Interconnectedness: What’s happening at Plymouth State

With very little financial support from the University, we have launched a sturdy little Contemplative Communities cluster project up here at Plymouth State University, NH.

We (students, staff, faculty, community members) spent the spring and summer creating our Advisory Board, developing a Student Organization, proposing contemplative lab spaces, meeting graduate students, presenting at conferences, gathering mindfully, and designing courses.

What the university paid for was conference travel, so I’ll tell you a bit about that, first.

In April, two students and two alums presented with me on a panel entitled “Contemplative Education: Impacts, Outcomes, Transformations” at the 38th Annual Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College. Students synthesized course experiences, content, theories, and practices to deliver first-person accounts of transformative education in English and Medieval Studies. We have submitted proposals for publication… Fingers crossed!


John Rodgers (’18), Rachael Ferranti (’12), Karolyn Kinane (Faculty), Lindsey DeRoche (’17), Jessica Eldridge (’16) at the 38th Annual Medieval and Renaissance Forum, Keene, NH

In June I participated in the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute in Garrison, NY.  The Institute included 115 participants from thirty two countries and six continents. What an honor to be a part of this experience! The Institute’s theme, “Intersubjectivity and Social Connectivity,” invited scientists, clinicians, philosophers, legal and economic experts, and others to address how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to community and strangers.

Sessions explored the science of implicit bias as well as how social and cultural histories shape individual and collective well-being. Most pressing for me were the new research findings on interconnectivity of mind, health, empathy, and compassion as well as the “efficacy” and “usefulness” of meditative practices.

Much of the epistemology, methodology, and pedagogy of modern Western institutions (corporate, medical, academic) rest on the ontological position that humans are isolated individuals. Such a perspective invisibly shapes our ethics. The Contemplative Communities Cluster Project allows the Plymouth State and broader community consider an alternative to the default ontological position—to consider interconnectedness.

As the Mind and Life Organization demonstrates, when we operate from an ontological position of interconnectedness, new possibilities emerge for scientific inquiry, social structures, and ethical systems. Neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, humanists, and contemplatives are amassing a generous body of work that demonstrates how humans co-create our experiences, how our environment co-creates our experiences, and the very real effects of this participatory sense-making.

In my next post I’ll offer some juicy details on our new Contemplative Approaches courses and our Student Organization. In the meantime, check out our webpage! If you would like to get in the loop to receive all of our updates & events, drop me an email and I will add you to our communications. If you’d like to stay peripherally abreast, join our Facebook Group and “like” our Facebook page.




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.