Syllabus Archive

Our archive offers course syllabi which demonstrate the integration of contemplative practices and perspectives into various disciplines. While course titles and descriptions are available to the public, downloads of the .pdf files are restricted to members of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education. Learn more about the ACMHE or log in to access the full archive.

Updated February 10, 2015. Click any heading to expand or collapse its corresponding section.


Beffel, Anne
Associate Professor of Art
Syracuse University
“Contemplative Arts and Society”

A surprising number of contemporary artists, designers, and experts working in socially-engaged fields access their imaginative abilities through contemplative practice. Contemplative practices also support meaningful relationships with audiences, communities, and collaborators. How is this possible? Is there a clear link between “creativity” and contemplative practice? How do contemplative artists cultivate the ability to be present from moment to moment? What would happen to your creative endeavors if you were afforded more time to slow down, pay attention, and reflect as part of your creative process? Does “presentness” on the part of an artist or designer translate into a “contemplative aesthetic” that we can sense in the resulting objects, performances, and social interactions?


Cheng, Amy
Professor of Art
SUNY New Paltz
“The Creative Process”

This course was conceived not merely to be an academic, intellectual study of the creative and contemplative processes, but experiential, embodied, multidisciplinary in its approach, one that incorporates multiple perspectives and a non-linear path. You will study creativity and contemplation from a third-person philosophical and scientific perspective, but you will also engage in critical first-person study of the subject. By “critical” I mean that you will be encouraged to engage directly with these techniques without prior commitment to their efficacy. You will then be asked to step back and appraise your experiences in order to gain a deeper appreciation of their meaning and significance.


Goler, Veta
Associate Professor of Dance
Spelman College
“Contemplative Practice and the Arts”

This course introduces students to the world of contemplative practices (such as meditation and journaling), to artists who create through inward-focused processes, and to the art they produce. Both practical, hands-on learning experiences and analytic learning experiences will enable students to experiment with their own creativity as they explore artistic processes and learn about and experience contemplative practices. Contemplative Practices and the Arts fulfills the divisional Arts core requirement for all students.


Haynes, Deborah
Professor of Art History
University of Colorado-Boulder
“The Dialogue of Art & Religion”

This course has a four-part focus.

First, this is a course about ideals and values, about your ideals and values, as well as the values that pervade the creative and religious work we will study.

Second, on the most objective academic level you will undertake interdisciplinary and crosscultural study of visual art from two religious traditions: Navajo and Himalayan Buddhist. Navajo sandpaintings and Himalayan thangkas are created in a contemplative or healing mode and/or for a contemplative audience. We will address four major dimensions of the art: first, the role of and training of the artist; second, aesthetic issues related to the object, such as iconography, use of color, & materials; third, the audience or viewer for which the work was intended; and fourth, the context of the work, including art history, religion, and social history.  You will work in groups of three-four students over the course of the semester to share resources, conduct research, and develop an oral presentation.

Third, on another experiential level, you will have the opportunity to undertake a creative art project that is related to the two cultural traditions we will study. You do not need to be an artist, but you must be willing to explore the possibilities of your own creativity.

Fourth, the course also offers you the opportunity to be part of an innovative national movement to integrate contemplative practices into academic study. During most weeks of the semester, time will be devoted to contemplative practice and tools of internal exploration and mindfulness.

I believe that students should learn techniques of observation and perceptual skills. The basis for all creativity lies in cultivation of such skills; and the specific art forms we will study are based in such practices. We will practice various techniques of breath awareness, cultivating silence and mindfulness with the goal of developing these skills. A special element of this semester will be conducting first-person research with you about the impact of these practices in your lives.

Asian Studies

Grieve, Greg and Alexandra Schultheis
Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Associate Professor of English
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
“Contemplating Mindfulness and Human Rights through Asian Literature, Film & Religion”
IGS 400

What does it mean to be human?  What rights does this guarantee us? How do cultural, religious, historical, and political contexts shape our conceptions of and claims to human rights?  On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”  More recent human rights instruments, such as the Bangkok Declaration of 1993, interpret and pursue such rights through a framework of norms, priorities, and procedures that reflect Asian cultural history and normative values.

Using literature and film, as well as primary religious scripture (particularly Buddhist and Hindu), this seminar will focus on egregious human rights violations and humanitarian responses to them in three contexts: 1) Sufism, Hinduism, Gandhi’s politics of ahimsa (nonviolence) as it relates to the riots of the Partition of India and  Pakistan; 2) engaged Buddhist Thich Nhat Hahn’s Theravadan teachings and his opposition to the Vietnam War; and 3) the Dalai Lama’s integration of human rights language and Tibetan Buddhism in working for Tibetan self-determination.

The course facilitates an understanding of the meaning, basis, historical roots, and practical significance of human rights in Asia, with special attention given to questions of cultural and historical context, especially the incorporation of international human rights norms into domestic national settings. Each of the units will include literary, cinematic, and religious discourses that address historical trauma of the 20th and 21st centuries in Asia.


Haskell, David
Professor of Biology
Sewanee: The University of the South
“Food and Hunger: Action and Contemplation”
BIOL 109

A study of food and hunger from a biological perspective. The interactions among scientific, ethical, and cultural aspects of hunger are also examined. The readings, lectures, and discussions in the course are supplemented with work with local aid organizations and exploration of the contemplative practices that motivate and sustain many of those who work with the hungry. This course cannot be used in fulfillment of any general distribution requirement.


Cooper Albright, Ann
Professor of Dance
Oberlin College
“Somatic Landscapes: Toward and Embodied Approach to Environment”
DANC 203

Somatic Landscapes begins with the premise that we live in the world through our bodies.  Thus, if we want to become conscious of our relationship to the earth and the various natural and people-made environments we have created, we must first become mindful of our bodies.  In order to develop our responsibility to ecological wellbeing, we must first develop an ability to respond to the most local of our living environments –our bodies.  This course takes place at the intersections of Nature/Culture; Art/Science; Body/Mind.  We will call on all the usual academic resources – reading, writing, analyzing and discussing – but extend beyond these to include sensing, feeling, and moving in order to cultivate a curiosity about what and how we might learn from the unexpected situation or place.  Moving beyond the geographical location of the college, we will include the larger Oberlin community and landscape as our classroom.


Goler, Veta
Associate Professor of Dance
Spelman College
“Contemplative Practice and the Arts”
DAN 209

This course introduces students to the world of contemplative practices (such as meditation and journaling), to artists who create through inward-focused processes, and to the art they produce. Both practical, hands-on learning experiences and analytic learning experiences will enable students to experiment with their own creativity as they explore artistic processes and learn about and experience contemplative practices. Contemplative Practices and the Arts fulfills the divisional Arts core requirement for all students.


Barbezat, Daniel
Professor of Economics
Amherst College
“Economics and the Pursuit of Happiness”
ECON 275

“Economics” is often defined as the study of the allocation of scarce resources. “Scarcity” doesn’t inertly exist; it is created out of the interaction between limited resources and our wanting; more wanting, more scarcity: less wanting, less scarcity. This expresses the primary duality of economics: the interaction of supply and demand. The nature and expression of our wanting is central to our notion of well-being and satisfaction. We assume that the attainment of our wants yields well-being. This course is about our well-being and what economics has to say about it.

In recent years, social scientists have become more interested in happiness and well-being itself and have begun to question its measurement, distribution and causes. In this course, we will examine the literature that has developed out of this inquiry.


