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Summer 2005 Newsletter

MirabaiDear Friends,

As the public dialog becomes increasingly adversarial and partisan, The Center has been encouraging circles of people sharing what matters to them, which can be a right approach to aging, a contemplation perspective on democracy, or meditating on the subway. We have explored many methods for this, usually based on “council circle,” a practice where everyone gets a chance to tell their story and speak with a fresh open quality about what they know. As sacred space, the circle contains everything placed within it, with the intention of no judgment, no hierarchy. It invites the often surprising collective wisdom. It calls for good and great ideas, which, Camus said, “come into the world as gently as doves…on a faint flutter of wings.” We often start and end with silence so we can hear those wings.

Recently, at the home of Bokara Legendre, I was sitting in such a circle, balancing raspberry cobbler on my knee and listening to Dr. Rachel Remen talk about a program she started, Meaning in Medicine, when I heard something that resonated for the Center’s work. Timing. She said that it has connected with a deep need in the culture and it is moving by itself to be adapted by thousands of doctors, health care professionals, medical educators and medical students.

What touched me was that it is moving by itself. With the need and receptivity in place, she offered a simple model with integrity for meeting the need, and the program is flourishing like the weeds in my New England garden.

After feeling for years like we were walking on the moon, I realize now that we were way ahead of the curve and are just beginning to see that ease and receptivity in the Center’s work. Time helped us by putting meditation on its cover (perhaps to avoid using a controversial political subject) and announcing that contemplative practices are no longer on the fringe but practiced by a wide range of Americans from movie stars to lawyers to students to health care workers. After the enthusiasm at the Center’s Contemplative Practices and Education: Making Peace in Ourselves and in the World at Columbia, we knew we did not have much lead time but wanted to offer a summer session at Smith College for professors to design a contemplative course for next year. We thought that 10 participants would justify the work and expense to make it happen, and we hoped we’d get that many, but we were doubtful. In the next few weeks, 60 people applied, and we had to stop admitting at 32! They will each develop a course to take back to their universities, where it will affect classrooms of students. When we first offered Contemplative Practice Fellowships, we wondered if there was anyone out there who would take the pioneering risk of actually offering some contemplative experience as part of their course in poetry, religious studies, or writing. Now we have 108 fellows in 79 colleges and universities in every discipline, developing contemplative modes of teaching, learning, researching, and knowing.

Some of the Center’s roots are also in retreats for social justice activists: from the beginning, we offered contemplative practices to sustain commitment, deepen vision, and transform anger to compassion. Last month, at a gathering hosted by stone circles at Garrison Institute, board and staff members of the Center came together with 50 such activists. We practiced together, shared stories, and created a Sacred Slam (“ fierce examination and analysis worthy of veneration or respect”). We moved toward articulating a new definition of spiritual activism. At the Center’s first retreats and later in interviews with leaders in social justice activism (see “Inviting the World To Transform”), we heard the beginnings of something new and powerful, a faint flutter of wings suggesting how personal liberation, the interconnection of all life, and action for justice interrelate. But this gathering confirmed that the conversation is electrically alive. Even more to the point, models of action in the field are now deeply informed by a spiritual perspective, which is increasing insight into difficult situations and compassion even for adversaries. In a surprising statement that points to the clarifying power of wisdom, john powell woke us by saying that the more conscious you are, the fewer choices you have. As we see things as they are, the path becomes clear. Much more needs to happen, but strong visionary leaders have been drawn to this emerging spiritual alternative to fundamentalist interventions, and I think its growth is now inevitable.

So gather with friends and others in circles of sharing, with the intention of hearing just what emerges, bearing witness to it, listening for the flutter. Set an intention; ask everyone to speak what matters to them right now; encourage them to be wide open, free of focus; give everyone time to speak and listen from the heart; add some silence. Enjoy.

Summer blessings,

Mirabai Bush
Executive Director

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You're Invited!

Joseph Goldstein: The Journey of Meditation

Tuesday, August 15th, 2005
Smith College, Northampton MA

Joseph Goldstein has been leading insight and lovingkindness meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. He is a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where he is one of the resident guiding teachers. In 1989, together with several other teachers and students of insight meditation, he helped establish the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. He is the author of Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom, The Experience of Insight, and co-author of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and Insight Meditation: A Correspondence Course. His new book is One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism.

Seating is limited!

For ticket information and purchasing, please contact Heather Henderson at 413-582-0071 x10.

