A woman holds her hands open, palms up, with a yellow flower inside.

February 3, 2020, by UoN School of English

A Student’s Search for Presence

When we establish a routine, it almost feels like nothing in the world could ever disrupt our rhythm. The rhythm of lectures, seminars, workshops. The rhythm which binds us on a set journey towards a certain career. Some time ago, I would have shunned this rhythm. This monotony. Yet, I realise that none of it must be monotonous. Routines feel good, yet we often lose touch with reality because we’re so engrossed in what we’re doing in our degrees. We forget the present moment. But what exactly is the present moment? That question lays the foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is something I have dipped in and out of over the last two years. I found it during the desperate, chaotic and stressful times of my A Levels, which in retrospect was the worst time to have found it. I used mindfulness meditation whenever I felt stressed or anxious, which was good in the short-term. Yet, I failed to understand that mindfulness is not something we should practice when life comes crashing down. Mindfulness is a habit. A habit for life. As students of English, we might feel present as we read some chapters of a book we’ve reread for the hundredth time. But the real presence comes when we lift our eyes from the lines of the page and look up to take a breather. That breather from heavy concentration. Our mind, after those moments, feels fresh when we return to the lines of the page.

A pink neon sign reading breathe in a hedge.


Mindfulness, you’ll be glad to hear, is more than sitting down with your eyes closed for a few minutes.

It’s about being in tune with your surroundings. It’s about getting off your phone to admire the changing autumnal leaves as you make your way to the Trent building for your Shakespeare seminar. It’s about focusing on the feeling of your feet moving against the gravel path as you rush, out of breath, to a linguistics lecture which started ten minutes ago. How often do we shut off the ceaseless internal chatter of our mind to focus on where we are right now?

Alys Hall is a second year English student at the University of Nottingham. She has an interest in modern literature and poetry, particularly Welsh literature, and you can follow her on Instagram @alysh81.

Photo credits: Lina Trochez & Fabian Møller at Unsplash.
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