People of UT Tyler: Gayathri Kambhampati
Cooper Adams • Staff Writer
When Gayathri Kambhampati enters the brightly lit dance studio at the Louise Herrington Patriot Center on Mondays, she leaves her stress at the door. The hypnotic rhythm of thuds and bangs echo through the gym outside the studio, but Kambhampati does not give it attention.
“Let’s start with the toes,” she says in a warm, inviting tone. “Bring your attention to your toes and begin to feel your toes relaxing.”
The UT Tyler statistics professor conducts these meditation session every Monday and does so with closed eyes and slow, calming instructions.
“I’m a heartfulness meditation trainer,” Kambhampati says. “So, when you meditate with a trainer, you kind of get this special positive energy. When I sit and meditate with you, I’m giving that gentle push.”
Kambhampati starts her sessions with instructions on relaxation, beginning at the toes and moving up the body. She says this is an important step for meditation because it helps “clear the clutter” of the mind.
Once the relaxation is complete, the actual meditation begins.
“Meditation is a tool you can use anywhere,” Kambhampati says. “I have meditated on flights. I have meditated in airports. I have meditated on a toilet! So, you can meditate. The bottom line is it's a tool you can use, and for that, you don't need anything.”
The loud sounds from the gym melt away as the meditation takes place. Wild thoughts become tranquil and breathing becomes smooth. Soon, everything disappears.
“She's just really sweet,” Janetsa Hernandez, a UT Tyler nursing student, says. “She's so kind, and my heart really went out for her because, for a long time, she has been trying to get people involved in meditation … She was telling me how she really struggled on getting the word out. I really felt for her because she's so kind. She takes time out of her day to do that, even if no one shows up. She's a very welcoming person and very patient.”
Hernandez has attended many of Kambhampati’s sessions and says she finds them beneficial.
“I loved it,” Hernandez says. “I really did. It was great to just sit there. I feel like meditation is like a supplement for whatever, you know? Like, if you're stressed with work or school. I go to counseling as well. So, I feel like doing that and meditating is a perfect combination. So, I definitely would recommend it to others.”
The meditation session continues. Everything is silent. The dance studio no longer exists.
“For students, it's very important, doing meditation,” Kambhampati says. “Whenever you meditate, you're telling your mind [not to] wander and focus on one thing. So, it helps improve focus, it helps reduce stress, it helps improve sleep. And it also helps reduce anxiety. And in fact, it even helps people with depression.”
Kambhampati speaks about the power of meditation from personal experience. She says that meditation, unlike other forms of coping, has only positive effects.
“I've not taken one medication,” she says. “I've never drank. I never smoked in my life. Meditation is all I do. That's why I say meditation is my medication. No other vices are necessary … When I drink, it has a side effect. When I smoke, it has a side effect. Meditation, the side effect is you're getting better on the positive side. That's why I say I don't need any of that stuff. I just need this.”
The meditation session is over. The dance studio comes back into focus, the light begins to steam through the window again and the sounds of weightlifting find their way back into the room.
“[In heartfulness meditation], we meditate on the heart,” Kambhampati says. “Everybody has a heart. No matter what religion you are, no matter what gender you are, no matter what age you are, everybody has a heart. And for everybody, there is a light within us in our heart. And there is a source for that light. And we just go to that.”