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