Byrnes, Kathryn
Visiting Assistant Professor of Education
Bowdoin College
“Mindfulness in Education”
EDU 3325

This class will explore some of the educational techniques/methods that human beings have found, across cultures and time, to concentrate, broaden and deepen intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness. We will use a holistic and interdisciplinary lens on the theory and processes of how people learn in mindful learning contexts. We will focus on educational models that encourage and foster mindfulness as portraits of practice. “We profit from portraits of practice that have the capacity to capture the forms of life we ourselves would like to lead.” (Eisner, 2003, foreword) The class sessions will involve third‐person philosophical and scientific seminar-style dialogue on course readings, videos, or audios complemented by critical first-person experiences with mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, art and qigong. By engaging directly with the references and techniques without prior commitment to their authenticity or efficacy, students will be able to appraise the value for their own lives and learning.


Forbes, David
Professor of Education
CUNY Brooklyn
“Contemplative Urban Education from an Integral Perspective”
URBAN ED 75200

This seminar explores the boundary between non-conceptual and transpersonal realms of experience (the contemplative) and emotional literacies, models of self-development, cultural contexts and relationships, and institutional structures in urban education (discursive social constructions).  The purpose is to contribute to optimal human development and cultural transformation in urban education and everyday life.  We begin by looking at the emerging field of contemplative education which through mindfulness and other practices aims to cultivate the inner lives and relationships of students and educators:  regulating attention and emotion, strengthening concentration and insight, and promoting resilience, empathy, and compassion.  We broaden and deep this approach by adopting an integral perspective that considers developmental, cultural, and structural aspects.  Integral awareness further contributes to restoring and legitimating interior experience as both a mode of educational inquiry and as a site of transformation within urban education.  It enables us to carry out practical projects that promote self-reflective teacher education, student development, and cultural and institutional growth from a more inclusive range of perspectives.  Students are invited to take up a contemplative practice such as mindfulness meditation (first-person perspective) along with critically investigating those experiences and their applications in education (third-person perspectives) as we aim to create a mindful we-space (second-person perspective)—students are invited to meditate briefly in class—in our work together.


Kinane, Karolyn
Associate Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Literature
Plymouth State University
“World Literature: Mystical Writings”
EN 3750

In this course students explore mystical texts from Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish traditions as well as modern American and European non-denominational writing. Students will research the original social and historical contexts of these texts and consider their uses and reuses in contemporary American society and in their own lives and professions. Issues of multiculturalism, interdisciplinarity, and Orientalism will also be explored. Materials will be presented in brief lecture format and explored through individual and small group work using experiential and creative learning methods.


Kinane, Karolyn
Associate Professor, Medieval and Early Modern Literature
Plymouth State University
“Mysticism and Contemplation”
EN 4—/PY—

Writings from religious traditions around the world describe ecstatic experiences of God, unification with transcendent reality, and ineffable pure conscious experiences. This class explores contemplative and mystical writings from many contexts to interrogate cultural and personal concepts of spirituality. Using contemplative methods, students reflect critically and act creatively to develop their own sense of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellness.

Students will work with primary sources from Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish contemplative and mystical texts as well as modern American and European non-denominational writing. Secondary sources from religious studies, philosophy, history, and literary studies will provoke students to consider these texts through the following critical topics and debates: faith and reason; religion and spirituality; magic and mysticism; constructivist and perennist scholarship, trophotropic (meditative) and ergotropic (visionary) experiences, objective and subjective critical positions, consciousness and the self. Students will research the original social and historical contexts of these texts and consider their uses and reuses in contemporary American society and in their own lives and professions. Issues of multiculturalism, interdisciplinarity, and Orientalism will also be explored. Materials will be presented in brief lecture format and explored through individual and small group work. Students will experience contemplative activities and create projects to demonstrate mastery of course content and skills.

Environmental Studies

Wapner, Paul
Professor of Global Environmental Politics, School of International Service
American University
“Contemplation and Political Change”
SIS 315

Environmental problems represent the most profound challenges humanity has ever faced. Climate change, loss of biological diversity, fresh water scarcity and toxic contamination threaten not simply the quality but the very viability of life on earth. How can we respond meaningfully and effectively to such issues? How can we engage political structures, and situate ourselves psychologically, ethically and spiritually in terms of the severe dangers they involve?