Proceeds of this event to benefit the work of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

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2004-2005 Contemplative Practice Fellows Announced

We are pleased to announce our new 2005 Contemplative Practice Fellows. Eight new Fellows now join over 100 others at 79 universities and colleges around the country. The response to the Fellowship competition was overwhelming this year, which made selection of the Fellows difficult, but it is also gratifying to see the tremendous growth of interest in contemplative practice in higher education.

This year, the Fellowships were awarded in two categories.

Five Contemplative Practice Fellowships were awarded to support individual or collaborative research leading to the development of courses and teaching materials that integrate contemplative practices into courses. These fellowships are designed to advance scholarship in the field and to encourage innovative pedagogy and course design. Our new Contemplative Practice Fellows, and the names of the courses awarded, are:

Amy I. Cheng, Associate Professor of Studio Art, SUNY New Paltz, “Excavating the Creative Process.”

Mitchell S. Green, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia, “Subtle Self-Knowledge.”

David G. Haskell, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of the South, “Food and Hunger: Contemplation and Action.”

David M. Levy, Professor of Information Science at the University of Washington, “Information and Contemplation.”

Shauna Lin Shapiro, Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, “Development of an academic course on the use of meditation in psychotherapy, focusing on theory, research, and practice.”

Three Contemplative Program Development Fellowships were awarded to groups of faculty and administrators who are developing curricular initiatives in contemplative studies of both a formal and informal character. These fellowships support individuals who are creating either a concentration in contemplative studies at their university or a coordinated network of courses and faculty of a less formal nature for the creation of an interdisciplinary community of contemplative practice and inquiry. These new Fellows are:

Geraldine DeLuca, Professor of English, and David J. Forbes, Assistant Professor of Education, at CUNY Brooklyn College, “A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn: Nurturing a Contemplative Educators’ Network on an Urban Campus of Public Higher Education.”

Harold D. Roth, Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Brown University, “Towards a Concentration in Contemplative Studies at Brown University.”

Joseph W. Weiss, Professor of Management at Bentley College, “Introducing Contemplative Practices into the Bentley College Curriculum.”

Fellowships will be awarded again in 2006. Please go to the ACLS website to apply.

The Fellowship Program is a collaboration of the Center and the American Council of Learned Societies, funded by the Fetzer Institute.

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Summer Session grows with demand!

From August 14 to 20, the Center is hosting a 6-day residential Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development at Smith College in Northampton, MA.

The Session will be an extraordinary gathering of people. We received 60 applications for what were originally 25 openings; we have since expanded our offering, and will have 32 participants in August. These participants come from many different institutions across North America, and disciplines ranging from the arts, education and social work, to management and economics. Three participants are recipients of the 2005 Contemplative Practice Fellowships and two are recipients of the 2005 Contemplative Program Development Fellowships.

Participants will spend the week learning from some of our current Contemplative Practice Fellows. They will return to their own classrooms with a deeper understanding of the practice of contemplative teaching and a fully developed course.

Keynote speakers will be :

Joseph Goldstein, insight meditation teacher and author of Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom, The Experience of Insight, and co-author of Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and Insight Meditation: A Correspondence Course. His new book is One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism.

Daniel Goleman, journalist, psychologist, and author of Emotional Intelligence. His work has inspired schools to introduce emotional literacy courses, and he continues to work to help develop these courses. His most recent book, Destructive Emotions, is an account of a scientific dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers.

Faculty for the Session will be:

Andrea Olsen, 1998 Contemplative Practice Fellow, Professor of Dance at Middlebury College, who has taught anatomy and kinesiology since 1972 in workshops and colleges, and author of Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide.

Mary Rose O’Reilley, 2000 Contemplative Practice Fellow and author of The Barn at the End of the World: A Year in the Life of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd, Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice, and The Peaceable Classroom.

Harold Roth, 1999 Contemplative Practice Fellow, 2005 Contemplative Program Development Fellow, and Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Brown University.

Ed Sarath, 1997 Contemplative Practice Fellow, Professor of Music, Director of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation and creator of a BFA in Jazz and Contemplative Studies at the University of Michigan, and founder of STATE (Students, Teachers, and Administrtors fro Transpersonal Education) and the ISIM (International Society for Improvised Music). His newest CD is titled New Beginnings.

Peter Schneider, 1997 Contemplative Practice Fellow and Professor of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Arthur Zajonc, Director of the Center's Academic Program and professor of physics at Amherst College. In 1997 he served as scientific coordinator for the Mind and Life dialogue with H.H. the Dalai Lama' published as The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama. He again organized the 2002 dialogue with the Dalai Lama,“The Nature of Matter, the Nature of Life,” and acted as moderator at MIT for the “Investigating the Mind” dialogue in 2003. He has also been General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America (1994-2002), president of the Lindisfarne Association, and a senior program director at the Fetzer Institute.

