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Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning

ISBN: 978-1-118-43527-4
256 pages
December 2013, Jossey-Bass
Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning (1118435273) cover image


Contemplative pedagogy is a way for instructors to:
  • empower students to integrate their own experience into the theoretical material they are being taught in order to deepen their understanding;
  • help students to develop sophisticated problem-solving skills;
  • support students’ sense of connection to and compassion for others; and
  • engender inquiries into students’ most profound questions.
Contemplative practices are used in just about every discipline—from physics to economics to history—and are found in every type of institution. Each year more and more faculty, education reformers, and leaders of teaching and learning centers seek out best practices in contemplative teaching, and now can find them here, brought to you by two of the foremost leaders and innovators on the subject.

This book presents background information and ideas for the practical application of contemplative practices across the academic curriculum from the physical sciences to the humanities and arts. Examples of contemplative techniques included in the book are mindfulness, meditation, yoga, deep listening, contemplative reading and writing, and pilgrimage, including site visits and field trips.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Parker J. Palmer vii

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

The Authors xxi

PART ONE Theoretical and Practical Background 1

1 Transformation and Renewal in Higher Education 3

2 Current Research on Contemplative Practice 21

3 Contemplative Pedagogy in Practice: Two Experiences 39

4 Teacher Preparation and Classroom Challenges 67

PART TWO A Guide to Contemplative Practices 87

Introduction to the Practices 89

5 Mindfulness 95

6 Contemplative Approaches to Reading and Writing 110

7 Contemplative Senses: Deep Listening and Beholding 137

8 Contemplative Movement 159

9 Compassion and Loving Kindness 174

10 Guest Speakers, Field Trips, and Retreats 189

11 Conclusion 198

Afterword by Arthur Zajonc 205

References 207

Index 217

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Author Information

Daniel P. Barbezat is professor of economics at Amherst College and executive director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern University and Yale University and has taught in the summer program at Harvard University.

Mirabai Bush is senior fellow and founding director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a nonprofit organization that encourages contemplative awareness in American life in order to create a more just, compassionate, and reflective society.

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Contemplative Practices in Higher Education represents an instant classic in a growing movement that promises to bring greater depth, resonance, and engagement to college students’ learning experience. Dan Barbezat and Mirabai Bush document a stunning array of contemplative applications, revealing a robust and innovative field of pedagogy.”
Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence

“In this book, Dan and Mirabai do an excellent job in demonstrating how these transformative contemplative practices can be sensitively introduced to academia. I didn’t develop contemplative practices until I was middle aged. I wish I had had such practices in my college days.”
Ram Dass, teacher and author, Be Here Now

“An inspiring report from the frontlines of academe by two quiet revolutionaries. A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of college teaching and who seeks a vision of what it could be.”
Jerome T. Murphy, research professor and dean emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“This engaging and informative reflection on the uses of introspective and contemplative practices in higher education reveals a quiet revolution whose time has come. Barbezat and Bush have brought us a path-breaking book that speaks from and to mindful educators intent on helping students focus their attention and resist distractions, find more of themselves in their academic work, and bring more of themselves into the task of crafting lives of meaning, purpose, and compassion.”
Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita, Wellesley College

“This book is a hugely inspiring and practical resource for educators, giving them a whole other dimension of experience from which to bring to life the beauty of their subject and engage their students in discovering that beauty for themselves. Contemplative practices, integrated into the curriculum of higher education in the ways the authors describe and advocate so skillfully and compellingly, have the capacity to transform our relationship to learning itself, in all its mystery, intimacy, difficulty, and wonder.”
Jon Kabat Zinn, author, Full Catastrophe Living and Mindfulness for Beginners

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education is truly a breakthrough book, showing how profound attentiveness, intellectual rigor, and self-knowledge can be seamlessly woven together. It offers us a transformed view of a student, a teacher, the academy, and the world.”
Sharon Salzberg, author, Lovingkindness and Real Happiness

“Visionary, yet immensely practical and thorough! Can enhance the skill, understanding and well-being of students and provide the missing half of education.”
Jack Kornfield, author, A Path with Heart

“At long last we have a comprehensive overview of the burgeoning field of Contemplative Pedagogy written by two of its leaders and pioneers. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the theory and practice of Contemplative Education.”
Harold D. Roth, professor of religious studies and founder and director, Brown University Contemplative Studies Initiative

“Barbezat and Bush set forth a blueprint for a quiet revolution in education—placing student experience at the center of our learning objectives, supporting students in reconnecting with themselves while enabling them to feel their connections with an ever more diverse world. As our problems grow in complexity, the urgent need for such a revolution becomes clear. These pages hold the most practical approach yet for a way forward: transforming what happens in our classrooms, and actually changing the world—one student at a time.”
Rhonda Magee, professor of law and codirector, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of San Francisco

“This book tells the wonderful and creative way of expanding and increasing the possibilities of higher education through contemplative practices. The authors clearly reveal and express the important and meaningful ties between teaching and learning and the power of contemplative practices, better connecting education to life. The best educators often seek ways to expand and broaden their reach and knowledge—this book will help them achieve that goal.”
Bradford C. Grant, director, School of Architecture and Design, and associate dean, College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences, Howard University

“A great guide to developing contemplative courses. ‘Poetry and Meditation,’ the experimental course I taught in Spring 2000 at West Point as a Contemplative Practices Fellow, changed much of what I thought I knew about teaching and learning, and by doing that, changed my life.”
Marilyn Nelson, chancellor, Academy of American Poets

“The work represented in this book has been influential and inspirational in opening the doors to a new dimension of learning. The Institute for Jewish Spirituality has brought these contemplative practices—text study, reflection and yoga—into courses in a leading rabbinical school in New York, and thus magnified the impact of its program of spiritual formation of future rabbis and cantors enormously, as well as bringing faculty members together in generative cross-departmental study.”
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Institute for Jewish Spirituality
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Press Release

December 02, 2013
CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning

The interest in contemplative practices in higher education has never been greater and is increasing each year. Practices are used in just about every field. In the sciences, there are contemplative courses in physics, chemistry, and neuroscience as well as in the social sciences, history, economics and political science. There are also courses in the arts, including English literature, music, medieval studies, art history, and in professional schools of medicine, law, business, and architecture. They are found in every type of institution, including community colleges, four-year colleges, universities, medical schools, historically black colleges, and law and business schools. Each year more and more faculty, education reformers, and leaders of teaching and learning centers seek information and attend sessions about the use of contemplative practices.

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand; December 2013; $38; Paper and available as an eBook; ISBN: 9781118435274) presents the background and application of contemplative practices. Remarkably, they are used throughout the curriculum. Contemplative pedagogy is more than a new, trendy technique to change the landscape of learning. Rather, it is the use of first-person involvement to— 

  1. develop and deepen sophisticated problem-solving,
  2. empower students in integrating their own experience and lives into theoretical material they are being taught and thereby deepen and extend understanding,
  3. support  the sense of connection and compassion within and among students and the rest of the world, and
  4. Engender inquiries into students' most profound questions.

Examples of techniques in CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION include: mindfulness; meditation; yoga; deep listening; contemplative reading and writing; and pilgrimage, site visits, and field trips. With an expert author team and Foreword and Afterword by two distinguished thought leaders, CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION is a must-read for faculty, faculty developers, administrators and student affairs staff interested in using contemplative practices with students.

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