Axel Cramer (’20) is founder of Thought Lounge, a social enterprise that encourages community-driven dialogue. A 2014 UC Berkeley graduate in mathematics, Cramer helped establish UCLA Anderson’s new “Restoration Room” for silent meditation. Anderson staff, peers and student clubs who collaborated in support of the project include Jami Jesek Carman, Jessica Luchenta, Elizabeth McKillop, Greg Siviy (’20), Emily Bestwick (’20), the Wellness and Yoga club and Anderson’s Net Impact chapter.
Q: What is the Restoration Room?
The Restoration Room is a 24/7 dedicated space for silent reflection, meditation, prayer and rest. It is located in room 204 of Anderson’s Cornell Hall, and requires the same code as for the student lounge. It is host to guided meditations led by students and staff from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Q: What motivated you to create this space for the students at UCLA Anderson?
After my first quarter at Anderson, I was sitting in my parents’ house reflecting on what an incredible experience I had just had. I had met so many people, had so many conversations, been to so many events and had my eyes opened to so much about the world. Yet at the same time, I was utterly exhausted, and I knew that fall quarter was overwhelmingly stressful for me and many of my peers. This is especially true for first-years involved in recruiting, academics and major club leadership positions. I realized that although Anderson was one of the best places in the world to do, speak and make happen, there weren’t as many spaces for listening, stillness, reflection or developing spirituality.
Q: Why are these activities so important for staff and students?
Although Anderson is not a church or meditation hall, some of Anderson’s deepest values, including student wellness and innovation, are served greatly by having a better balance of speaking and listening, doing and reflecting, and stimulating and expanding awareness. I also knew that many students, like me, would engage in some sort of spiritual or religious practice if there was a space to do so. I thought having a Restoration Room would provide the opportunity for students to practice their religion, explore new spiritual practices, go to a truly quiet space if they needed a social break during the day and perhaps have more of those “Eureka” moments.
Q: How have your experience as the founder of Thought Lounge and your background in social impact contributed to this initiative?
The Restoration Room and Thought Lounge, whose mission was to foster the practice of intentional dialogue, are both tangible initiatives that provide a space for intangible values. At Thought Lounge, we had the “5 Agreements of Dialogue,” which guided sessions and were the lenses through which we viewed the culture of our organization. We have 5 Agreements for the Restoration Room, which include listening, stillness, respect, inclusion and enjoyment. I think having had some experience as an entrepreneur helped me to “just go for it” with the Restoration Room, and not be too worried about whether or not the initiative fell on its face or was really taken up by the Anderson Community.
Q: Do you have other goals for this space?
I hope the space helps foster the practice of mindfulness in the Anderson Community, inspires innovation and creates a greater sense of calm and spaciousness in the lives of Anderson students. In the end, it’s just a room, but I think these kinds of physical spaces are crucial for organizations to fight the “demon of busyness” and identify and create solutions that our world really needs.