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Spring 2005 E-newsletter


  1. Letter from Mirabai
  2. In Review...
  3. Our Upcoming Events
  4. Other Upcoming Events
  5. Contact Us
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Mirabai Bush

It was there all the time. An open secret. We kept asking if there was something we should be doing about the state of this country — Shouldn’t the Center convene discussions on the contribution of contemplative perspectives to this difficult time; maybe we should give retreats for politicians; how about a series of op-eds?

Then last month we hosted a conference at Columbia University on contemplative education, the latest event in seven years of Center-sponsored fellowships, meetings, and contemplative performance. Jon Kabat Zinn, scientist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, urged us to come to our senses, to break through to the knowing that is based on direct experience, to see with eyes of wholeness, to practice awareness of the mind as if our lives depended on it “because in virtually every way that has any meaning, literal or metaphorical, they surely do."

Academic Fellow Marilyn Nelson, who teaches poetry at the University of Connecticut and taught at West Point, talked about teaching her students, including the cadets "to listen to silence hidden within the noise of our lives, which is - sometimes literally - ; deafening."

Arthur Zajonc, who teaches physics at Amherst, built a brilliant argument for recovering the heart of learning though contemplation, which leads to "an epistemology of love". We learn by becoming intimate with the object, he said, not more separate, whether we are studying a text, an equation, or a painting. It is a way of knowing that does not replace but extends and enlarges what we know through critical thinking.

And then I got it. This is the most radical response to what is going on. Consider some recent news: “intelligence" (great use of the word) on Iraqi weapons was "dead wrong," or increasing pressure to teach Biblical Creationism in public schools, or unlimited spending on defense while cutting taxes and overhauling social services.

What are we thinking - or, more important, how are we thinking? The absolute most important change we need to survive as a democratic society is a new way of knowing, an inquiry into the truth that respects the integrity of what is being studied, whether it is the weapons factories of Iraq, bones of dinosaurs, stem cells, the roots of religious fundamentalism, or the U.S. Constitution. An "epistemology of love" might sound new age or naive to the skeptical in academia and in society at large, but if you read Arthur’s paper closely and follow the work of our academic Fellows, you see that it is a path to the most practical truth.

Enjoy the reports and papers in this newsletter and at are working to expand the site, so it can fully serve its significant purpose. See you there.

Be happy and long for the truth,

Mirabai Bush
Executive Director

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In Review...

Conference on Contemplative Practices and Education:
Making Peace in Ourselves and in the World

Teachers College, Columbia University
Feb 11-13, 2005

Ed SarathOur recent conference at Columbia University affirmed the work that has gone into the Academic program over the past 8 years. It was one of those events where everything seemed to work out perfectly: fully attended (sold out, with a waiting list), held in a beautiful space (the Milbank Chapel, an exquisite room of wood paneling and stained glass), and there was an extraordinary group of presenters, panelists, and performers, including the improvisational Creative Arts Orchestra (left) from the University of Michigan.

Jon Kabat-Zinn gave the keynote address, entitled Education as if It Really Mattered: The Unification of Knowing through Contemplative Practice, and set the stage for the weekend program by inviting all present to view themselves as being both teacher and student, and to let go of the dichotomy that is ever present in our lives. Marilyn Nelson, Poet Laureate of Connecticut and Professor Emerita of English at the University of Connecticut, shared her understanding of the term contemplative pedagogy: teaching an “attitude [of openness to explore] the several ways in which listening can occur and how one can listen for and to silence.” Daniel Holland, Professor of Psychology at the University of Arkansas, talked about his course, Contemplative Practice, Health Promotion, and Disability: An Experiential Seminar in Partnership with Disability Support Services. Prof. Holland's focus as student and teacher of contemplative education is to determine whether contemplative practices are accessible to people with physical, cognitive or intellectual disabilities. More generally, Prof. Holland asked, “How do we begin to make these practices in contemplative education more accessible for everyone?”

Many more talks and presentations were given; an inital report is available on our Academic Program web site; a full report will be available in the near future.

