I am writing this piece from a place of spiritual privilege. Many of the contemplative practices lauded by the authors of Cultivating the Spirit have been a part of Naropa University since its inception. A recent graduate of their Master’s program in Contemplative Education, I have been known to gush about benefits stemming from the skillful sharing of contemplative practice by school faculty. Reminiscence of the lovingly appointed spaces for related activities can literally evoke a tear. My florid descriptions aside: Can contemplative practices be of use in today’s university? Can the college experience be enhanced through fostering spiritual growth? Can I back an affirmative answer with quantitative and qualitative data, expertly collected and assembled?From my perspective, the answer is no. Enough with the gush.
Schmaltzy personal stories are fine, but can I provide more believable testimony?
Contemplative education is described by Dennis' alma mater as -
learning infused with the experience of awareness, insight and compassion for oneself and others, honed through the practice of sitting meditation and other contemplative disciplines. The rigor of these disciplined practices prepares the mind to process information in new and perhaps unexpected ways. Contemplative practice unlocks the power of deep inward observation, enabling the learner to tap into a wellspring of knowledge about the nature of mind, self and other that has been largely overlooked by traditional, Western-oriented liberal education.
This approach to learning captures the spark of East and West working within; it’s the meeting of two of the greatest learning philosophies in the history of higher education, applied at Naropa University in the context of today’s rapidly changing world. ...
Woven into the fabric of the curriculum are practices that include sitting meditation, t’ai-chi ch’uan, aikido, yoga, Chinese brushstroke and ikebana. The depth of insight and concentration reached through students’ disciplined engagement with contemplative practices alters the very landscape of learning and teaching at Naropa.
Through such a focused self-exploration, students and faculty acquire the ability to be present in the classroom and in their lives; to engage in active listening with an open mind; to analyze a subject; and to integrate what has been learned with personal experience.