The bells at Hoover Tower, usually reserved for occasions like the baccalaureate ceremony, will ring Friday for a carillon concert intended to foster reflective contemplation among students, faculty and staff.
Starting at 11:30 a.m., there will be optional tai chi and stretching exercises in Dohrmann Grove and the Oval Ear. The carillon music is scheduled to begin at noon, followed by designated time for contemplation.
Tia Rich ’82 M.A. ’85, one of the chief organizers of the concert, says the event will provide a much-needed reprieve for the busy members of the Stanford community.
“On an individual basis we need to be careful that we’re not always in our sympathetic nervous system, always trying to generate new ideas and output,” she said. “We have to invite ourselves to go more into our parasympathetic nervous system, where we rest and digest.”
In particular, she emphasized the power of the “contemplative pause,” a key element in de-stressing and general well-being. According to Rich, the contemplative pause provides an opportunity to rejuvenate and separate positive stress from negative stress.
The carillon concert marks the beginning of the “Contemplation by Design” program, which was also spearheaded by Rich. The weeklong event was put together in order to promote the use of contemplative reflection in de-stressing and achieving a daily peace of mind.
Among the sponsors are the Office of Student Affairs and the Office for Religious Life, along with well-being-focused organizations like I Thrive, BeWell, the Health Improvement Program (HIP), Stanford Live, the HELP Center and the WorkLife Office.
Wes Alles, the director of HIP, says that Contemplation by Design was to some degree a reaction to the levels of stress at Stanford. Alles noticed relatively high stress in faculty and staff despite improvements in other health indicators like physical fitness and diet. As one way of addressing this, HIP has collaborated with BeWell, the overarching health and well-being network at Stanford, to help the Stanford community recognize the importance of daily reflection and relaxation.
“If we give people enough knowledge and skills, we can help them get to a better place, with less struggle in their life,” Alles said. “Struggle can be overbearing. Too much struggle leads to a change in body physiology that the body was not intended to deal with.”
The program has also enlisted the help of the arts community at Stanford to aid in its goal of introspection. Matthew Tiews, executive director of arts programs at the Stanford Arts Institute and another key collaborator, emphasized the complementary power of the arts in fostering self-reflection, citing the meditative quality of paintings like the “Windhover” series by the late art professor Nathan Oliveira.
“[The arts] are a way into certain kinds of mindfulness and certain kinds of presence,” Tiews said. “I think that can be an important component of contemplation. The arts are certainly a very effective way of thinking differently about yourself, and being with yourself and just a work of art.”
Contact Victor Xu at vxu ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.