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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 56 with emotion and attention, self-represen- tations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. These positive qualities and dispositions can be strength- ened through systematic contemplative practice. Such practice induces changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people.” In explaining the positive impact of con- templative practices on the learner, teacher, and the learning environment, Mirabai Bush, senior fellow and associate director at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, says, “The practices have had an extraordinary range of effects on the teach- ers, the students, the classroom, and on learning, teaching, research, and personal relationships. These include increased con- centration, greater capacity for synthetic thinking, conceptual flexibility, and an ap- preciation for a different type of intellec- tual process, distinct from the linear, ana- lytical and product-oriented processes so often valued in contemporary education.” Although the benefits of this kind of holis- tic approach to education have been largely overlooked in traditional, Western educa- tional systems, interest in contemplative higher education is growing, and some six hundred faculty and college administra- tors have now joined the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (www.ACMHE.org). Yet while self-reflection is the first step in contemplation and in making decisions from a foundation of heart and mind, the act of contemplation alone does not make contemplative education unique. It is when contemplation infuses a rigorous academic study with the disciplined train- ing of the heart that contemplative edu- cation’s distinctiveness shines, enabling a student’s capacity not just to see but to address the needs of the world. Steeped in academic excellence and spiritual insight, this marriage of a compassionate heart and a purposeful mind makes contem- plative education distinguished, valuable, and powerful. Above and opposite: students at the Boulder campus. Below: group meditation practice. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFNAROPAUNIVERSITY