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The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Fall/Winter 2006 e-Newsletter
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Event Reports


Mirabai Bush

Dear Friends,

I had a dream the other night: I was in a meditation room—all the pillows and chairs were gone, just a big expanse of white carpet. My friend Bo was doing yoga postures and somersaults, saying “I love empty spaces—they are so full of possibilities!” I think that must have been the contemplative mind--so full of possibilities. At a gathering on contemplative social justice recently, we were telling stories about how we became committed to this path. Someone brought an onion and put it on the round wooden table at the center of the circle. “It’s been about peeling off the layers of misunderstanding,” he said, “just peeling and letting them go, till all that is left is an empty space and possibilities.” (The onion is an especially good metaphor, since all that peeling can involve crying.)

During our summer session on contemplative pedagogy at Smith this year, Joanna Ziegler, who teaches art history at Holy Cross, projected a painting on the wall and asked us to write briefly what we saw, and then she read the results. Every one was different. “What is actually there?” she asked. Look again. And again and again. An hour later, we were still peeling back the onion of our conditioned judgments. Her students do it for 13 weeks.

We need your support to offer the opportunity to many more people to act from a calm, clear, and kind mind, full of possibilities. Please give us your support at whatever level you can.

The empty space of the clear contemplative mind and heart is also the place from which love in all its mystery arises. May love fill your life this season and radiate out to fill the lives of everyone, everywhere.

In peace, always,

Mirabai Bush
Executive Director


Help Support Our Work! Last chance to give to the Center before the New Year!

10 Year Brochure

Check your snail mail for our 10-year brochure, showing many of the ways we’ve worked to bring mindfulness and compassion into the center of American life. Or read it online and see highlights of our past ten years of contemplative action and how you can be a part of the next ten.


Uncovering the Heart of Higher Education
Integrative Learning for Compassionate Action in an Interconnected World
February 22-25, 2007
Hotel Nikko
San Francisco, California

Do current education efforts address the whole human being — mind, heart, and spirit — in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet? What steps can we take to make our colleges and universities places that awaken the deepest potential in students, faculty, and staff? This conference for faculty, administrators, student life professionals, and chaplains will address the relationships between:

* Curriculum and values
* Intellectual, aesthetic, and moral intelligences
* Technical competency and compassionate action
* Critical reasoning and contemplative inquiry
* Vocation and life purpose

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is leading a Pre-Conference Workshop on February 22nd. In addition, Center fellows Hal Roth, Ed Sarath, Frederique Apffel-Marglin, André Delbecq, Barbara Dilley, Renee Hill, Mary Rose O’Reilley, Deborah Haynes, Academic Program Director Arthur Zajonc, and CMIND Chair Charles Halpern, and CMIND Executive Director Mirabai Bush will serve as conference facilitators.

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Sitting in the Fire with Integrity
March 3, 2007
Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Northampton, MA
& April 21, 2007
New York City [location TBD]

A joint workshop of the Center for Contemplative Mind and the Zen Peacemaker Circles.
Co-led by Margi Gregory and Rose Sackey-Milligan.

* How can we find strength and peace within chaos, conflict or just plain busyness?
* How do we connect with and manifest our deep selves in our daily life?
* A workshop for those working at the stress points of our society.
* Reflection on our core values, meditation and authentic communication techniques, including council and "matrix".
* Ways to apply this to families, the workplace and other groups.
* Support for creating on-going circles of friends if desired.

For more information, please contact

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Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals
with James Baraz, Norman Fischer, Charles Halpern, and Mary Mocine
April 12th - 15th, 2007
Upper Retreat Hall, Spirit Rock, Woodacre, CA
cost: $405 - $255 sliding scale

5 California MCLE credits will be available for this retreat in the areas of ethics and elimination of bias.

"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." - Steven Keeva, author of Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life

Meditation can provide a practical tool for busy legal professionals to quiet the mind, enhance clarity and awareness, and restore a more peaceful balance to their lives. This retreat will bring together members of the legal community, local legal scholars and clinicians, judges, and mediators to learn and practice meditation together. We will also explore contemplative practices such as yoga, qigong, walking in nature, and will consider key questions about the connections between contemplative awareness, social justice and law.

Open to attorneys, law students, legal professors, mediators, judges and other legal professionals.

For more information and to register please visit

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Academic Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development
August 12-17, 2007
Smith College, Northampton, MA
$650: Covers tuition, lodging, and all meals.

Summer Session 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.

There will be sessions on pedagogical issues, including the relation between course content and contemplative practice and the benefits of stabilized attention and other qualities of mind fostered by meditation, as well as on practical issues such as evaluation, grading, instructional techniques, and use of off-site facilities. We will also consider issues such as communicating course intent with colleagues and college administrators. There will be discussions on how contemplative practices in the curriculum are affecting teaching and learning nationwide. Local scholars and contemplative teachers not listed as faculty will visit and engage in the discussions . Each day will also include substantial contemplative practice time, which will introduce participants to practices from a variety of traditions as well as practices that have been adapted successfully for secular classroom settings. And each afternoon will be spent in workshops designed to aid participating academics in the design of a course well-suited to their disciplinary content and familiarity with meditation. 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.

