Formation Mentoring Communities

I just finished reading Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities among Colleagues in Higher Education, and wonder if either GVSU or Ferris has any of these FMCs? Seems like a logical next step (for me, at least) after the May retreat on Contemplative Teaching. –Kim Ranger

Mindful Leadership

I am teaching a one-credit online course called “Mindful Leadership” next Winter semester for GVSU’s new Adult Accelerated degree completion program. I would love your thoughts about course design. What would be your goto book/text? Do you think that returning students would be open to practicing mindfulness? What challenges exist within the online and accelerated (five weeks) format and how can they be overcome? These are a few questions that I am pondering and would love to hear your thoughts. All feedback is welcome!

Mindfulness in the news

If you haven’t seen this piece, it is worth checking out! Mindfulness: Getting Its Share of Attention

One lovely tool mentioned in the article is: Online resources about mindfulness as well as a handy app are available.

Thanks to Maureen Wolverton for sending a link to a set of podcast clips describing the integration of contemplative practice into courses: Members of ACMHE have access to the full podcasts:



Looking back to March and ahead to April

As I begin to think about our next conversations during the week of April 8, I can’t help but revisit a few phrases and ideas that have stuck with me since our last gatherings. I have been reminded of other resources (some on topic, others not so much) that I thought I would share.

Thinking spaces: Where and when are our own literal and figurative thinking spaces these days? Are they catch-as-catch-can or more deliberate? How can we discuss the idea of thinking space with our students? Certainly our classrooms are intended to be thinking spaces, but do we (the royal we, of course) honor this idea every day? What are other ways we can help students create their own thinking spaces?

Thinking fast and slow: Possibly because I just noticed the unread book of the same title in my Audible library (Dan Kahneman, 2011), but the pace of my class sessions has also been on my mind. How am I deliberately altering the pace to allow for space/time to think, for quiet, for reflective writing? An interesting exercise that I will attempt with my students is to collaborate and graphically represent the pace of a semester. How does the rhythm vary and how do we (faculty and students) respond as a result? Particularly for those new to (or returning to) college, anticipating and opening space for the varied external forces can be an adjustment. Practicing this myself, how can I set aside contemplative time?

Down with multi-tasking: In our last meetings at GV, we discussed cell phones and other classroom distractions. Here are two links that came mind: a Huffington Post piece about a multitasking research study and a video of one professor’s approach to a cell phone policy.

Compassion: We also discussed the role of compassion in teaching. Do we all have compassion for all students? I was reminded of a recent “Magna 20 Minute Mentor” webinar from Maryellen Weimer, entitled “What are the Three Worst Mistakes to Make in the Classroom?” Mistake #2: Make decisions about who can and can’t learn. I am happy to loan the DVD to anyone interested in watching it.

Learning from Others: Speaking of webinars, thank you Todd (and Patti for the reminder) about the webinars offered through The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. The latest offering, The Blue Pearl: A Research Report on Teaching Mindfulness Practices to College Students, is now available as a recording on their website.

I am looking forward to continuing to learn with all of you. Todd and I hope that the next two discussion articles on research studies incorporating mindfulness practice in the classroom – selected based on your request for additional implementation examples – spark your imagination.

Musings on Frank Sinatra as Contemplative Teacher

One of my favorite jokes regarding contemplation is this lineage of consciousness:

Confucius said “Do”

Lao Tzu said “Be”

Sinatra said, “Do, be, do, be do…”

While this always makes me smile, it’s also a reminder for me not to take myself or this work too seriously. In fact, work is probably a poor choice of words to use in referencing the nature of contemplation. There is effort involved; ironically, it’s the effort toward the effortless. In the Perennial Wisdom Traditions, mystics of all ages and cultures have agree, we need a practice, but the peace and calm is ultimately given, not earned through effort. One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, says, “You can’t get there.” He adds, as many have before him, we’re already there. It’s a process and practice of tapping into a consciousness in the only place and time we can; here and now.

I think one of the reasons the practice is hard is because it’s so easy. I’d rather warm my coffee, check my email, or write a blog, than sit in silence for 10-15-20 minutes or more. We are a culture of fast food, instant oil changes, drive-thrus, and immediate gratification. To slow down, we go against culture and our own surface brain patterns. It feels odd. Our ego is embarrassed. Our mind-talk says, “Surely we have better, more important things to do.” But, when we do slow down and rest in a different, unknowing intelligence, there it is: a place and space beyond what words can describe. Call it what you want: the ineffable; a peace; a calm; emptiness. Incredibly, somehow, it is an inner sanctum that is always there. As Russ Hudson says, “Try sneaking up on consciousness. You can’t! …if we show up, it’s there.

And here’s another cool thing, it changes us. It literally changes our physical makeup. In about 20 minutes a day for about 20 days, the brain chemistry is different. Stress chemicals are lowered and we are noticeably calmer, more focused. Dr. Herbert Benson calls it the Relaxation Response ( Call it what you will, contemplation or meditation, my coffee is getting cold again. This time, instead of wandering into fleets of fancy, or interacting with my mexican jumping bean mind, maybe I’ll sing a little Sinatra while I sit down and try to elicit the relaxation response. But then again… I could check my email. 😉