The 40 Days of Spiritual Wellbeing creates a space for renewal


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

Alice Millar Chapel. The 40 Days of Spiritual Wellbeing runs from Feb. 1 to Mar. 12.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

As part of the 40 Days of Spiritual Wellbeing, the Broadway soundtrack of “The Color Purple” plays softly in Parkes Hall. Guided by writing prompts, students filled their notebooks with their life stories. 

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life organized the series “40 Days of Spiritual Wellbeing.” The program, which runs from Feb. 1 to March 12, provides a space for spiritual renewal. The 40 days incorporate a variety of activities from meditation to music composition. 

Assistant University Chaplain Rev. D’ana Downing led a writing session for self-reflection called “(Story)Telling and Writing for Liberation” on Wednesday. 

“The opportunity to … write your own story is a powerful tool to help you realize (your) dreams,” Downing said. “Or you can revisit some harder times in your life and realize how you’ve overcome those challenges.” 

Downing used writing prompts from her favorite book, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Students reflected on their past, present and future stories, inspired by the novel’s narrator Celie. 

But storytelling isn’t the only way for students to find healing, Downing said.

“There are a variety of modalities in which you can connect to a spiritual practice, and that is well represented in the diversity of the 40 Days of Spiritual Well Being,” Downing said. 

SESP junior Cormac Callanan leads Commit to Sit, a biweekly virtual meditation drop-in where students sit in silence for a designated amount of time. The first session started with one minute, but will build up to 15 minutes by the last session. 

Callanan said meditating with a time limit gave him a greater awareness of the movement around him, providing his meditation structure. 

“It’s much easier to have the responsibility of the timer, knowing I will be done,” he said. “I get to sit in (the silence) more and have the confidence that it will end.” 

Associate Director for Religious and Spiritual Life Eric Budzynski said programming was mostly led by staff in previous years. Now, students like Callanan and Communication junior Lucy London are stepping up. London hosts a cohort called Dear Diary, where students cultivate daily journaling practices. 

London said the cohort format helps hold members accountable in journaling consistently while also fostering community care. The cohort meets a few times throughout the 40 Days, and members exchange journaling tips. 

“(It’s) powerful … knowing that other people are also on the path of self discovery, whatever that might mean,” London said. 

For London, journaling is a way to slow down from hectic school life. At a university with the motto “AND is in our DNA,” students can feel overwhelmed by academics and extracurricular activities, she said. 

Budzynski said the 40 Days can help relieve these pressures, giving students the chance to find grounding again. 

“We’re human beings, not human doers,” Budzynski said. “Part of your experience at Northwestern could actually be to learn how to sit back, how to reflect.”

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