October 15, 2013
Spiritual leader Deepak Chopra and founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington gathered on the Lawn at the University of Virginia to lead a meditation session Tuesday afternoon. The event fell on a reading day at UVa, which students say can be a high-stress time as they study for exams.
"Stress is the number one epidemic of our time," said Chopra, who led the half-hour session. "It's directly or indirectly connected to everything."
Nearly five hundred students and faculty members attended the meditation session. Some were seasoned meditators while others were trying it for the first time.
"I'm hoping to learn how to not judge myself and be able to be at peace with my own mind," said UVa second-year student Dallas Ducar.
But many found the mental challenge of meditation to be just as tough as any test prep.
"It's really hard to think about nothing, especially when you're someone like me who is constantly thinking about everything at once," said UVa fourth-year student Keegan Thomas.
Chopra and Huffington were guests of UVa's Contemplative Sciences Center, which launched last spring in an effort to bring total mind and body awareness and health into the fabric of a UVa education.
Huffington told the crowd of mostly college students about the importance of disconnecting. "Learning to disconnect from your technologies and to connect with yourselves," Huffington said. "IPhones, blackberries, Kindles, IPads, the Huffington Post, are all ultimate addictions."
A petition had been circulating all week leading up to the group meditation in protest of Huffington's appearance, citing claims of plagiarism. According to the petition, which was created by a former UVa grad student, Huffington published a biography about Picasso in 1988 which was heavily lifted from the thesis work of late UVa professor, Dr. Lydia Csató Gasman. According to a 1994 Vanity Fair article, Huffington offered to pay Gasman for her work, a claim Huffington denies. In that same article, Gasman called Huffington "an intellectual kleptomaniac".
Gasman taught at UVa for more than two decades. The author of the petition hoped to gain 1,000 signatures by Thursday morning, but only 67 people signed the petition.
Huffington did not address the controversy during her visit Tuesday.