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Working with Fear and Resistance when Fostering Contemplative Space

A webinar with Loretta Pyles
Professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany, SUNY

Originally broadcast on Friday, September 27, 2019
Free and open to all, with a $10 optional, suggested donation

Watch the recording on YouTube
Download the slides (.pdf)

For our September ACMHE webinar, Dr. Pyles writes:

Fostering contemplative spaces in academic settings is often limited by the fear and resistance educators, students, and administrators face. The sources of these challenges are both internal and external, and are indeed socially constructed, a function of the larger systemic arrangements that are manifesting in neoliberal universities (which also tend to operate under white supremacist and patriarchal impulses). They also may be a function of one’s own individual early patterning that played out in families of origin. But, what if these fears and barriers were leaned into rather than rejected, composted rather than thrown out, and seen as the pathway itself rather than an obstacle to something else? As poet Mark Nepo said, “we cannot bypass the human journey. It is the cocoon that releases our spirit.”


This webinar will help prepare participants to utilize contemplative practices to work with fear and resistance in themselves, students, management, and systems. Participants will:

  • Explore practical contemplative techniques, including somatic, mindfulness, and inquiry-practices, to work with fear and resistance
  • Learn how compassion, trust, and surrender can be powerful forces for generative change
  • Discuss some basic ideas in organizational change theory to address systemic resistance
  • Review previous lessons learned in how to work with fear and resistance

To nurture contemplative spaces, faculty, students, and administrators are asked to take stock of what is, allow space for it (a kind of radical acceptance), and learn to be responsive and improvisational rather than reactive. Utilizing trauma informed approaches, participants will work with inquiries that allow them to explore the ways that they work with fear and resistance.

About the Presenter

Loretta PylesLoretta Pyles, PhD, is Professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is also a meditation and yoga teacher, workshop leader, organizational consultant, and activist. She is the author of Healing Justice: Holistic Self-Care for Change Makers (Oxford University Press, 2018); Progressive Community Organizing: Transformative Practice in a Globalizing World (3rd edition forthcoming, Routledge Press); and co-editor of Holistic Engagement: Transformative Social Work Education in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2016). Her research has focused on violence against women, social justice, disaster resilience, and body-mind-spirit practices and has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

Loretta has been engaged with body-mind-spirit practices for 20 years and draws from her training in Buddhist meditation practices including zen and vipassana, as well as from her work in feminist and other kinds of organizing. She is a 500-hour registered yoga teacher in the Kripalu yoga tradition and has additional training in trauma sensitive yoga. She continues to study with teachers and to be curious about the connections between personal and social change.


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