The Teachers College Record, a major journal in educational research and practice, is now planning a special issue on contemplative practices and education. Both presenters and participants at this conference were encouraged to contribute to the issue. Anyone who is interested should send a manuscript (not exceeding 7500 words) to Clifford Hill at Given its strong commitment to qualitative research on educational practice, Teachers College Record especially invites manuscripts that document how contemplative practices are integrated into various kinds of educational settings.

in other Academic Program news...

Contemplative Practice Fellowships Awarded

Eight Contemplative Practice Fellowships have been awarded for the 2005-06 academic year. The winning professors will be announced in June on our website and at

The next Fellowships will be awarded in 2006. For guidelines and deadlines, visit

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In the following article, Steven Keeva (an assistant managing editor of the ABA Journal an author of Transforming Practices) reflects on the Center's most recent Lawyers' Retreat, held at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in November 2004.


Steven Keeva

In this age of unprecedented distraction and information density, every professional needs tools to clear the mind, calm the body and reveal what matters most. It is both a practical and a personal necessity.”

I wrote that a couple of years ago, and I think it’s even truer now.

It’s certainly not difficult these days to find lawyers who are ambivalent about their work. In fact, I hear from them all the time. Many tell me they would like what they do a great deal more if only so much didn’t get in the way of enjoying what substantial pleasures there are. But working in a culture of anger, distrust and soaring stress levels tends to take a toll.

I think it’s particularly daunting to surmount such challenges without some version of the tools I mentioned above. It may be characteristic for lawyers to try to think themselves out of personal problems, but attempting to do so is rarely successful. Something else is needed. For what is clearly an increasing number of lawyers, a contemplative practice of some sort seems to make sense.

I recently attended a meditation retreat for lawyers at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center north of San Francisco. About 70 people attended the four-day gathering amid lovely, deer-dappled hills and glorious quiet. Large, medium and small firms were well represented, as were an extraordinary number of practice areas. Everyone, I think it’s safe to say, came with a longing for something better than law practice as they typically experience it. They came to the right place, a place for reflection and an opportunity to delve into their inner lives. Here they could experience a sense of calm rarely felt in the life of a busy lawyer.

Norman Fischer, a Zen priest, spiritual teacher, author and poet, began the retreat with this description of what meditation is: “It is sitting with the actual feeling of being alive. It is always there, but we get busy and don’t feel it.” What followed were long periods of meditation, but also time for deep discussions. Participants shared their experiences with an honesty that is rare when lawyers come together. Some fessed up that they came as a last ditch attempt to find a reason to stay in the profession.

For me, what made this retreat particularly meaningful —and I’ve been to several other retreats for lawyers— was the way in which it integrated some of the noteworthy work that preceded it. Over the last two and a half years, a group of distinguished and diverse lawyers and judges, along with some law students, began meeting monthly as the Bay Area Working Group on Law and Meditation.

Their purpose was dual: First, they wanted to share with one another their experience of meditation and law, while supporting and strengthening one another in whatever way they could. And second, they wanted to discuss how to spread their interest in meditation into other areas, particularly the legal profession, legal institutions and even legal doctrine.


What seems to me to be a signal achievement is the group’s articulation of a new concept: the meditative perspective on life and law. It’s a way of viewing the world and acting in it that is both inspired and fostered by meditation.

Among its benefits are:

  • Enhancing lawyer listening skills and promoting self-reflection.
  • Helping lawyers see things as they are, not as they hope or expect them to be.
  • Helping lawyers stay grounded and centered in situations that are agitating, stressful and polarizing.
  • Helping lawyers or judges respond with wisdom to claims that are forcefully presented, but not always grounded in wisdom.
  • Promoting clarity and calmness.
  • Promoting a heightened sense of ethics.

One veteran lawyer and member of the Bay Area Working Group—Sacramento, Calif., health-care lawyer Dennis Warren— gave a talk that went a long way toward showing how this perspective can inform an actual law practice. Having come a good part of the way toward making his law and meditation practices seamless, he has overseen dozens of retreats and given numerous talks on the relationship between law and contemplative practice.

