Harrisites relax with guided imagery

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On Friday, January 10 and Thursday, January 16, the Zen Den at Townsend Harris High School hosted guided imagery sessions led by guidance counselor Sara Skoda. 

Students came to the event either during their lunch bands or directly after school. For each session, there were at least 30 students who attended and participated. All students, including those who typically spent lunch bands in the Zen Den, were also invited to the unique experience. 

During these sessions, students found ways to relax through mental images. Freshman Amber Spolansky said, “A lot of students in the school feel really stressed during Midterms Week, and I think it was smart for the school to offer these guided imagery sessions in such perfect timing.” 

Students who attended the guided imagery sessions recounted new perspectives and calming impacts of the event. Freshman Blessing Ogunsola described, “I’ve never been exposed to something like that before, and it really changed the way I see things. The guided imagery meetings helped students to alleviate stress and learn new ways to relax.” 

She added, “I never thought I could have ever felt this relaxed in my life.”

During these sessions, students followed along with descriptions of peaceful places, calm scenery, and healing processes. Imaginative thoughts helped them to portray optimistic images and powerful mental experiences. Freshman Tijon Dumbo elaborated, “It was weird to me at first, being exposed to all these pictures out of nowhere. However, my mind was surprisingly opened up to all these new thoughts and my body felt at peace.” Similarly, freshman Larissa Lu explained, “Ms. Skoda told us to breathe deeply three times and focus on our breathing, and then suddenly I fell asleep until the band was over. She told me it was okay that I napped, it was a sign of my body needing it.”

Tijon reflected, “It’s great to see the school take a few steps further by giving us these guided imagery sessions to relax even more than we are personally used to.”

Ms. Skoda, who led these sessions, used her experiences as a guidance counselor to connect with students deeply and emotionally. She said, “I was first introduced and trained in guided meditative practices when I worked in a hospital, prior to my work at Townsend Harris, and I’ve also done meditation in my own life.” For her students, Ms. Skoda wanted to do something that could change their lives. She continued, “​What truly inspired me to run this event was the opening of the Zen Den and the discussion around mindfulness that is happening in our school… and how it affects our mental well being.” 

Ms. Skoda concluded, “It was really wonderful to see how many students were willing to participate, and it motivated me to continue doing these things for our school. I left the Zen Den as a better person and I could tell the students felt the same way.”