Five Great Places to Think at PLNU

It’s been a long week, you think to yourself. School has taken a toll on you, depriving you of your energy. Perhaps the only thing on your mind is a long, relaxing nap back at the dorm — a lovely reward that everyone deserves periodically. Of course, rest is essential to the health of every college student, but what about thinking? Surely thinking does not sound like an appealing activity at such moments, especially when that is the reason for your exhaustion; yet with meditative thinking, that need not be the case!

Meditative thinking is a healthy practice in which we engage with the world mentally on a much deeper level. Meditative thinking includes, but is not limited to, reflecting on personal values, contemplating the beauty of the world, pondering philosophical questions and even examining life in general. Regardless of how you practice meditative thinking, it should ultimately bring you a sense of connectedness to the world and hopefully foster a greater appreciation for its wonderful complexity.

Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus, which overlooks the vast Pacific Ocean from a beautiful peninsula in San Diego, offers students a variety of secluded locations where they can escape the busyness of their lives and think in solitude. The following list includes some unique places that students at PLNU have described along with their experiences at these spots.

1. McCullough Park

McCullough Park, one of PLNU’s most iconic landmarks, is a shaded park located at the southern end of campus. It rests beside the Fermanian School of Business, overlooking campus from the large hill behind the Flex Apartments. Due to its location at the edge of campus, McCullough Park typically receives few visitors, most of whom come to walk their dogs or to briefly admire the view. Therefore, it is an ideal spot for students who are seeking a quiet place with few distractions.

At McCullough Park, there are several tables and benches and plenty of trees that provide shade. In addition to this, a wide patch of grass stretches across the length of the park, making a fantastic place to lie down or to set up a lawn chair. Valentina Montes, a second-year dietetics major and RA at Nease Hall, admires this part of PLNU for many reasons. According to her, spending time in nature—especially when she can view the ocean—allows her to think more freely. 

“It’s set apart from the other places on campus. I feel like I can just pause and breathe, and it’s usually a place not a lot of people know about,” said Montes. “When you are surrounded by nature, away from the busyness of college life, you are reminded of a time [when] you were in a state of calmness and unity and [serenity].”

2. Weight Shed Benches

Directly in front of the west side of the soccer field is a row of green benches that look down upon Hendricks Hall and Sunset Cliffs. It is almost certain that you will have passed this familiar spot at some point during your time at PLNU. Whether you are simply waiting for a class to begin or stopping to witness a captivating sunset, these benches truly create memorable experiences; the clear view of the blue ocean and the faint sound of waves crashing against the shore ought to speak for themselves.

Though not quite as secluded as McCullough Park, the weight shed benches constitute an undeniably special part of PLNU. There is almost always an open bench, and throughout the majority of the day, it is relatively quiet. If you happen to find yourself passing the soccer field at night, you may even consider spending a few minutes at the benches to observe the stars. 

“I love to think and relax at the second bench outside of the weight shed by the track,” said fourth-year psychology major Josh Sharp, who first visited the benches during a high school church camp before attending PLNU. For him and his best friend, this was a place where they would discuss life while appreciating the scenery. 

“It seems to be a constant place I go back to for reflective thinking. Also, the waves are just lovely to look at,” said Sharp.

3. Sunset Cliffs

Arguably the most famous landmark at PLNU, Sunset Cliffs is often the primary reason for why students choose to attend the university—and that is not an exaggeration. Not only do the cliffs provide direct access to the beach, but they also highlight the indescribable beauty of the coast of California. To intentionally avoid this mystical and sacred place would undoubtedly be a grave mistake.

Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of Sunset Cliffs is its appeal to a diverse community. It is a place of reverence for the surfer, runner, photographer, artist and philosopher alike; it seems that all who explore the cliffs find profound fascination with their grandeur. Whether it be a bench, beach chair, towel, tree or rock, there are countless spots for sitting and allowing your mind to wander. Such a place would engrave itself in the heart of any nineteenth-century romanticist. 

“I like Sunset Cliffs because of the beautiful sunset colors and just how peaceful it is,” said Karmila Densmore, a second-year biology major. “It’s good to focus on the good around us, and the cliffs make me feel thankful and blessed.”

4. Carroll B. Land Stadium

Situated directly outside PLNU’s Golden Gymnasium is a grand sight that most students should recognize with ease: the Carroll B. Land Stadium. Few baseball teams in the United States have the privilege of playing the sport at an iconic stadium that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is a sight that is so enchanting that it caught the attention of the MLB, which deemed it “America’s Most Scenic Ballpark.”

When the baseball field is vacant, the stadium becomes a surprisingly calming location. Seating is hardly an issue, and the view is rather breathtaking, especially from the roof of the Athletic Training Clinic. Even during a baseball game, some might find that watching the sport engages the mind, encouraging meaningful thought. Such is the case for Daniel Granger, a fifth-year education major who often finds himself at the renowned stadium.

“How could the baseball field not be one of my favorite spots to watch baseball, especially when mlb.com said it’s the most scenic ballpark in America?” said Granger. According to him, it is a place where he can unwind from school and enjoy watching a ball game with his friends. “I will from time to time just sit in the baseball seats and reflect on the day and pray. It’s quite peaceful.”

5. Nicholson Commons Terrace

The cafeteria, which lies at the center of campus, is to some the heart of PLNU. This makes a tremendous amount of sense considering that the cafeteria provides nourishment to students and faculty much like the heart provides oxygenated blood to the body. Consequently, the cafeteria is one of the busiest and most disruptive environments on campus (yet surprisingly, several students manage to be productive there). However, between the Nicholson Commons and the Cooper Music Center is a charming terrace that rises above Caf Lane and serves as an ideal location for meditative thinking.

This terrace is not only practical because of its central location as well as its many tables and benches, but also aesthetically remarkable because of its attractive architecture and landscaping. A colorful flower bed sits in the center of the terrace, bringing vibrance and life to the area; lush palm trees rise from the ground, further enhancing its beauty. It is for these reasons that the background noise from the surrounding areas naturally seems to fade over time.

Although I admit that this terrace is not the most serene part of campus, as it can occasionally be distracting, I cannot deny that it is one of PLNU’s most precious treasures. I have spent countless hours sitting at a table on the terrace, studying or reflecting on life. Lastly, in order to illustrate a vivid picture of such an experience, I have composed the following prose:

From time to time, as I enter the depths of my mind, I discover a state in which the body and soul merge to become one—a perfect unity, neither element remotely distinguishable from the other. Yet words fail to embody the unfathomable joy that accompanies this event; thus in silence I dwell, for its nature transcends my own. Though infinitely incomprehensible to reason it may be, the soul knows it infinitely well. As I sit there on the terrace, I recognize this happy state of existence—that inseparable unity—when the setting sun’s golden rays warmly illuminate the world; when the textured clouds paint a heavenly masterpiece amidst the fading light; when the soft ocean breeze gently caresses the green palm leaves; when the magnificent orange palm dates glisten like gems in the sun; when the vibrant bougainvillea dances in its magenta splendor; when the synchronized faces of the clocktower brightly shine; when the birds so effortlessly fly, chirping in cheerful song overhead; when the distant murmur of the waves reaches beyond the cliffs to greet me; when all grows tranquil, soothing as can possibly be, and when the sole tangible presence is that of God. Yes—from this utter bliss, I pray that I might never depart.

Written By: Luke Spencer