Paula Ortiz ’18 will explore practices of active meditation in four countries next year as the recipient of a Watson Fellowship. Watson Fellows are awarded a $30,000 stipend to pursue a “year of independent, purposeful exploration” abroad. Hamilton has four recipients this year.
“I’ve been thinking about the Watson Fellowship since my first year at Hamilton and it feels like I am now at the doorstep of jumping into a dream journey,” Ortiz said.
Through her project, “Performing Awareness: Active Meditation Across Disciplines of Impermanence,” she said she will “challenge my ideas of cultural, religious and artistic devotion and will explore the boundaries of concentration, physical performance and spirituality in the path of achieving a meaningful life.”
Hometown: Quito, Ecuador
On-campus activities: Wellin Museum docent, Mindfulness Club, Art Collective
During the next year, Ortiz will live in religious, agricultural, and artisan communities in India, Japan, New Zealand, and Bolivia and learn about devoted practices of active meditation. “In each country, I will live and work alongside monks, artisans, farmers and community members to learn about the values and cultural significance of each practice while independently exploring the ways in which meditation patterns are developed through active engagement,” Ortiz said. “I want to understand how awareness and transcendence are important in the process of building a meaningful life.”
Ortiz said that although meditation is often associated with religion, it is increasingly embraced by secular society including education, business, agriculture, and art. “Research shows that regular meditation practices cause positive structural changes in areas of the brain responsible for emotional responses, including stress and anxiety, decision-making, and awareness,” she said.
“The benefits and dynamics of meditation can be applied to aspects of daily life, providing a holistic experience of awareness. Across cultures people have developed different activities and practices, aside from the traditional sitting meditation, that allows them to access an equally transcendental state of mind.
Ortiz is anxious to pursue this independent project. “During my time at Hamilton I have worked on several independent documentary film projects. In many ways, these opportunities have helped me realize that I can successfully undertake exploration and independent study, while growing and enjoying it immensely,” she said. “I’m excited to dive into the unknown, and work toward developing a curious, innocent vision. I am also excited to experience ways of communication that transcend language.”
Ortiz studied through Temple University’s program in Rome, Italy, in spring 2017.
At Hamilton, Ortiz is a digital media tutor and instructional technologist in Hamilton’s library, a docent at the Wellin Museum of Art, a studio art assistant, and mindfulness intern for the chaplaincy. She served as president of the Mindfulness Club and vice president of the Art Collective. Ortiz received Emerson Foundation summer research grants in 2015, 2016, and 2017. She’s using her most recent grant to create a documentary about altars and religious cultural approaches to death in different provinces in Mexico.