Contemplative Approaches: Shared Purpose, Meaning, Goals

Over the past two weeks I’ve had several opportunities to give descriptions of Contemplative Pedagogy and Contemplative Approaches in, say, two minutes or fewer.

I’m enjoying distinguishing “Contemplative Inquiry” from “mindfulness” and bringing the conversation beyond meditation and stress-reduction to the confluence of the critical, creative, and contemplative approaches to problem-solving.

While I can talk broadly about contemplative practices, when it comes to ontology, goals, and outcomes, I find myself wondering how broadly—if at all—my positions are shared by contemplative educators.

Please allow me to brainstorm-blog on my way to articulating something substantial. Please also share with me your comments and feedback!

With colleagues I’m currently drafting a series of General Education courses entitled “Contemplative Approaches to…” and developing shared pedagogical aims of “Contemplative Approaches to Scientific Inquiry,” “Contemplative Approaches to the Past and Present,” “to the Self and Society,” and “to Creative Thought.”

Here are some of my initial musings that I’m carrying with me into a round of collaboration, research and note-taking:

  • Contemplative inquiry complements (it does not replace) critical and creative capacities and approaches.
  • Contemplative inquiry arises from dispositions of humility and curiosity.
  • Contemplative approaches consider interconnectedness in epistemology as well as in approaches to problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Contemplative approaches share a service-driven purpose.
  • Contemplative inquiry illuminates habit and prevents mission-drift by re-evaluating and articulating the purpose or the meaning of the endeavor, which may change as problems and issues arise and are addressed.

This brainstorming grows out of some beliefs that inform my pedagogy, beliefs I need to re-examine and re-assess.

Ontology, Goals, and Outcomes:

I believe in simultaneous interconnectedness and emptiness.  This “belief” is (of course) subject to scrutiny, reflection, and revision by myself and others, but it’s certainly impacting my pedagogy.

Right now I’d say a major goal of my pedagogy is to develop capacities for living with intention and agency.

A core outcome would be a more ethical, just, and (dare I say) happy life.

The next step for the coming weeks is for me to probe how other contemplative educators and researchers articulate ontological beliefs and positions. (Nudge nudge! Be a guest blogger!) I’m also gathering data on the stated goals and outcomes of my fellow contemplative educators and researchers.

Lastly, for now, I’m wondering: How might the ontological positions, goals, and outcomes of contemplative pedagogy constellate with those of the Mind and Life Institute? With Contemplative Studies? Contemplative Inquiry? With good old fashioned Philosophy?

Share your perspectives!




One comment on “Contemplative Approaches: Shared Purpose, Meaning, Goals

  1. Kathy Tardif says:

    These are some thoughts I have on your excellent foundational draft:

    “Contemplative inquiry complements (it does not replace) critical and creative capacities and approaches.” A bolder but still true statement would be that contemp. inquiry provides a foundation for critical and creative capacities and approaches. The practical side of contemplative inquiry provides the focus and attention that good science, good business, good art, good writing, good analysis, good philosophy need to come to fruition.

    “Contemplative inquiry arises from dispositions of humility and curiosity.” Yes! I would add that it arises out of an openness to transformation, too, but perhaps that is more of a result of contemp inquiry than an attitude. Could be both.

    “Contemplative approaches share a service-driven purpose.” I would say more broadly “an action-driven purpose” rather than the narrower “service-driven purpose.” Social justice falls under action rather than service, and social justice often results from contemplative inquiry.

    “A core outcome would be a more ethical, just, and (dare I say) happy life.” At the risk of sparking a debate between the meaning of “happiness” and “joy,” I think a joyful life might be a deeper goal. The difference I’m raising is this: “happiness” can be defined as fleeting, of the moment, often caused by external factors rather than the deeper, more sustained “joy” that comes from a person’s interior and that grounds the person when life is difficult and downright unhappy. I do know that a definition of happiness from ancient philosophical sources tends more toward what I’m defining as “joy.”

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