NICOLE MCKENZIE FOR THE HOYA The John Main Meditation Center, housed in the campus’s oldest building, McSherry Hall, provides students with a space for spiritual contemplation.
The John Main Meditation Center, housed in the campus’s oldest building, McSherry Hall, provides students with a space for spiritual contemplation.

After a chance encounter with a monk in London, Gregory Robison, the director of the John Main Center for Meditation and Interreligious Dialogue at Georgetown, spent six months studying in a French Benedictine monastery.

This monastic experience with Brother John Main, a Benedictine monk, practitioner of Christian meditation and the namesake of the center, serves as the basis of Robison’s work on the Hilltop.

“Here at Georgetown, the students, faculty and staff who come to the John Main Center are looking for the same thing I sought at the age of 18: to cultivate an interior space, to integrate the disparate elements of a hectic life being tugged in different directions; to weed, water and prune that inner garden that we all have,” Robison said.

The center was founded in 2005 by former Georgetown professor Brother Laurence Freeman, O.S.B., who wanted to address a hunger for deeper spirituality that he saw in his students.

While it is one of the university’s newest spiritual institutions, the John Main Center is located inMcSherry Hall, the oldest building on campus. The center holds daily meditation sessions, offers free yoga classes every weekday and houses the Hindu Student Association’s weekly puja and Buddhist Meditation’s weekly sangha.

“Our sessions are open to those from diverse religious traditions — or from none. The heart of our sessions together is still and silent,” Robison said. “As my abbot told me when I was the age of an undergraduate, everyone who comes to the John Main Center are brothers and sisters whose liberty we respect.”

For the six students living in the Magis Row Meditation Houses, the sessions offered at the center are an extremely important part of both their Georgetown experience and their spiritual life.

“The Meditation Center definitely became a home away from home for me,” Harrison Gale (SFS ’13) said. “It’s a great way to zen oneself and insulate from Georgetown craziness. There are few chiller organizations imaginable — something about all forms of conflict resolution point to sitting quietly for 20 minutes.”

Gale and the other Magis Row residents also lead weekly meditation sessions as well as direct meditation backpacking trips and composting efforts for their neighbors.

“The Magis Row experience allows those of us who care deeply about meditation to live with or near each other, which fosters a spirit of community among meditators,” Madeline Collins (COL ’13) said.

The center also holds special events throughout the academic year. Each semester, the center partners with the Georgetown Library Associates to host the John Main Lecture, a discussion on how prayer intersects with academic disciplines. The center also sponsors the Good Heart Dialogue, a seminar designed to bring faiths together to reflect on their traditions and identify both similarities and differences.

While the center focuses on the Christian meditation tradition, it hopes to include members of all faith backgrounds.

“In the depths of our selves there are no formulations, no words, no images.” Robison said. “It is for this reason that we can sit in meditation together — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Jaines, Hindus, Buddhists and those with no faith or tradition.”

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