Coming To Our Senses: How Contemplative Education Can Transform Our Classrooms, Students, & The World

Coming To Our Senses: How Contemplative Education Can Transform Our Classrooms, Students, & The World


This keynote presentation was made at the Technology, Innovations & Pedagogy Conference at Fresno State University. The provost, Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, proposed that the conference explore mindfulness and contemplative education. I want to acknowledge the leadership including Bryan Berrett, Director, Center for Faculty Excellence, and the 70 faculty members who took out time to be part of this exploration. It takes a visionary and progressive mindset to recognize the potential of mindfulness in education.
Especially now more than ever, this topic is relevant because the levels of stress and anxiety on campuses are high. The drop out rates are still very high. And looking beyond the campuses, there is a lot of suffering in our communities.
The title – Coming To Our Senses – is an appeal to educators to explore how our classrooms can become transformative spaces to educate the whole person, not just the intellect but the heart, mind and all the senses, so our students go prepared to meet any challenge, any change, with wisdom, compassion, and resilience.
What if students discovered for themselves the power of their minds to benefit and injure their worlds, this world.
What if students developed the skills to apply the knowledge learnt in their disciplines to not only create a good life for themselves but also make this world a better place for all beings.
This is not wishful thinking. Contemplative education provides a foundation to systematically develop these skills and that’s what this presentation is about.

In slide 2 I share feedback from a student in my marketing class in 2005. This is what contemplative education gone bad looks like, or more accurately the absence of having a contemplative pedagogy framework can look like. Just good intentions are not good enough.

In slide 3 This is the transformative potential of contemplative education. This feedback is not unique to this class but something I have experienced every time people are given the space and tools to connect with themselves and each other.

In Slides 4 & 5, After the contemplative pause and drawing exercise, make a note of what you observed. How did it feel to stop for a minute –
– did the mind really stop – its always working – what was the quality of thoughts, 1 or many – did observing them change them in any way
– did bringing attention to your emotions and body make you aware of something you were not conscious of
– did the drawing make you aware of something you were not conscious of

Slide 8 depicts our current education system as focusing on grades and GPAs.

Slide 9 depicts the low passing rates, especially for first generation students, which is indicative that existing system is not working for everyone.

Slide 10 quotes William James who spoke about the importance of training the mind as part of good quality education but did not explain how to train the wandering mind.

Slide 11 discloses the definition of contemplative education, which provides a way to train the minds for self-mastery.

Slide 12, more specifically lists the four goals of contemplative education.

In subsequent slides, I clarify the meaning of each of these goals and why we need them followed by tangible practical applications and strategies to integrate contemplative practices in coursework.

References are listed in the end.

Please contact me if you have any questions about this presentation or would like to introduce contemplative pedagogy in your institution.

  • Date August 22, 2017
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