This course takes as its point of departure the view that environmental issues are not simply menacing dilemmas but also opportunities. They offer the chance to rebuild the external structures of global collective life, and develop the internal dimensions of our personal lives. In the first instance, they call into question current governmental, economic and cultural systems; in the second, they invite us to explore underdeveloped parts of ourselves that are being called upon at this unique eco-historical moment. The course invites students to reflect upon and develop strategies for engaging the environmental problematique in ways that explore both internal and external dimensions of political change. It does so through close readings of influential texts, essays that call upon students to integrate personal experience with categories of political analysis, lobbying government officials, engaging the media, and experiential practice with techniques aimed at enhancing self-knowledge and changing political structures.

Freshman Seminar

Barbezat, Daniel
Professor of Economics
Amherst College
FYSE 119

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson breaks with John Locke’s emphasis on “life, liberty and property” and instead asserts that the basic rights (“inalienable”) of humans are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In this bold move, Jefferson placed “happiness” at the core of the political and personal concern. In this seminar, we will examine how we define, measure, and attempt to generate and maintain happiness. Our examination will serve as an introduction to the many methods of inquiry and articulation available at the College. We will read, discuss and write about written texts from philosophy, political science, history, literature, psychology and economics. We will watch, discuss and write about films from different eras that demonstrate examples of “happiness.” In addition, we will undertake exercises that will allow students to become mindful of their own well-being and will allow them to have direct experiences of the issues we address. Classes will be held to generate conversations about the texts, films and exercises. There will be frequent, short writing assignments on the materials of the seminar and one relatively long final paper. Thus, students will gain practice in the articulation of their ideas and internal states through speaking, writing and self-awareness.


Chess, Richard
Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences
University of North Carolina at Asheville
“The Sabbath World”
HON 179

A “sanctuary in time”. That’s what Abraham Joshua Heschel, an inspiring 20th century rabbi, calls the Sabbath. So what is a “sanctuary in time”? We’ll explore that question at length in class, but let’s begin here by considering the definition of the word “sanctuary”.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) offers several definitions that may be of use to us.

  1. A holy place. A building or place set apart for the worship of God or of one or more divinities: applied, e.g., to a Christian church, the Jewish temple and the Mosaic tabernacle, a heathen temple or site of local worship, and the like; also fig. to the church or body of believers.
  2. A church or other sacred place in which, by the law of the medieval church, a fugitive from justice, or a debtor, was entitled to immunity from arrest. Hence, in wider sense, applied to any place in which by law or established custom a similar immunity is secured to fugitives.
  3. An area of land within which (wild) animals or plants are protected and encouraged to breed or grow.

A sanctuary, then, is a special place, a secure place within which people, animals, and plants are protected and encouraged to grow. Can you think of any other places that might be considered “sanctuaries”? Could a liberal arts university be considered a “sanctuary”?

Given that a “sanctuary” is a place, how can “time” be seen as a “sanctuary”? Can “time” itself be experienced as a “place” of comfort and renewal, a place within which, among other things, one can gain some perspective on her life to sort out what’s important from what’s unimportant, a place within which he can rededicate himself to things that matter?

In this class, we can address those questions and others like them. We’ll also learn a few things about the Sabbath itself as defined by and observed in Jewish and Christian traditions. Beyond merely acquiring knowledge, we’ll take what we learn about the Sabbath to look closely at our own lived experiences, with a special focus on our experiences of work, rest, leisure, community, learning, and time itself.

Geology/Earth Science

Schneiderman, Jill
Professor of Earth Science and Geography
Vassar College
“Environmental Geology: Earth Science and Environmental Justice”
ESCI 321

This course examines environmental geology from a perspective that foregrounds questions of social justice. This approaches differs from traditional methods of pursuing environmental geology in that it seeks to combine an understanding of the Earth System with a consciousness of race, class, and gender discrimination. The course is based on two fundamental premises: all living beings have the right to a clean and safe environment; and there is a connection between human arrogance, environmental exploitation, and social justice. Consideration will be given to the viewpoint that there exists within the United States, as well as globally, a pattern of environmental inequity. Furthermore, we will evaluate the contention that underlying this pattern is not only an historical failure to address corporate greed and governmental corruption, but a basic lack of understanding about the intricacies of the dynamic Earth System that constitutes the planet.

