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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 79 Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing becomes Love. Another highlight, Deluca said, was a presentation by maria Arias of CuNy’s law school, who discussed preparing her students to work within the judicial system not simply “from the point of view of right and wrong but also from the perspective of compassion.” Deluca begins her own classes with a period of meditation and “paying attention to what’s going on in the body.” it’s impor- tant, she says, “to have students drop down a level in their mind and body. in many kinds of writing, you really have to get un- derneath the surface to write anything that’s worthy of anyone’s attention. At its core, writing is a contemplative activity.” when ed sarath, who teaches in the school of music at the univer- sity of michigan in Ann Arbor, proposed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz and Contemplative Studies, he faced extremely vocal resistance. “some faculty members were very concerned that we were bring- ing spirituality into the classroom, that contemplative practice did not fit into credit-bearing courses, and that it would be impossible to grade,” sarath told me. in the end, he persuaded two-thirds of the faculty to vote for the program, and it got off the ground in 2000. sarath began playing jazz at about the same time he began medi- tating in the Vedanta tradition, about thirty-five years ago. he’s al- ways perceived “a very close relationship between improvisation and meditation practice, in that both are grounded in a heightened sense A smAll But growiNg CADre of uni- versity professors who integrate contemplative disciplines into academic training are staking out a unique position in the longstanding debate about what is “higher” in higher educa- tion. through a variety of innovative programs, they’ve been bringing contemplative disciplines onto university campuses as a way to increase students’ attention and decrease stress, give deeper meaning to university education as a means to self-knowledge, and foster community and cooperation as a salve to the competitive atmosphere of the academy. harold roth, professor of religious studies at Brown university and founder of the Contem- plative studies initiative there, told me, “i’m very encouraged by how this movement is gaining momentum. we’re at the beginning of the devel- opment of a major new academic field, one that will be potentially quite significant in changing the face of higher education in North America. it asks us to deeply consider what a higher education really means.” According to geraldine Deluca, who has been teaching english at Brooklyn College for thirty-seven years, the City University of New York Contemplative Network began “about five years ago, when David forbes came to me with the idea of starting a contemplative studies center at Brooklyn. we got a $20,000 grant from the Center for Contemplative mind in society, and we both started to teach courses with contemplative components.” forbes is in the education department and wrote a book, Boyz 2 Bud- dhas, about his experiences introducing meditation practice to high school athletes. A dozen faculty CuNy-wide form the core of the network, along with about a hundred others who use or would like to use contemplative disciplines in their classes. the network held its second “mindful learners Conference” on April 3, focusing on classroom practices and information-sharing among faculty in different subject areas. sixty faculty attended. the day began and ended with meditation, and included a keynote lec- ture by Arthur zajonc, professor of physics at Amherst College and a well-known advocate of contemplative inquiry as a learning tool. zajonc spoke of the value of asking students to hold an idea in mind long enough to appreciate all of its dimensions and of holding con- tradictory ideas in mind at the same time. he drew on his new book, The Contemplative Curriculum the mindful society By Barry Boyce photoBymAtthewsACChet Students in the meditation laboratory of the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University.