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The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Fall / Winter 2005 Newsletter

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Contents

You don't have a choice. You have to engage. There's not much of an alternative ... We need to acknowledge our engagement, instead of being scared of it, and look for ways to utilize our participation in the world to do some good. It is possible to practice meditation and look at our own minds, to develop these qualities and realize, ‘Oh, this is actually a journey.'

- Sakyong Mipham

Mirabai Bush

Dear Friends,

Meditation not only changes the mind, it also changes the physical brain. Neuroscientists sat with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC, last month and told him that, with their new tools, they are witnessing interesting changes in the brain from meditation. They can actually see it transform anger and frustration caused by long-term stress into neutral states and positive emotions. They described the state as heightened preparation for action.  We might call it presence.  Aikido masters say, Expect nothing, be ready for anything. Cultivate a mind that is tranquil and alert, fully present for whatever arises. I was so excited I wanted to run from the room, find a quiet space, sit down and start watching my breath.

The following week I was at a meeting in California on bird flu convened by Seva Foundation Chair Larry Brilliant. Epidemiologists, government planners, chicken veterinarians, and high-tech innovators had come together because they are worried that, if (or when) a human-to-human transmissible avian flu pandemic occurs, the resources of the federal, state and local governments and the existing health care system will be totally overwhelmed. As a country, we are not ready. We are not in a state of heightened preparation for action. They talked about the need for resilience networks, surge capacities, networks of trust, rapid prototyping, reshaping systems. Chance, they said, favors the prepared mind. It was the subject of the neuroscientists taken to a larger context, from the individual to the national, and, in fact, to the global network: cultivate a mind that rests in a tranquil but alert state, ready to respond when needed.

We started the Center by asking whether meditation could play a beneficial role in mainstream settings. We asked: is there is a positive correlation between meditation and social action? It seems that the answer is yes, evidenced by both the scientific findings and some of our most recent work reported in this newsletter.

At a summer program for professors from across the country, Contemplative Practice Fellows who have been exploring contemplative education reported on how readiness of mind engages students in deeper and more creative ways with their course material.

At a Center gathering of 40 social justice activists and 6 mentors, participants talked about the history of spiritual activism, including the work of Cesar Chavez, and shared their experiences of how contemplative practices are helping them stay healthy and motivated and work better in their networks.

The Center also convened lawyers and judges in the California Bay Area to develop “a meditative perspective” on their lives in the law—an outlook that gradually develops through the thoughtful application of meditation practice to daily living, which helps see life and work in a wider context.

In closing, this is the season for giving, and we want you to know that this work is enhanced by your generosity. We ask you to join us, helping us to provide opportunities for bringing individuals and the global consciousness closer to a state of awakened presence, ready to respond to whatever arises so that we can all lead more healthy, compassionate, safe, and happy lives.

Peace to all,

Mirabai Bush
Executive Director

Winter Fundraiser

Our annual fundraising drive is underway!

If you'd like to receive our mailer and learn more about the work of The Center, please contact us.

More instructions for how to give can be found on our donation page.

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Summer Session image

Summer Session on Curriculum Development

photo by Lisa Berry

Inspired by the growth and success of the Contemplative Practice Fellowship Program, we convened a residential summer session on contemplative curriculum development from August 19-24, 2005. The summer session prepared participants to return to their classrooms with a deeper understanding of the practice of contemplative teaching.

32 professors from colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada attended the week-long session at Smith College, representing a wide range of disciplines including education, law, business, mathematics, economics, philosophy, history, psychology, social work, arts, and architecture.

The session was taught by several Contemplative Practice Fellows and the Center’s Academic Program staff, who provided opportunities for rigorous investigation, reflection, writing, and discussion. Participants used the time to research, prepare, and evaluate methods for integrating contemplative practices into their courses and curricula.

Mornings began with yoga and meditation, followed by a presentation, discussion and sharing of contemplative practices led each day by a different faculty member. There were long lunch breaks of
2 ½ hours, and afternoons began with an hour of contemplative movement. Participants then divided into small groups where they continued to explore that day’s topic in depth, or had free time to develop their own courses. The small groups gave teachers an opportunity to share their ideas, intentions, hopes, fears, and questions about their courses in a more intimate space. All were encouraged to practice deep listening when others spoke.

The next Summer Session will be held August 10-19, 2006. The application process will begin in February 2006. Please check our website for details at that time.

Save the date: August 13-19th, 2006! 

The Center will once again host a residential summer session on
Contemplative Curriculum Development at Smith College in Northampton, MA,
August 13th – 19th, 2006.

