breath of fresh air, meditation, or a yoga stretch during a “sun salutation” are simple ways to center yourself during challenging times. These images give fresh perspectives and insights into mindfulness practice in our community. Hellen Keller, who was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard in 1955, shares her profound knowledge in this verse: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.”

Jessica Chang practices yoga showing a flower blossom.
Jessica Chang practices yoga, holding her hands in a prayer.

Jessica Chang, wearing prayer beads and a smart phone watch, says on weekends she practices an electronics-free “weekly digital Sabbath.”

Mike Xie '22, Quincy House resident takes a break for a few push ups at Quincy House.
Mike Xie ’22 takes an athletic break from his laptop to do push-ups at Quincy House, where he lives. Xie handles the demands of his work with personal analysis. “I like to think about whether the thing I’m stressing about — such as mid-terms or finals — will matter in five or 10 years.”
Darold Cuba, Harvard Kennedy School Mid career MPA rides a blue bike near Leverett House.
Bike-share enthusiast and journalist Darold Cuba (left), a mid-career M.P.A. student at Harvard Kennedy School, rides a blue bicycle near Leverett House. “When gyms closed down last year, I started biking up to 25 miles a day, and my car sits unused in the garage of Peabody terrace,” said Cuba, whose passion for riding was born from sitting in traffic jams. “I spent a decade and a half working in LA and NYC, where I developed road rage from driving.”

Ashley McCray, a Class of ’22 student at Harvard Business School, takes a break at 1 Western Ave. in between classes and tennis. McCray created a mindfulness start-up app called The Only Convoy. “In 2019, mindfulness become my primary focus. I realized I had been chasing my professional aspirations for so long that I lost sight of what fulfilled me as a person. I forgot what made me happy; and I learned that I wasn’t alone” — 86 percent of Americans are unhappy, she said. McCray’s app works to “personalize happiness” according to what is important to you, your guiding values, and how are your goals align to them. “We help users pinpoint their values, create a plan, and set goals that lead to a better them; on their terms, not external benchmarks,” said McCray.

Ashley McCray, HBS '22 takes a break at One Western Ave.
To foster realization, Carly Yingst, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, recalls a verse from Mary Shelley as they take a pause to write in their journal outside the McKay Lab at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Yingst primarily studies 18th-century and Romantic literatures, with a particular interest in the novel. Their dissertation-in-progress, “Unsettling Time in the British Novel, 1720‒1830,” reconsiders the early novel’s relation to changing conceptions of time in modernity by investigating how novelists from Shelley to Daniel Defoe engaged with forms for recording present experience.
Samantha Galvin '24 reclines on a tree outside Memorial Church.
Samantha Galvin ’24 reclines on a tree outside Memorial Church. Galvin is a member of the Harvard Outing Club, and took a class called “Tree” taught by William Friedman. Galvin’s assignment was to adopt a tree of her choosing for a semester. “Part of my homework was to relax,” she said. “It was really cool to have a way to root yourself in the presence of the tree, and it made me live more in the moment.”
Jerome Deal Rosa Lara, '23 collects leaves for friends at the Radcliffe Quadrangle.
Marisa Sumathipala, '22 relaxes near a bed of daffodils at Leverett House.

Jeromel Dela Rosa Lara ’23 collects leaves to share with friends at the Radcliffe Quadrangle. Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed the sense of equipoise that he discovered in the Walden Woods with, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.” Marisa Sumathipala ’22 relaxes near a bed of daffodils at Leverett House. She learned mindfulness in a class at the Harvard Wellness Center, where she takes “Koru Mindfulness for Harvard Students.” Koru Mindfulness® is an evidence-based curriculum designed for teaching mindfulness, meditation, and resiliency to college students and other young adults. The course teaches meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery, and body-scan exercises to help people manage stress and enrich their lives.

Olivia Tai '21 relaxes on a hammock at Winthrop House while practicing a meditation that involves watching one's breath.
Olivia Tai relaxes on a hammock at Winthrop House while focusing on her breath.
At the Smith Field in Allston, Will Newson, takes a relaxing ride around the pump track at the public skatepark.
At Smith Field in Allston, Will Newson takes a relaxing ride around the pump track at the public skatepark. Newson, who works as a security guard at Continuum Allston, says of skateboarding: “We all have a small spark inside us and it all comes down to finding that ignition.”
Tresor Shimiye is seen at The Harvard Catholic Student Center where he practices his Christian faith.
A student hits the books at Widener Library.

Tresor Nshimiye ’24, Philips Brooks House Association programming chair, practices his faith at the Harvard Catholic Student Center. Nshimiye plans to start a nonprofit organization in the future and currently volunteers to help at-risk communities with PBHA. A student hits the books at Widener Library in Harvard Yard.

Cassidy Tanner, HBS '21 trains her dog Ellie.
Cassidy Tanner, Harvard Business School ’21, trains her dog Ellie beneath blooming trees at Winthrop House.
A woman's gait is framed by the iron logo of Radcliffe Institute.
During a power walk, a woman is framed by the iron logo of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute as she circumambulates Radcliffe Yard.