He described a recent case in which he felt that a longtime client was being treated unfairly by a government employee. Recalling a time earlier in his career, he acknowledged previous difficulties he had when dealing with anger.

“In this particular case, although I was upset,” Warren said, “I was really able to be present with it, and quite quickly develop a game plan, globalize resources, bring in other groups and set up a very effective attack. That type of thing ... is what meditation practice does for me.”

Warren describes the way meditation calms and stabilizes the mind, creating a sense of spaciousness that makes it easier to investigate one’s own inner and outer realities. Being in his presence, it’s easy to see why people are often surprised to find out what he does for a living.

The next retreat for lawyers at Spirit Rock is scheduled for April 14-17. For more information, visit the Web site:

Steven Keeva, an assistant managing editor, is the author of Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life. His e-mail address is

Reprinted with permission from ABA Journal, March 2005

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Our Upcoming Events

Summer session posterSummer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development

Smith College, Northampton, MA
August 14 - 20, 2005

This Summer Session will provide an opportunity for teachers in universities and colleges to research, prepare, and evaluate curricula that integrate contemplative practices into courses in any discipline. Participants will devote the week to rigorous investigation, reflection, writing, and discussion, guided by distinguished scholars and contemplative teachers who have already developed such courses.

The summer session aims to prepare participants to return to their classrooms with a deeper understanding of the practice of contemplative teaching and a fully developed course.

Cost is $400 (includes tuition, room, and all meals). Open to professors at two and four year colleges. Previous experience with contemplative practice is not required but helpful.

Learn more and apply online:

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Working the Edge: Practicing Right Livelihood

A retreat with our Executive Director, Mirabai Bush
Zen Mountain Monastery, Mt. Tremper, NY
June 10-12, 2005

This retreat will explore the ethical dilemmas of our work lives. How can we live a meaningful and authentic life and still support our families and ourselves? What is the connection between dharma and democracy? How can we contribute to social change that moves us to a more sustainable world? This retreat will be an open forum to delve into practical challenges and barriers we encounter at work, and to investigate how our work can and does impact the whole world.

For more information, visit the Zen Mountain Monastery web site.

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The Practice of Engaged Meditation: Waking Up In The World

Presented by Mirabai Bush, Charlie Halpern, Susan Halpern, Noah Levine, Gina Salá, Tami Simon
Hollyhock, Cortes Island, BC, Canada
July 13-17, 2005
Tuition: $495 CDN, $413 US (meals & accommodation extra), 4 nights

Co-presented with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and Sounds True. Co-sponsored by Shambhala Sun, Spirituality & Health, and The Hollyhock Leadership Institute.

Contemplative practice has traditionally inspired, guided and sustained people—ordinary and extraordinary—in responding to what calls them to action. Each of us has something valuable to contribute in coming together with others compelled to make a difference. Hear stories about how people are engaging with the critical demands of the world, including yours. Find the time and place to work with resistance and adversity. The schedule is simple and spacious with keynote presentations & Dharma talks, meditation instruction, and interactive dialogues and experiences. Guided practices include mindfulness meditation, chanting, Qi Gong, Metta / Loving-kindness meditation, and body focused practice.

For people involved in demanding work or volunteer service seeking understanding and the means to sustain themselves and their causes over the long term—and for people with a meditation practice or spiritual path who want to extend their practice beyond the cushion into their worldly affairs.

Everyone is welcome, those new to meditation and seasoned practitioners; each person receives a Contemplative Mind toolkit of “best practices” to take home.

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Other Upcoming Events

Insight Dialogue: A Residential Retreat for Health Professionals

with Gregory Kramer
The Lotus Conference Center, Buckingham, VA
May 3 - 8, 2005

As professionals, we enter healing relationships inspired by our good hearts and supported by years of professional training. Over time, however, we often find it difficult to sustain our unbiased presence and approach each new client and each new moment with energy, openness and curiosity. For many, meditation is a great help in soothing these inevitable stresses. During this five day retreat, we will see how meditation can offer far more than simple stress relief through the Insight Dialogue practice of meditation-in-relationship.

