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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

Benjamin, Flourish Stories. (AI edit) Credit: Andrew Brodhead

Benjamin

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Content Note

Flourish Stories may include discussions of struggles or language that may be distressing to you. As you read each student's story, we encourage you to prioritize your own emotional well-being. Take a break from reading or seek support if needed. Remember, it's OK to not be OK. 

I use my breath to anchor me. Learning to meditate and live mindfully has allowed me to continue asking questions and continue being curious but in a way that’s productive and sustainable.”

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Benjamin's Story

“I would describe my mental health journey as more of a proactive one than a reactive one. After three years at Stanford, I was starting to think, like many, about what next steps looked like. It wasn’t that I necessarily had any existential dread, but I found myself having fear around what life would look like five or 10 or 20 years after college. Most of all, I wanted to avoid getting to middle age and looking back at myself wondering ‘Where have I gone? How far have I come, and what have I even accomplished?’ So it wasn’t that any one thing in the moment was bogging me down, more that the future was bogging me down, and I was getting a little bit freaked out. 

So, after meeting with my advisor and realizing that I had completed enough units to take a quarter off, I decided I wanted to travel and learn in a foreign country. I’ve always been into mindfulness and meditation, so I reached out to the Plum Village monastery in Thailand, and before I knew it I was out there for a month in 110-degree weather, studying with the monks and nuns. I left behind my computer, I took off my watch and quite frankly, it was incredible. 

At first I tried to be a Stanford student about it all. I’d ask the older monks for books and literature, and I combed through it. I brought along my notebook and would annotate. But one day I was invited for tea with an elder monk and he told me, ‘You know, you’re spending so much time thinking about how you’re going to bring what you’re learning here back that you’re actually unable to appreciate what it is you’re learning here. You’re so focused on the future and how you can abstract and apply your lessons back home that you’re losing sight of how beautiful it is to be here in this moment right now.’ And like clockwork, I became aware of the tea I was drinking, his home; it was incredibly humbling. So I put away my book and my notes and I agreed to commit to the last few weeks of trying to not think about bringing the experience back to Stanford but simply existing as a human being at the monastery.  

I realized that the same line he’d given me applied to my time as a student. I was thinking so much about the pressure I’d felt in getting a Stanford education, and what would happen if I was able to use it to its fullest potential, that I had essentially rendered myself incapable of actually appreciating what it was to be here. So since I returned, my senior year has been the best year I’ve had by far, because I’ve been able to completely and totally enjoy the place. 

The thing about being a Stanford student is that you’re always thinking ahead, trying to shape the future. And to me, that always felt like I was a passenger in a car that was being driven by someone else — by academics, social life, administrators. I was not the one in control. But through my meditation practice, I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing wrong with feeling a little bit out of control. It’s not necessarily about figuring it all out now, it’s about learning to become OK with the idea that things will happen all around you, and you can only focus on what falls under your control. 

I think we're all a little bit prone to being anxious and sacrificing what needs to get done over our own well-being. And when I find myself in moments like that, I focus on the breath, because one of the first things I learned is focus on your breathing, and the rest will follow. So now, I walk everywhere, and I try to take a different route each day, taking a moment to appreciate something new about the campus and the surroundings of my path. 

I use my breath to anchor me. Our minds and our bodies have become disconnected from one another, so the stress of our mind can manifest in our body and vice versa, and we don’t even realize it. By breathing, you can calm the mind and let go of the stress. Learning to meditate and live mindfully has allowed me to continue asking questions and continue being curious, but in a way that’s productive and sustainable.”

Additional Details About Benjamin

  • Class of ’24
  • BS, Bioengineering
  • MS, Management Science & Engineering
Littlefield garden, 2022. Credit: Andrew Brodhead

Mental Health Resources at Stanford

This website is your go-to hub for navigating the many mental health and well-being resources at Stanford. Whether you are seeking advice to establish your self-care routine, looking for ways to manage stress or mental health symptoms, tips to help a friend, someone supportive to talk to, or anything in between, you are not alone.

Professional staff and your peers are ready to support you, regardless of what point you are in your mental health and well-being journey.