Key topics to be considered include definitions of environmental justice, concepts of violence, geologic time, scientific uncertainty, radioactivity, energy resources, food and soil, flooding, megadams, and climate change.


Chess, Richard
Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences
University of North Carolina at Asheville
“Contemplation and Imagination: A Writing and Contemplative Practice Workshop”
HON 373

In Mindfulness for Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes,

We could say that all of the greatest works of art and culture and science, the contents of museums and libraries throughout the world, and what unfolds in concert halls and between the covers of great works of literature and poetry, stem from the human mind that knows itself to one degree or another or that is at least interested in exploring the interface between knowing and non-knowing.

In this class, we’ll have a chance to get to know our own minds, hearts, and bodies and to explore the interface between knowing and non-knowing by the means of writing, reading, conversing about our work and the work of other writers, and practicing mindfulness meditation. It is my hope that this exploration will lead to some powerfully written works of poetry and prose as well as to some fresh insights into the nature of our own experiences.


Chess, Richard
Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences
University of North Carolina at Asheville
“The Holocaust and the Arts”
HON 373

Is there a Holocaust story? More than 66 years following the end of that war, and thousands of poems, novels, films, plays, works of visual art, and musical compositions later, have certain Holocaust narrative conventions been established? If so, can we identify them? Further, can we reflect on the significance—what they reveal, what they overlook or conceal—of such conventions? And what might the existence of such conventions mean for an artist who wants to create new work that draws on some aspect of the Holocaust? Must that artist break one or more of the conventions of Holocaust literature and art to create something new? Might such innovation offend an audience that has come to expect that a Holocaust “story” will be told in a particular way and will express an established meaning? And what about the relationship between art and history? Does that relationship change as the historical event that provides at least the context if not the substance of the work of art recede farther and farther from the present? These are some of the questions we can consider this semester.


Sharts-Hopko, Nancy C.
Professor and Director, Doctoral Program, College of Nursing
Villanova University
“Contemplative Practices in Health and Illness”
NUR 7085

This course examines concepts related to suffering, caring and healing and practices related to health and illness from diverse spiritual traditions.  Current research on the impact of spiritual practices on health and illness will be highlighted.


Ambuel, David and Angela Pitts
Professor and Associate Professor of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion
University of Mary Washington
“Contemplative Practice”
PHIL 231

Researchers Richhart and Perkins have offered the following insights on the potential impact of mindfulness training for students in higher education (“Life in the Mindful Classroom: Nurturing the Disposition of Mindfulness”, Journal of Social Issues, 2000, 56:1, p. 30):   Mindfulness is a facultative state that promotes increased creativity, flexibility, and the  use of information, as well as memory and retention.  It is an enabling state in which  individuals tend to feel more in control of their lives…Consequently, the real educational  potential of mindfulness lies not in raising test scores but in addressing some of the other  intractable problems of education such as the flexible transfer of skills and knowledge to  new contexts, the development of deep understanding, student motivation and  engagement, the ability to think critically and creatively, and the development of more  self-directed learners.

This course explores the theme of “Happiness” through a variety of contemplative traditions, focusing particularly on developing the techniques of mindfulness meditation through daily practice in order to increase happiness, creativity and a general sense of well-being in the student’s educational experience.


