After the Conference

[CollegeContemplative will feature Guest Bloggers from October 2013-February 2014. Welcome, Bart Everson!]

Along the Path

I recently returned from the fifth annual conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education at Amherst College.

It was my privilege to also have attended the second annual conference back in 2010. After that event, I noted to myself that I was saddened to realize how many people experience the academy as oppressive. The topic of pain seemed to come up between sessions with surprising frequency.

At the fifth annual conference, that topic was present again. Only now it had moved front and center, no longer confined to the margins. Pain was addressed in the programming itself. A concern for suffering and injustice was a common theme. Issues of race, class, gender (and other) inequities came up repeatedly.

I think it’s good that we are talking about these things. At our university, the creation of “a more just and humane society” is part of our mission. Surely reforming the inhumane aspects of the academy would be a good place to start.

What is the role of contemplation in such a project? Some seem to think that contemplation in itself leads inexorably to compassion. I have my doubts about that, but I certainly agree that some practices can enhance and deepen and develop our faculty for compassion.

Any teacher concerned with social justice would do well to investigate contemplative pedagogy. I hope to continue to explore this connection in the future.

I’ve written a longer conference report, and I’ve made my own presentation materials available on our wiki.

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What’s Next

[CollegeContemplative will feature Guest Bloggers from October 2013-February 2014. Welcome, Bart Everson!]

Hooray! It’s the final installment in this series on contemplative faculty development. You might want to start at the beginning, or just read on and take it as it comes.

So what’s next on on the agenda here at Xavier? We have a number of plans in the works, some of which are more fleshed out, some of which are only vague glimmers at this point.

Introduction to Zen Meditation

We’re quite pleased to present a second installment in our continuing series on “Contemplative Practices in Diverse Traditions.”

Mid City Zen

This semester we have an opportunity to learn about Zen meditation from Rev. Michaela O’Connor Bono. Participants will learn the basics of how to practice sitting meditation in the Zen tradition and some of the essential principles of Buddhism relating to working with the mind.

Practical Applications

The Zen session will concentrate on a specific contemplative practice. We respect these practices for their intrinsic value, but we also place great emphasis on practical applications for teaching and learning. Therefore we will offer a follow-up session in January which will focus on how faculty can “use” contemplation in their teaching. This will also serve as a coming-out party for Sustaining the Dialog participants, the first of several workshop which will be offered over the coming semesters. I don’t know exactly what the content of these workshops will be. They will be planned by the participating faculty. I’m excited to see what they come up with.

What Do You Love?

Inspired by Wayne Muller’s How, Then, Shall We Live? (cited in Sentipensante Pedagogy) this will be a follow-up discussion to the “Who Are You?” session we sponsored in 2010. We will invite faculty to participate in an informal roundtable centered around the topic of our passions and desires. “By what star do we navigate our journey on the earth? What we love will shape our days and provide the texture of our inner and outer life. How can we plant what we love in the garden of this life?” These and other questions are all fair game.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan

World Tai Chi Day

There’s a Confucius Institute at Xavier now, the first such institute at an HBCU. It’s a partnership between Xavier University of Louisiana, Hebei University in China, and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Part of the mission of the institute is to teach about Chinese culture. Therefore it would seem to make a lot of sense to offer a third installment in our series “Contemplative Practices in Diverse Traditions” on the practice of t’ai chi ch’uan. In fact, I just sent an email asking if they’d help me set this up.

Me Personally

My own personal practice continues to develop.

Beginning

In addition to writing this series here at College Contemplative, I’ve been invited to write a regular column for Humanistic Paganism, which will be entitled “A Pedagogy of Gaia.” (Look for my article on the winter solstice coming on December 18th.) I’ve also been invited to officiate a blessing at a civic tree-planting ceremony next week; no one could be more astonished by this development than me.

Summing Up

Just as with my personal development, our efforts in this area of faculty development are very much in process. Furthermore, I believe it’s important to understand that this will always be the case. Contemplative faculty development is a journey, not a destination. There is no finished product here, no targeted endpoint. We proceed in good faith into continually unfolding mystery. It’s a lot like life that way.

Thanks to Karolyn for letting me write in the space (probably far more than she expected!) and thanks to you, Reader, for your attention. Please feel free to raise any questions in the comment section and I will try to answer.