A Burst of News!

The Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote:

The Northampton center's efforts are already bearing fruit. At the University of Michigan School of Music, students can receive bachelor's degrees in a program called jazz and contemplative studies. An economist at Emory University has drawn up a syllabus that requires his students to meditate on pictures of poor people. And at Brown, a religious studies professor includes meditation "labs" among his course requirements.

When the center advertised this curriculum-development seminar for paying customers, it received twice as many applications as it could accept.

You can read the full article on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. The Chronicle also hosted an online discussion in response to the article; you can read the transcript of the discussion.

Our local paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, wrote:

'[Higher education] is a prelude to everything that happens in the professions,' Bush said. The network of scholars that came together at the conference will help introduce meditation and yoga into mainstream American life - a move that she says has waxed and waned in the past, but is again picking up momentum.

Read the full article on the Center for Contemplative Mind website.

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Social Justice Gathering image

Transforming Organizing Culture through Contemplative Practice:
Reflections on a Gathering for Emerging Leaders

In modern Western society, our elders are not generally held in high esteem. Elders are often perceived as “finished” or “used up”. However, in many non-western societies elders are important because they characteristically possess intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom on the history, culture, language, beliefs, and customs of their people. They are the educators, healers, advisors, consultants, spiritualists, herbalists, mediums, psychics, doctors and psychologists.

On September 22-25, an intergenerational multi-ethnic gathering of 6 elder mentors and 34 northeast emerging community leaders, serving as activists and organizers, gathered at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, to explore the place of faith and the contemplative in past and current movements for social change. The participation of activists and organizers was a 100% increase over last year.

The gathering was a deep ritualized experience. Tired and excited when they arrived, everyone participated in the weekend’s opening to honor our social justice movement ancestors, those whose lives have offered tremendous source of strength and inspiration. At the end of the first night, one could feel a sense of trust, sharing, openness and community being built among people who only just met.

That night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Our time together was driven by a sweet sense of excitement and longing to be in a place of rest and rejuvenation. We laughed, cried and saw the world through different eyes. And most significantly, our hearts were opened to embrace a deeper love for justice and each other. Over the course of the weekend, the mentors were accessible, and many participants met with them to talk about a variety of issues ― spirituality, the value and benefits of a contemplative practice, and the place of spirituality in social action in the 21st century.

Individual activists and organizers deepened their understanding of contemplative practices. Some delved into art and meditation, while others explored yoga, drumming and council practice. Other chose ritual and healing practices. And others took long walks on the trails or meditated outdoors under the stars. Many uncovered that these ancient practices are a set of mental disciplines or training exercises which help to strengthen and focus the mind and open the heart, leading to more effective activism and organizing. In group and one-on-one sessions, there was a mutual exchange between elders and mentors.

At our closing, we positioned our bodies to form the infinity symbol. In the midst of singing and drumming, we set forth a dream of hope for a just and peaceful planet. In this arrangement, we shared the universal rhythm of one heart and the eternal heartbeat, the balance of feminine and masculine energies, and the interconnectedness of life. We then exchanged goodbyes and looked forward to coming together again next Spring.

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The Center Brings Meditation to National Grid

On August 4th, Center staff introduced contemplative practices to the Northeast Inclusion and Diversity Steering Committee of National Grid (locally known as Mass Electric). They were celebrating the Committee’s one-year anniversary, and asked The Center to help them as they reflected on their year of service and the challenges ahead. The Director of Inclusion and Diversity found The Center on the web and felt that our obvious commitment to diversity and justice made us a perfect fit for their meeting.

The group of twenty-four was diverse, open, and thoughtful. Dan Edwards (Youth Program Director) and Mirabai Bush led them in mindfulness, deep listening, and contemplative compassion practice. Everyone loved the workshop, and the Director of Inclusion and Diversity said he hopes to interest top management in a contemplative component for their next retreat. Some of the group said they wanted to begin their future meetings with mindfulness. For additional information on contemplative organizations, read our online reports, "A Powerful Silence" and "Creating the Contemplative Organization."

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Introduction to Meditation for Lawyers

The Center hosted an Introduction to Meditation for Legal Professionals on November 1st at the Wheelwright Center at Green Gulch Farm.  Led by Zoketsu Norman Fischer,  Charlie Halpern, Chair of Center's board, and Douglas Chermak, our Law Program Coordinator, we welcomed twenty participants to learn about meditation and how to bring a meditative perspective to law practice.  Norman led the group in meditation and facilitated large group discussions.  Charlie Halpern led a brief qigong session.  The participants were enthusiastic about the practical applications of meditation to their work in the law.  It seemed that the promise of meditation opened a whole new world for many of the lawyers in attendance.   We hope to offer similar programs in the future.