Brammer, Jon
English and Humanities Instructor
Three Rivers Community College
“Science, Religion, and the Human Experience”
PHL 225

This course is designed around a core conflict of human history: how do scientific inquiry and religious belief shape human experience? Historically, the cultural forces of scientific inquiry and religious tradition have been at odds over explanations of the world and how humans interact with it. This has become increasingly evident in the 21st century as interactions between social, political and religious agendas have become more strained. This course will examine the complex dynamic between the scientific worldview and religious alternatives. Can they be reconciled? Should they be? Specific areas to be studied include, but are not limited to, the nature of scientific and religious dialogue, the role of religion and spirituality in the 21st century, human experience as a classroom of inquiry, the psychology of spirituality, empirical studies of religious practices, and the development of secular ethics.


Parkes, Graham
Professor of Philosophy
University College Cork
“Introduction to Japanese Philosophy”
PHIL 2025

This course is an introduction to Japanese Philosophy through a reading of classical sources in translation, such as texts from Shingon Buddhism, Zen and the twentieth-century Kyoto School of Philosophy. Our aim will be to try to understand representative texts on their own terms, while at the same time inquiring into their relevance for our situation now in the twenty-first century. Since most Japanese philosophy is based on a regimen of practice, students are encouraged to participate in the zazen practice that undergirds the philosophy of Zen Buddhism.


Hill, Oliver
Professor of Psychology
Virginia State University
“Topics in Psychology: The Psychology of the Spiritual Experience”

This course introduces students to the study and interpretation of spiritual experiences throughout the history of psychology, and to explore what is now called transpersonal psychology. Historically, this subject matter has included religious and “mystical” experiences, and altered states of consciousness. Students will be exposed to the thoughts on these topics by major figures in psychology, philosophy, and theology, including Freud, James, Jung, Huxley, Wilber, Maslow, Frankl, Campbell, and Tillich.


Kaszniak, Alfred
Professor of Psychology
University of Arizona
“The Psychology of Empathy and Compassion: Contemplative and Scientific Perspectives”

This honors seminar will examine empathy and compassion from the perspectives of both contemplative traditions/practices and recent empirical research in social neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, affective science, and social psychology (including cultural psychology). In addition to readings and discussion, the seminar will include relevant contemplative practice (e.g., breath-focused mindful attention, mindful listening, council circle, and reflective journaling). The guiding questions to be addressed in the seminar will include: (1) How have contemplative traditions and science historically viewed the nature of empathy and compassion? (2) How does research in social and cognitive neuroscience, affective science, and social psychology inform our understanding of empathy and compassion? (3) How do observational and neuroscientific studies of contemplative practitioners inform our understanding of the cultivation of compassion? (4) How do emotional and cognitive factors, such as fear, anger, aversion, desire, stereotyping, and our sense of self affect the ability to manifest empathy and compassion? (5) How do factors such as health/illness, sleep, diet, exercise, and physical environment/architecture affect empathy and compassion? (6) How are empathy and compassion expressed or inhibited in various cultures? (7) What differences might exist in the world if more empathy and compassion were manifest?


Muesse, Mark
Professor of Religious Studies
Rhodes College
“Spirituality East and West”
Religious Studies 258

Spirituality West and East is an investigation of spiritual practices in the world’s religions. Unlike most other comparative religions courses, this course will focus attention on what religious people do rather than what they believe or think. We will examine a wide variety of spiritual practices within each of four traditions: Buddhism, Hinduism, and Eastern Christianity, and Islam. Our study will involve the discussion of primary and secondary texts as well as practical engagements with the disciplines themselves.


Simmer-Brown, Judith
Professor of Religious Studies
Naropa University
“First Turning of the Wheel: The Foundational Texts of Buddhism”
REL 611

Methods of Instruction: This course is a text seminar with 50 per cent time spent in text study and lecture, 15 per cent on guided contemplations, and 35 per cent on student discussion. Course Description: When the Buddha turned the wheel of dharma the first time, he laid the foundations for a rich sacred literature that shaped Buddhism around the world. The Sūtras express the refreshing directness and pragmatism of the Buddhist teachings, while the Vinaya lays the ground for the monastic community and ethos. The Abhidharma represents a pedagogy that deepens the community ís experience of the nature, structure and operation of the mind and emotions. This course introduces this literature, with special emphasis on the sūtra and vinaya, the life of the Buddha, and the Indian milieu in which he lived and taught.