For more information, visit:

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Additional Upcoming Events and Announcements

Job Opening at Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Executive Director Position

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship is seeking an executive director and organizational leader who will support our work of being an articulate and powerful voice for socially engaged Buddhism. The new director will be integral in implementing the goals of BPF’s strategic plan, and ensuring BPF’s continued viability as a recognized and respected leader in the field of Socially Engaged Buddhism. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, founded in 1978, is a religious non-profit corporation with 501c3 status. Our membership and staff form a non-sectarian dharma community whose purpose is to understand, express, and bring to bear the moral and ethical teachings of Buddhism in order to alleviate suffering.

Interested candidates should apply by Jan. 31, 2007. For complete details and job description, please visit


The Association for Mindfulness in Education Presents:
A Day-Long Conference for Teachers, Counselors and Administrators
Mindfulness as a Foundation for Teaching and Learning

Join us for a day of exploration, conversation, and collaboration
Saturday, February 24th, 2007, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Lick-Wilmerding High School
755 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Mindfulness-based Education (MBE) is an exciting and important development in K to 12 education. A powerful tool to decrease stress, enhance academic performance, and promote emotional and social well-being, mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an essential support for students, teachers, school administrators, and parents.

MBE focuses on developing a person's capacity for attention and awareness, and creates the optimal underlying conditions for all learning and teaching. Many schools across the country are introducing Mindfulness into their curricula, and several well known institutions including Stanford, UCSF, and UCLA are conducting research in the field. Mindfulness is the simple practice of paying attention to one’s experiences (thoughts feelings, physical sensations) moment-by moment with non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness training develops skills such as:

· Attention and concentration
· Emotional and cognitive awareness and understanding
· Body awareness and coordination
· Interpersonal awareness and communication skills

Decades of research have shown that mindfulness decreases stress, attention deficit issues, depression, anxiety and hostility while benefiting health, social relations, academic ability, and most importantly a sense of well-being. The Association for Mindfulness in Education is dedicated to bringing all these benefits to the field of education.

Register on our website at:
For questions:

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Event Reports

Report on the Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development

summer session

From August 13-18th, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society convened its second annual residential Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development. Thirty-five professors teaching at colleges and universities across the United States and Canada gathered to explore the impact that contemplative practices can have in teaching and learning. Among these participants were five professors who also attended last year’s session; they chose to return in order to build on their experience and learn from each other. Presentations and discussions were held on pedagogical issues, including the relation between course content and contemplative practice, the benefits of stabilized attention and other qualities of mind fostered by meditation, evaluation and assessment, and communicating course intent with colleagues and college administrators. Each day also included substantial contemplative practice sessions, including meditation, yoga, and contemplative dance, walking meditation, and eurythmy, as well as practices adapted for secular classroom settings.

An Overview of the week's presentations

Arthur Zajonc, Director of the Center’s Academic Program and Professor of Physics at Amherst College, opened the session’s lecture series with a talk on the principles and design of contemplative pedagogy. Later in the week, Arthur also gave a brief synopsis on the scientific research of meditation and qualitative research studies. He noted that while this area of research has just scratched the surface of the range of meditative experience and scientific measures of first-person experience are still being developed, the positive outcomes of this research supports the theory that meditation can increase cognitive development, health, and emotional balance.

Kat Vlahos, Professor of Architecture in the graduate program at the University of Colorado, spoke to the group about the specific contemplative practices she uses in the three courses she teaches and how they are designed to relate directly to the course content.

Joanna Ziegler, Professor of Visual Arts at College of the Holy Cross, spoke about the practice of contemplative seeing. To her, the heart of contemplative practice is openness; as opposed to looking, seeing with full awareness means to see things as they are, leading one to dwell and connect with the other. Through contemplative seeing, one is opened to a source of insight. It is this awareness that she teaches her students to cultivate.

Marilyn Nelson, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Connecticut, and Poet Laureate of Connecticut, read selections from her poetry concerning contemplative practices, the contemplative experience, and African-American history. Before reading, she noted that that what she’s been doing in her classes for the last few years has been influenced by the ACLS Contemplative Practice Fellowship she received in 1999 and by her sense that contemporary American poets would do well to practice some form of self-forgetting, in order to step out of the picture and release oneself to the poem.

Heather Hathaway (English) and Anthony Peressini (Philosophy) have been teaching courses using contemplative practices as pedagogical and learning methods for the past seven years, since they were awarded an ACLS Contemplative Practice Fellowship in 1999. In 2006, they were awarded an ACLS Contemplative Curriculum Development Grant in order to expand on the contemplative practice offerings at Marquette University, where they co-direct the Honors Program.

You can download the full report on our 2006 Summer Session on Contemplative Curriculum Development by visiting


Reflecting on Anger: a response from the one day retreat with Rev. Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín
August 19th, 2006
by Carrie Bergman

Anger and frustration often lead me to do things I later regret. Hoping to get some insight on how to feel more in control of my temper and behavior, I attended Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín's workshop about Zen Buddhist approaches to dealing with anger on August 19th in Northampton.