More information about the Summer Session is available here.

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Check out our new website

Thanks to the dedicated effort of website team Carrie Bergman and John Berry, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society recently unveiled its newly designed and renovated website. See it here at

The new site has many new features, including new program websites, a new section to help with understanding of contemplative practices, along with a new publications archive, F.A.Q, and history sections. We hope you enjoy the "open" feel to the site's design and welcome further comments and suggestions to make the site even better! Contact: the website team

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Contemplative Practice of the Season: Prayer Flags

It is always hard to find a contemplative practice that can be engaging to a group from different backgrounds of spiritual experience. The creation of prayer flags, stemming from the Tibetan tradition, is a great way to both build community and enliven your home or work space.

In order to make these prayer flags you will need:

1. Linoleum blocks
2. Carving tools
3. A roller for applying ink
4. Block printing ink - preferably water-soluble
5. Wax paper or other surface for rolling ink
6. Thin, smooth material for printing such as
tissue paper, muslin, etc.
7. String or other material for hanging finished flags

Whether you're doing this solo or with your family or co-workers, making prayer flags is an easy way to make something both creative and meditative. The Center recently spent a day making prayer flags during a staff retreat. We were amazed at how we all took the project in different directions, each with a distinctive voice and purpose.

Whether you're carving your block with a definite sense of prayer, or simply for decoration, it's good to remember a few tips:

  • When carving, make sure the cuts are deep enough to avoid the ink when applied.
  • For more intricate designs, try coloring in areas to make a clearer distinction between what you want carved out and what you want left.
  • Letters, numbers, and symbols will all be reversed when finished!
  • Choose a dark ink when printing on a light surface.
  • For a really clear print, try using a clean roller and rolling on the back of the paper when still in contact with the inked block.
  • Try making a tiled pattern or different carvings, or different color prints of the same design.
  • When inking your block, try not to over-ink. Try for a uniform tackiness on your block. To do this, apply the ink with a roller. Getting the right amount of ink for the material you're printing on might take practice.

We spent the day in silence and the carving became a meditative practice. When it came time to print our blocks, there was much more energy and liveliness and we shared excitement over each other's flags. We are looking forward to hanging all our prayer flags in our office meditation room. They will not only brighten our space, they are also a reminder of our diversity, our connection and the prayers, thoughts, and energy we put into the world. Here are some examples from our day:

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Activist and Organizer Retreat at Omega Institute

The Center invited 18 social justice activists and organizers (and three children), emerging leaders in our Social Justice Program, to participate in Omega Institute for Holistic Health’s inaugural Service Week Program. When participants were asked to use three words to describe their time at Omega, many chose “release,” “reflection,” “relaxing,” “refreshing,” “joyful,” “renewing,” “rejuvenating,” “healthy,” and “self-care.”

Omega was the ideal venue for these activists and organizers. Besides the healthy food, being in nature (and away from the chaos of city life), they particularly appreciated having their own private and designated space. This was an important factor in the group’s ability to spend time together beyond the short time we met as a group each day. Many of the leaders used the space in the evenings for spontaneous conversations on issues relative to their social justice work and explored together, for example, what it meant to hold non-violence as a principle when working with communities facing tremendous suffering. Our designated space was our collective “home” at Omega, and in it we laughed, played cards, and watched movies. In addition, many in the group who have a consistent spiritual practice or are developing one especially liked having access to the Omega’s sanctuary for meditation and the yoga and movement classes. Those who had a deep connection and intimacy with the natural world enjoyed access to trails and the lake. There was something for everyone.

Omega’s Service Week was a time for these activists to “do nothing.” Ninety percent of their time was spent in quiet reflection, rest, and rejuvenation. The group met in structured dialogue for only 3 hours a day. It was truly a retreat for them in the fullest sense of the word.

“This retreat has been a true blessing and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity. I hope I can continue to build and grow with the Center for Contemplative Mind and the participants and bring these experiences, learnings and opportunities to more folks.”

“Hoping that Service Week continues and that other local grassroots organizations are contacted so that they can have this opportunity as well. We discussed knowing other groups/activists that could really appreciate this experience.”