Simmer-Brown, Judith
Professor of Religious Studies
Naropa University
“Inter-Religious Dialogue”
REL 779

Methods of Instruction: Lecture 20 per cent; class discussion 30 per cent; dyads, triads, and small group discussions 20 per cent; interreligious dialogue 30 per cent. Course Description: In the last two decades, inter-religious dialogue has become an essential element in western religion, religious studies, and theology, and a fundamental tool for the scholar as well as the chaplain. This course introduces the student to the creative potential of dialogue for expanding one’s theology and ability to communicate effectively and compassionately across the American religious spectrum. After developing savvy with views of dialogue, students will learn essential skills and protocols applicable to a variety of dialogue settings. Classes will also include dialogue practica workshops. 3 credit hours.


Wallace, Mark
Professor of Religion
Vassar College
“Religion and Ecology”
REL 022

While science has been seen as the primary discipline for ecological understanding, recent scholarship in the humanities and social sciences signals the importance of religious worldviews in shaping attitudes toward the environment. This course is an introduction to the emerging discipline of religion and ecology, a new field of inquiry into the spiritual dimensions of ecosystems and the place of human beings therein. Religion and ecology focuses on how religious traditions have shaped human beings’ fundamental outlooks on the environment in ancient and modern times. In turn, it examines how various spiritual worldviews can aid — or not — the development of an earth-centered philosophy of life. As a response to the ecological crisis, it consists of study, conversation, and contemplation about the ancient green wisdom within different world spiritualities concerning how human beings can live in harmony with their natural environments.

Social Work

Kramer, Betty J.
Professor, School of Social Work
University of Wisconsin
“Practice I: Foundations of Generalist Practice”
SW 440

SW440 provides a conceptual base for generalist social work practice; it’s designed to complement the field course in the first semester of the Foundation year. The course uses readings, lectures, class discussion, small group experiences, and written work to help students to conceptualize generalist social work and to integrate knowledge of social work theory and practice. With a grant from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Dr. Kramer has additionally developed content to examine the utility of mindfulness practices for professional self-awareness, social justice initiatives, interventions and self-care. Opportunities for practicing mindfulness and for understanding its potential value in relation to social work practice will be integrated throughout the course.

Theology and Ministry

Makransky, John
Associate Professor of Theology
Boston College
“Meditation, Interfaith Learning, and Social Service”
TH 527/TM 544

Meditations of loving communion and presence are adapted from Tibetan Buddhism for students of all backgrounds and faiths to explore. Contemplative theory, meditation guidance, daily meditation practice and writings of leading social activists mutually inform each other to help students freshly appropriate their own spiritualities as a basis for social service and social action throughout their lives. Contemplative theory is explored through the professor’s recent book and through the students’ deepening meditation experience. This is brought into conversation with weekly readings in Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Michael Himes, Thomas Merton, Ram Dass and other social activists.


Makransky, John
Associate Professor of Theology
Boston College
“Buddhist Ethics”
TH/PL/TM 472

Buddhist ethics draws on principles and practices that aim to develop people’s potential for goodness, well-being, and inner freedom while liberating them from patterns of thought and action that obstruct those positive possibilities. Buddhist practices also aim to empower individual and social flourishing while undercutting inner and outer causes of bondage and suffering. Course topics include: mindfulness, faith, insight, and ethics as means of individual and social awakening mainstream contemporary Buddhism; emptiness, compassion, Buddha nature and bodhisattva action in the contemporary Indo-Tibetan tradition; and current applications of Buddhist ethical principles to issues of war and peace, human rights, economic justice, bioethics and ecology. Daily mindfulness practice, based on class instruction, is required. Students are encouraged to notice how their study of Buddhism informs their own ethical, philosophical, and theological understandings and attitudes.