The day began with alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation, which provided me ample opportunity to observe how my mind churns out small frustrations with alarming regularity ("...the floor is so uncomfortable...Why is everyone sitting so close to me?...I can't move, ugh!..."). After several hours of tuning in to the workings of my mind, Ryūmon gave a dharma talk about her own approach to dealing with anger: to observe it, and not allow it to control her actions, while at the same time, not suppressing it...just feeling it, being the anger...and breathing through it as it dissipates.

During a helpful question-and-answer session, participants were able to clarify their own approaches to anger and how to deal with anger-producing situations. Ryūmon's suggestions seem, in hindsight, like solid common sense that you should've known all along (always a good litmus test for advice, I think!): the next time someone is speaking in a way that makes you angry, try putting up your hand and simply asking if they could please stop. Don't let yourself react out of anger; make sure you address the problem, but not until after you've regained your perspective on the situation. Don't feel guilty about being angry; it's a natural feeling, and can help you address difficult problems and reach deeper insights.

Ryūmon's teaching on "peeling back our layers" to examine the source of our anger was particularly helpful to me. As I peel back the layers of my anger, I find that it's often based in fear and self-protection. I get defensive, my mind points fingers to find someone to blame, and I heat up. Through mindfulness (cultivated by meditation practice, like Ryūmon taught at the workshop), watching my mind in difficult situations, I'm able to see the fear underneath my anger, and when I can get in touch with my underlying feelings, I have a better perspective the situation. The "story" of my anger, as Ryūmon describes it, loses its relevance, and it becomes easier to calm down and see things as they are, rather than as my anger-driven mind sees them.

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Research on Contemplation and Education
Harvard Graduate School
Sept 19th, 2006

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society hosted a meeting entitled “Research on Contemplation and Education” at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on September 19, 2006. The gathering was led by Arthur Zajonc, the Academic Program Director at the Center and a professor at Amherst College, and Mirabai Bush. Those attending included Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Daniel Goleman, author and journalist; Margaret Kemeny of the University of California, San Francisco; Susan Smalley of UCLA; Patricia Jennings of the Garrison Institute and San Francisco State University; Jared Kass of Lesley University; Daniel Liston of the University of Colorado at Boulder; Daniel Holland of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Sara Lazar of Massachusetts General Hospital; Kirk Brown of Virginia Commonwealth University; The Venerable Tensin LS Priyadarshi of MIT; and David Addiss, Eric Nelson, and Wayne Ramsey, all of the Fetzer Institute.

For over ten years, the Center has been working to bring contemplative practice to higher education. The Center’s work has included incorporating practice into learning, pedagogy, and contemplative epistemology. Many of the Center’s 121 Fellows across the country have been asking about research that will support their efforts to bring contemplative ways of knowing further into their universities. Instead of simply teaching their courses, many Fellows have expressed the desire to develop a contemplative concentration or center. Both qualitative and quantitative research are important for making this case. Shauna Shapiro will be the principal investigator for the survey and Kirk Brown will assist her. We anticipate the survey being completed in 2007.

The discussion questions posed to the meeting participants concerned the contemplative practices and age groups studied, the outcome measures used, the effectiveness of contemplative interventions on learning disabilities and ADHD, research methodologies utilized, and key issues that remain unstudied. The group also considered important factors like theory, principles, and framework.

The meeting identified the recommendations of the group, and we will use these to design the survey of the existing research on contemplation and learning. There has been little direct research on the effect of contemplative practices on cognitive factors in college-age learning. Since education at the university level is the focus of the Center’s Academic Program, we will look carefully at the K-12 research to determine what is relevant for our purposes, and which psychological and physiological studies are most closely related to learning. We hope the survey will also identify opportunities for future research.

To learn more about the Academic Program, visit


Introduction to Meditation for Bay Area Legal Aid
New College School of Law
December 1, 2006

Charlie Halpern, Chair of the Board, and Douglas Chermak, Law Program Director, led a meditation training for lawyers and advocates from Bay Area Legal Aid, an organization of legal service providers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The participants learned and practiced meditation and qi gong, and engaged in large and small group discussions about the meditative perspective and its specific relevance to the work of lawyers doing direct legal services. This was the first organization-specific training offered by the Law Program, and the participants found it highly useful for their both their work as lawyers as well as their lives.

To learn more about the law program, visit:


Boalt Hall Meditation Group Meeting for Lawyers
Berkeley School of Law
November 14, 2006

On November 14, 2006, the Boalt Hall (Berkeley School of Law) Meditation Group welcomed Norman Fischer as its special guest. Norman guided approximately 30 participants in a half hour meditation. He then offered comments about the cultivation of the inner life and its importance to one's training as a lawyer. He explained how meditation is a useful tool in this effort--it can helps create spaciousness, enhances creativity, and increase one's capacity for empathy. Overall, meditation is an integral strategy to sustain a long career in the legal profession. Norman then hosted a discussion period, where many questions focused on the way to be an effective lawyer while maintaining an open heart.

To learn more about the law program, visit:


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

top image by Rene Theberge