Thanks to Omega

We would like to thank the Omega Institute for a truly rejuvenating and wonderful week there at the end of May. The Center’s staff also enjoyed Service Week, a week of free retreat time given by Omega to non-profits engaged in service work. We nourished our bodies with delicious and healthy food, expanded our minds with talented teachers and rejuvenated our spirits with good company in such a lovely setting. We are grateful for the generous donation of the friendly staff’s labor and the facilities. It was a blessing to, in turn, open up our spaces to 18 activists, providing them with an unprecedented opportunity to network with each other, learn contemplative practices, and get in touch with their core values which first drew them to service work. It also helped us think together about how we can collaborate in the future to develop more contemplative organizations. Thank you Omega!

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Spiritual Activism Retreat at Garrison Institute

In June, the Center helped steward a meeting hosted by stone circles on spiritual activism, which included 50 individuals in the field and also allies from other sectors (media, funders, academics, etc.) The purpose of the meeting in part was to articulate and document spiritual/contemplative approaches and practices in the social justice movement.

Rose Sackey-Milligan (Social Justice Program Director), Mirabai Bush (Executive Director), and Board members Rachel Bagby and Rachel Cowan attended the gathering, and were energized to be in a space where the accomplishments of the movement thus far and the momentum toward future activism were so evident. Participants were working on diverse social issues, ranging from prison reform to reclaiming Vieques, PR to youth education and organizing. This great diversity of issues made it clear that spiritual activism is not issue-based, but is really about the underlying principles of equality, equity, compassion, justice, liberation, etc.

Discussions included western dharma and social change, liberation spirituality, vision and values, training, curriculum, and societal shifts.

As Mirabai said in a letter to the participants, "Something has happened in the movement, at least among the people convened - a deepening, a sincere holding of the unholdable truth, a commitment to the work for justice from as real a place as possible and an understanding that the spiritual/contemplative source is what feeds that commitment."

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Upcoming Events

= official Center for Contemplative Mind event

Transforming Organizing Culture through Contemplative Practice:
A Gathering for Emerging Leaders

Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY
September 22-25, 2005

Registration Deadline: August 15th

Download materials (.pdf format):
Invitation Letter
List of Mentors
Registration Form

Join us for a weekend of practice, creative reflection, dialogue, community building, and strategy. Our focus will be on ways in which increased mindfulness, reflection, and contemplation can be helpful to a diverse group of people representing all sectors of the social justice movement during these challenging and difficult times. Experienced activists, many with years of know-how integrating social action and practice, will be sharing their stories and perspectives. The cost of your stay at Garrison and your travel expenses from the northeast and mid-Atlantic states of MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, and PA will be covered by the Center.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, founded in 1997, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which works to integrate contemplative awareness into contemporary life in order to help create a more just, compassionate and reflective society. The Social Justice Program works with a diverse group of people representing all sectors of the social justice movement. It offers support to social justice organizers and activists committed to changing the existing culture of organizing and to creating a stronger, more sustainable movement for social change.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Rose Sackey-Milligan, SJP Director, at (413) 582-0071 or write to, in order to receive a registration form. You can also download the registration form as a .pdf document or a .doc document.

Registration deadline is August 15th.

Lawyers' Retreat

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

Faculty: Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Mary Mocine, James Baraz, and Charlie Halpern

Mark your calendars! -- more information TBA.

The Conference on Spiritual Activism

July 20-23, 2005 Berkeley, CA
Feb. 10-13, 2006 Washington, D.C.

Goals of the conference:

1. Challenge the misuse of God by the Right to justify militarism, dismanlting of social justice and ecological programs, and assaults on the rights of women, gays, and lesbians

2. Challenge the anti-spiritual bias in some parts of "the Left"

3. Support a New Line of kindness, generosity, ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe, to replace the dominant ethos of selfishness and materialism.

For progressive people of all faiths, and spiritually attuned secular people as well.

For more information please visit or contact

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Teachers College Record Seeks Manuscripts on Contemplative Practices and Education

Teachers College Record, a major journal in educational research and practice, is planning a special issue on contemplative practices and education. 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.

Clifford Hill reports that several papers have been submitted to date, but he is waiting for more submissions before making the final decision on which papers to publish. He said the issue would be published 2006.

From our Friends at Kosmos Journal

"The editorial policy of Kosmos is somewhat different from those of other journals. We invite our contributors because of the quality of their being and their authentic passion for a relevant topic. I am so excited when the articles arrive. I feel life in them and they compel me to expand my circle of concern and to search more deeply. As I read the articles the theme of the Issue emerges on its own. Soon I can't let it go. I am searching even more deeply and keep circling back to Oneness -- Kosmos -- Alignment."

From the Editorial | Kosmos Spring/Summer 2005 by Nancy Roof

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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
general email:

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