Finding meaning in words

During the “Exploring the Impact of Contemplative Practices on Self and Students” retreat last week at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute — which, incidentally, was a fabulous space for the retreat — faculty from GVSU and FSU worked together to gain consensus on the meanings of couple of words. I provide here a few of the definitions of “mindfulness” that were proposed:

>> Non-attached;
>> Attention and awareness to the present moment without judgment;
>> Full awareness of the present moment;
>> Paying attention in the present moment without judgment; and
>> Deliberate awareness of the moment without judgment.

And here’s a little lagniappe:

Mindfulness image
From: Doug Neill

Mindfulness quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn
From: psychalive.org (Here’s an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn)

At the Withered Tree

We held our final session of the “Exploring the Intersections of Mindfulness, Contemplative Practices, and Reflective Teaching” on Saturday, May 4.  It was a beautiful Spring day in Eastown, Grand Rapids, where we met at the Withered Tree 

Our sincere thanks to Karen for sharing the space with us! Thanks, too, to Clare and Carol for leading the contemplative practices for the group. The conversation, naturally, was rich, engaging, and thoughtful. A few videos and an upcoming event were mentioned during the conversation. I provide links here to those things:

Andy Puddicombe’s “All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes,” filmed in November 2012 at TEDSalon London

Jill Bolte Taylor’s “The Neuroanatomical Transformation of the Teenage Brain,” filmed at the TEDxYouth@Indianapolis and published online in February 2013.

An upcoming webinar: Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 3-4 PM (EST), “Improvisation, Meditation, and Integral Theory: New Horizons in Contemplative Education,” with Ed Sarath, Professor of Music in the Department in Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and Director of U-M’s Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies. The webinar is made possible by the The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

This just crossed my electronic path: The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry. The Call for Submissions has been announced!

The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal for all those who design, research, teach, and assess contemplative and introspective methods and practices in college and university settings. Contemplative and introspective practices cultivate a critical, first-person focus and create new opportunities for students to engage with course material. The Journal promotes the understanding, development, and application of these methods in order to serve a vision of higher education as an opportunity for cultivating personal and social awareness and an exploration of meaning, purpose and values.

My thanks again to everyone who was present on Saturday for our last meeting together this semester; thank you for making time and contributing to the experience.

Similarity and a favorite line

Not surprisingly, the two papers we will be discussing this week share at least one idea in common.  In “Teaching Midnfulness at a Public University” (Lee, 2012), the idea is expressed as “inner experience.”  In Hart’s (2004), “Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom,” this idea is referred to as an “inner technology.”  Later, he also uses the word “mindscience.”   Reading “mindscience” reminded me of a book with this title [MindScience: An East-West Dialogue (1999)] and research efforts in this area [e.g., the Mind Science Foundation; the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona (which began with funding from our state’s very own Fetzer Institute!)].

About that favorite line of mine?  It comes from Hart’s (2004) “Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom” and reads:

The cardinal aspect of contemplative practice is nourishing the quality of one’s attention. (pg. 32)

Our upcoming sessions

Our next sessions together are scheduled for the week of March 18.  We’ll be discussing two papers, one by Dr. Jenny Lee, titled “Teaching Mindfulness at a Public Research University” (2012) and one by Dr. Tobin Hart titled, “Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom” (2004).

If you have a moment and don’t already know Drs. Lee or Tobin, I encourage you to explore their academic web pages.

Jenny J. Lee, Ph.D.http://www.coe.arizona.edu/faculty_profile/236

Tobin R. Hart, Ph.D.:http://www.westga.edu/psydept/show_bio.php?emp_id=471

The beginnings

When we met in mid-February 2013 for our opening conversations, I mentioned then that I was feeling an edgy excitement about this learning community.  What we were beginning was a little unconventional for higher education and, frankly, not well understood by many.  Hence, my edginess.  The excitement?  It turns out, it’s for these same reasons that I was, and am still, excited about this collaborative work between our two institutions.

While we shared with everyone a long and full set of notes from our opening sessions, I offer here an abbreviated version that I hope gives you a sense of our beginnings.

Twenty-three faculty and staff participated in one or more of three sessions during the week of February 11, 2013.  Key themes that emerged from our opening conversations included:

Our Students

We heard, “I hope the focus is on students.”  And, “I would like to help students to learn to be fully present.”

Our Learning

We heard, “I would like to explore what each of these ideas is.  What personal value does each have, and what value does each have to students?”

Our Teaching

“I am interested in learning how to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom.  How do we move from mindful teaching to teaching mindfulness?”

Our Experiences

We heard, “I am very curious about what resources are available.”  And, “I would like to learn from the other participants in this learning community by sharing our experiences.”

And so we begin.