This university gets students to lie in a shallow grave as a form of ‘self-care’
No phones are allowed
University students are always encouraged to maintain their wellbeing by practicing self-care. Student unions provide therapy dogs and bubble wraps to tackle stress. Sometimes university councillors will even recommend "yoga and vegetables" to tackle anxiety and depression.
But in Radbound University in The Netherlands, there's a different form of self-care available to students. The student chaplaincy allows people to lie in a grave as a reminder of mortality and encourages them to "make something out of their lives."
you might think UK unis offering therapy dogs instead of counseling is bad, but at my uni they have this thing where they will let you lie in a grave for a while and think about life. its called the purification grave and you're not allowed to take phones or books in it with you pic.twitter.com/rsYt3CxVtZ
— adam (@SPYKlDS2) October 13, 2019
The grave is open during the office hours of the Student Church and to "meditate" in the grave, students have to email with a date and time they'd like to go into it.
Everyone is provided with pillows and a mat, while phones and personal items can be stored in the lockers at the Student Chaplaincy.
The "purification grave" first appeared in 2009 until 2011. It proved so popular with the students, that it's been reinstalled as a permanent feature on campus.
The university describes it as a "modern form of memento mori, which means that you are aware that you are mortal."
One student, Adam, says that the purification grave has a maximum time of three hours and a minimum of thirty minutes.
just read that the purification grave has a maximum time of three hours and a minimum of thirty minutes? if you try to leave before your thirty minutes are up do they just not let you out??? trying to imagine being shoved back into a grave by the student pastor as therapy
— adam (@SPYKlDS2) October 13, 2019
According to him, the university also offers free massages and relaxation chairs in the library.
Gayle Hammill, a Registered Psychotherapist at Circle Therapy told The Tab: "In my opinion this form of self care brings up many schools of thought. Firstly switching off from the sensory overload of everyday life can be hugely beneficial as our brains have not yet fully evolved to deal with 24/7 stimulus.
"Also we struggle nowadays to just 'be with' ourselves and our thoughts, do a grave would force one into bring with our thoughts, our fears and our wants.
"On the negative side this form of self care would most definitely need to be closely screened to ensure psychological safety for example, avoid this if you have been recently bereaved and are in a traumatic grief process or if you experienced any historical abuse or trauma, this could be potentially a harmful trigger."
Psycotherapist and mental health specialist Claire Goodwin-Fee agrees that the practice could be helpful if students are comfortable with it. She told The Tab: "In the context of getting closer to God and reflecting on death it could be very helpful – if you have a faith. It’s going to be a polarising self care method that’s for sure." But Claire also believes meditating outside, without the need for a grave, can give just as much benefit.
If you are affected by the issues in this article and would like confidential support, please call Samaritans on 116 123, or email [email protected]
Claire Goodwin-Fee's company The Therapy Couch offers free online training on emotional well-being.
Gayle Hammill MBACP a Registered Counsellor & Psychotherapist at www.circletherapy.co.uk