Based on Vipassana, Insight Dialogue offers explicit guidelines for cultivating clear awareness and calm in the unfolding moment of interpersonal contact. These guidelines are sustained by an active style of teaching that continually calls us to calm presence and acceptance, particularly when battered by our conditioning in relationship with others. In our meditation, we will engage together in dialogue, challenged and supported by topics and activities that open our hearts and minds to see with great kindness where we become caught in our hungers to be seen, to hide, to be certain, and to search for a fixed sense of self and other. We will listen deeply, enter into community and release preconceptions and grasping. We will learn to let go of roles and judgments, moment-to-moment, and enter into spontaneous interactions that lead to wise choices, peace, and healing for both ourselves and our clients.

For more information contact:
Sharon Beckman-Brindley: (434) 296-2350
Susan Kaufman: (434) 963-0324, ext. #3

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Law Dharma: Meditation and Meditative Movement

Led by Mary Mocine
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, CA
May 15-20, 2005

In May, Mary Mocine and senior yoga students will offer a dharma retreat for lawyers at Tassajara, featuring meditation and yoga as well as other meditative movement. The purpose of the retreat is to give members of the legal profession an opportunity to unwind and explore contemplative practices and how they support the practice of law. The retreat will offer MCLE credit; it will be gentle and simple. We will consider the question: “What’s meditation got to do with it?”

10 hours MCLE credit: 3 law practice management, 2 ethics, 2 litigation, 2 elimination of bias and 1 substance abuse. Cost: $300.00 (in 2004) plus room and board. Some scholarship assistance may be available.

See Tassajara at the website. For lodging and transportation details, call (415) 865-1899.

For more information, contact Mary Mocine at or call (707) 649-2480.

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Harvard Insight Initiative Summer Learning Forum

Harvard University Law School - Program on Negotiation
Cambridge, MA
June 20-24, 2005

Give yourself a break this summer by joining the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative Summer Learning Forum.  For one special week you can relax, learn and enjoy.

The Summer Learning Forum is a unique opportunity to combine professional and personal learning with fascinating colleagues from around the world.  Experimenting with contemplation, mindfulness, and self-reflection gives participants a chance to slow down, take a breath, and find the center.  Exploring advanced techniques in conflict resolution allows for deepening and expanding your repertoire and skills.

If you need to take a break this summer while enhancing your capabilities, join us from June 20-24 at Harvard University for the HNII Summer Learning Forum. Discounts are available for non-profit professionals and groups of 3 or more.

To register, visit:

Or email

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Being Change: The Way of the Activist

August 6-11, 2005
Vallecitos Mountain Refuge
Taos, New Mexico
Presented by Stone Circles

Spiritual Activism is not a philosophy — it is a Way of life. The fullest integration of an intellectual understanding of justice and an embodied realization of liberation requires committed time that we may not encounter in our daily lives. Periods of retreat dedicated to this integration are fundamental part of our development. This 5-day retreat will provide activists with a structure that supports their spiritual practice while developing their understanding of social change. More information on Being Change.

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Retreat for Scientists

Led by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg
Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
January 7 - 14, 2006

For the first time, a group of scientists will gather for a week of silent meditation practice to explore ways in which a rigorous and systematic approach to introspection can inform their research. This retreat has been organized by scientists, for scientists. The goal of this retreat will be to introduce researchers in the mind sciences to in-depth training in meditation.

This retreat is open to graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty who work in the broad area of the mind sciences. The retreat will include periods of dialogue led by scientists who have participated in events organized by the Mind & Life Institute. They will lead focused discussions on topics that are relevant to the intersection of the mind, neurosciences, and contemplative practice.

The cost is on a sliding scale basis.

To register

or call: (978-355-4378) for more information

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Contact Us

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northampton, MA 01060 USA
phone: (413) 582-0071
fax: (413) 582-1330
general email:

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