Contemplative Practices in Higher Education

The new book on contemplative pedagogy by Mirabai Bush and Daniel Barbezat–now available from Jossey-Bass in paperback and for Kindle.

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

“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 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, Professor of Architecture and Design, Howard University

Contemplative pedagogy empowers students to integrate their own experience into the theoretical material they are being taught in order to cultivate and develop attention, deepen their understanding, foster greater connection to and compassion for others, and engender engaged inquiry into their most profound questions.

Each year more and more faculty, administrators, leaders of teaching and learning centers, and other education professionals seek out best practices in contemplative teaching. Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning presents information on the practical application of contemplative practices across the academic curriculum, from the physical sciences to the humanities and arts. The book opens with the theoretical and practical background material for these practices, setting the context and providing evidence and descriptions of challenges and cautions. The second half provides many examples of contemplative techniques including mindfulness, meditation, yoga, deep listening, contemplative reading and writing, and pilgrimage, including site visits and field trips.

We hope this book will serve as an introduction to those new to these practices and as a focusing resource for those familiar with them. May it serve to transform education and foster flourishing.

 

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About the Authors

Daniel P. BarbezatDaniel P. Barbezat is Professor of Economics at Amherst College. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern University and Yale University and has taught in the summer program at Harvard University. In 2004, he won the J. T. Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching Economic History from the Economic History Association. He is interested in how self-awareness and introspection can be used in post-secondary education, economic decision-making and creating and sustaining well-being. With the support of a Contemplative Practice Fellowship in 2008, he has developed courses that integrate contemplative exercises designed to enable students to gain deeper understanding and insight. Along with his experimental research on choice and awareness, he is currently editing a group of papers on examples of contemplative pedagogy across the disciplines with Arthur Zajonc to be published by Routledge, and writing (and thinking, thinking, thinking about…) a book entitled Wanting.

Dr. Barbezat has worked with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society–the national hub for contemplative teaching and learning, committed to the positive transformation of the higher education system by supporting the use of contemplative/introspective practices to create engaged learning environments–as a Board Member, Treasurer and Associate Director of the Academic Program since 2009. In 2012, he became the Executive Director of the Center. He has lectured and led workshops on contemplative learning and pedagogy throughout the United States and Canada and is actively working to expand and deepen the Center’s programs, making its work more accessible and transformative for all.

 

Mirabai BushMirabai Bush was a co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and served as Executive Director until 2008. She is currently the Associate Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. As Director, Mirabai led the Center’s programs in higher education, including the Contemplative Practice Fellowships administered by the American Council of Learned Societies.  Mirabai has spoken about and taught contemplative practices at many education conferences and institutions, including Vassar College, UC Davis, Agnes Scott, and Holy Cross College.  She teaches in the Smith College School for Social Work’s Contemplative Clinical Practice Certificate Program.

Mirabai holds a unique background of organizational management, teaching, and spiritual practice. A founding board member of the Seva Foundation, an international public health organization, she directed the Seva Guatemala Project, which supports sustainable agriculture and integrated community development. Also at Seva, she co-developed Sustaining Compassion, Sustaining the Earth, a series of retreats and events for grassroots environmental activists on the interconnection of spirit and action. She is co-author, with Ram Dass, of Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service, published by Random House.

Mirabai has organized, facilitated, and taught for more than 20 years and has a special interest in the uncovering and recovery of women’s spiritual wisdom to inform work for social change. Her spiritual studies include meditation study at the Burmese Vihara in Bodh Gaya, India, with Shri S.N. Goenka and Anagarika Munindra; bhakti yoga with Hindu teacher Neemkaroli Baba; and studies with Tibetan lamas Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Kyabje Gehlek Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and others. She also did five years of intensive practice in Iyengar yoga and five years of Aikido with Kanai Sensei. Her earlier religious study included 20 years of Catholic schooling, ending with Georgetown University graduate study in medieval literature. She holds an ABD in American literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo.


Praise for Contemplative Practices in Higher 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


“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


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


“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


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


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