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Splinter Associates blueprint

An Interview with Gregory Splinter, Architect

"In a lot of ways, when you act contemplatively, you act out of a big bang.
You don't act out of knowing everything. You act out of creating possibilities."

Gregory Splinter is an architect with a unique and contemplative approach to the art of design. While studying Architecture and Urban Design under Charles W. Moore at the University of Texas in Austin, Gregory began to explore ways to integrate his personal beliefs and spiritual practices with the design process.

“I’d always felt that the spiritual side of myself was something that was important to me; I’d grown up Catholic, and I’m still a practicing Catholic. I’ve always felt there was real value in integrating one’s faith life with one’s work life, especially in the arts or architecture. I thought, if I want to design architecture that invigorates people’s sublime sensitivity--which is a spiritual thing--wouldn’t it make sense to use a spiritual process to create that architecture?”

While working on his thesis, entitled Design through Contemplation, Gregory's primary influences were the writings of Thomas Merton and a class in Creation Breakthrough at Mundelein (now Loyola) University in Chicago. The program was founded by Matthew Fox and enabled him to develop further his interest in integrating spiritual practice and his work.

“We were doing some very cool and creative things out of a very prayerful environment, a prayerful experience. So it wasn’t a huge leap to say, ‘What if I did this process with another creative enterprise, called architecture?’ And it just evolved from there.”

In 1998, after almost 20 years of teaching and practicing architecture, Gregory and his wife Diane founded their own firm, Splinter Associates.

Carrie Bergman, CMind's webmaster, phoned Gregory in late June to discuss his work; he spoke from his studio in Wisconsin.

Read the entire interview on the Center for Contemplative Mind website.

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Upcoming Events

The Mountain and the Garden: The Contemplative Practice of Visual Arts

March 3rd - 29th, 2006
Reception: Friday, March 10th, 5 - 7pm
A.P.E. Gallery, Northampton, MA

What are the varied ways in which artists approach the visual arts as a means to greater reflection and spiritual understanding?

Organized and curated by the Contemplative Mind staff, this exhibition will present work created by Pioneer Valley artists expressing a concern for the transformative possibilities, both personally and collectively, of the visual arts. The artists will donate half of any proceeds to the work of The Center.

If you would like to receive an exhibition postcard, please email john@contemplativemind.org
Visit the A.P.E. Gallery website for directions. More info TBA!

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Contemplative Practices in Arts & Architecture Education

February 9-12, 2006 (invitation only)
University of Colorado, Boulder

This is an invitation-only event for our Contemplative Practice Fellows and others involved in our Academic Program. For further information regarding this event and the work of the Academic Program, contact Academic Coordinator Sunanda Markus.

Lawyers' Retreat

April 20-23, 2006
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Woodacre, CA

The latest in our series of retreats for law students, lawyers, judges and other legal professionals. Faculty: Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Mary Mocine, James Baraz, and Charlie Halpern.

Mark your calendars! -- more information TBA.

The Association of Mindfulness in Education Lecture Series

January 26th, 2006 and February 24th, 2007
University of California, San Francisco

The Association for Mindfulness in Education is pleased to announce an evening lecture series for 2006. The first evening will feature Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, January 26th, 2006, at the Laurel Heights Auditorium at UCSF in San Francisco. We will also be hosting an all-day conference on Saturday, February 24th, 2007. The Center for Contemplative Mind is a sponsor of this lecture series, and our Director, Mirabai Bush, will present an upcoming lecture.

More information is available at www.mindfuleducation.org.

New Book released by Academic Program affiliate Sharon Daloz Parks

Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World
Hardcover, 287 pages
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (October 18, 2005)
ISBN: 59139309

This book argues that today’s complex times require a new kind of leader—one who can adapt to constant changes, learn in the moment and apply that learning to make wise business decisions. But to train this type of leader, we need a new approach to leadership teaching. Leadership Can Be Taught dynamically outlines Ronald Heifetz’s renowned “case-in-point” approach, which enables managers to learn crucial business skills from immediate experience rather than through third-hand readings.

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The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northampton, MA 01060 USA
phone: (413) 582-0071
fax: (413) 582-1330
email: info@contemplativemind.org
web: www.contemplativemind.org

Questions, concerns? This e-newsletter was made & sent by John Berry

top image by Lisa Berry