The University of Redlands is one of several institutions of higher learning to develop a contemplative dimension within its curriculum. Other institutions include Naropa University, Emory University, Brown University, Rice University, Amherst College, Smith College and University of Michigan. In addition, several medical schools include mindfulness training in their curriculum, such as University of Massachusetts, UCLA and Duke University.
For resources and information on the contemplative movement in education, see the Web site for Contemplative Mind in Society.
What is Contemplative Education?
Contemplative education cultivates inner awareness through rigorous first-person investigations, often called "contemplative practices." Contemplative practices in the classroom range widely: silent sitting meditation, walking meditation, deep listening, mindfulness, yoga, calligraphy, chant, guided meditations, nature observation, self-inquiry and many others.
In some classes, contemplative learning involves a few moments of silence as students are invited to collect themselves to the present moment. In other courses, contemplative methods are thoroughly integrated into assignments, exams, and discussion formats.
Academia is sometimes dismissive of self-knowledge, conflating it with "personal opinion" or "warm and fuzzy" feel-goodism.
However, the world's wisdom traditions recommend self-knowledge as the sharpest spade to uproot personal opinion and cozy, self-enhancing mental habits. Without first knowing how your own mind operates, how can you truly know anything outside of yourself? To be the master of your own mind is to be liberated from bias and reactivity, which makes possible the pursuit of truth for its own sake.
Self-knowledge and self-mastery are not only beneficial for intellectual work. Such individual attainments also benefit the human collective. Peace in the world cannot exist without peace established in the minds and hearts of individuals. Contemplative education therefore develops the citizenship capacity of students.
"My major is Peace Studies. How will I ever be able to negotiate peace among the nations if I am not at peace within myself?"
~ Laura Closson, student
Contemplative methods, responsibly carried out, fulfill the long-standing injunction of a liberal arts education to "Know Thyself." Self-knowledge, paradoxically, is the fulcrum for self-transcendence, clear understanding, and genuinely global citizenship.
Even a single meditation practice during an academic course can have a transformative impact, as this short article describes: "Breathing in Suffering; Breathing out Compassion."