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The use of the concept ‘religious experience’ is exceedingly broad, encompassing a vast array of feelings, moods, perceptions, dispositions, and states of consciousness. Some prefer to focus on a distinct type of religious experience known as ‘mystical experience', typically construed as a transitory but potentially transformative state of consciousness in which a subject purports to come into immediate contact with the divine, the sacred, the holy. We will return to the issue of mystical experience below. Here I would only note that the academic literature does not clearly delineate the relationship between religious experience and mystical experience. The reluctance, and in the end the inability, to clearly stipulate the meaning of such terms will be a recurring theme in the discussion below.

In this article I attempt, through stories and reflections, to give voice to some contemporary experiences, including fears and difficulties, of being a teacher in the early 21st century. I explore the idea that contemplative practices might open paths for negotiating and rediscovering depth, grace, and courage in our work as teachers, in a time when such ways of living are not broadly or politically encouraged. This article thus focuses on ways in which contemplative practices become pedagogical, holding us in the present, in close proximity to the lives of the children we teach, to the places we actually live, and to the current conditions of the world both near and far--these practices, as opposed to distracting and distancing curricula and practices that seem to exist in no place or time, separate from the world, without relations, and with lofty and ungrounded goals located in the future, such as "preparing children to compete in the global economy." I reflect about ways that the practice of contemplative teaching turns our work into a form of love, memory, and intimacy, reminding us of our deep life relations through time and place, and possibly having incalculable implications for our curriculum interpretation and classroom practices.

This project explores the integration of Zen Buddhist contemplative practices with practices entailed in academic, especially literary, reading. The mindfulness cultivated through Zen practices, and the ethical awareness that can spring from that mindfulness can inspire an academic reading practice that is both faithful to the particulars of a text’s form and sensitive to its ethical and political implications.

"The practice of contemplation is one of the great spiritual arts," writes Martin Laird in A Sunlit Absence. "Not a technique but a skill, it harnesses the winds of grace that lead us out into the liberating sea of silence." In this companion volume to his bestselling Into the Silent Land, Laird focuses on a quality often overlooked by books on Christian meditation: a vast and flowing spaciousness that embraces both silence and sound, and transcends all subject/object dualisms. Drawing on the wisdom of great contemplatives from St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Avila to St. Hesychios, Simone Weil, and many others, Laird shows how we can uncover the deeper levels of awareness that rest within us like buried treasure waiting to be found. The key insight of the book is that as our practice matures, so will our experience of life's ordeals, sorrows, and joys expand into generous, receptive maturity. We learn to see whatever difficulties we experience in meditation--boredom, lethargy, arrogance, depression, grief, anxiety--not as obstacles to be overcome but as opportunities to practice surrender to what is. With clarity and grace Laird shows how we can move away from identifying with our turbulent, ever-changing thoughts and emotions to the cultivation of a "sunlit absence"--the luminous awareness in which God's presence can most profoundly be felt. Addressed to both beginners and intermediates on the pathless path of still prayer, A Sunlit Absence offers wise guidance on the specifics of contemplative practice as well as an inspiring vision of the purpose of such practice and the central role it can play in our spiritual lives.

This webpage of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society provides several sample syllabi which integrate contemplation into academic courses on a variety of subjects.

The specific aim of this course is development of a university dance curriculum that will link post-modern dance with Tai Chi as it is understood and practiced by the masters of the discipline in China – both as a practice (i.e., as a set of physical movements known as “Tai Chi Chuan”) and as a spiritual discipline (i.e., “Tai Chi”) worthy of scholarly study. A central hypothesis of this course is that the teaching of Tai Chi Chuan in this country – both in academic and experiential contexts – has generally missed the essence of the actual Chinese discipline by concentrating more on the specific physical steps than on the deeper mental and spiritual principles from which it derives. A major goal of the course is to restore to the curriculum those important principles of employing certain meditation techniques that have not been taught here. The course will apply two central principles of Tai Chi in the context of dance: first, the goal of awareness, or softness, which is simply movement based on stillness; and second, the goal of relational physics, or the intention and orientation of the individual to the whole.

The purpose of this article is to show how meditation can be used to help a student to become an ethical person. Discursive and non-discursive meditation give the student an awareness of ethical issues and lead to the discovery and application of models of ethical conduct. In part one, the student is led through non-discursive meditation to discover him/her self as an ethical person. The student is also given the tools to explore ethical issues. Part two discusses a transition stage from non-discursive to discursive meditation. The student is led to use non-discursive meditation to construct an ethical value system and apply it to his/her own life. An art medium is especially helpful at this stage. Discursive meditation gives the chance for the student to compare who he/she is with what he/she should be. Part three discusses four elements in the construction of an ethical vision with discursive meditaton: First, a picture of reality; second, models of ethical rules; third, models of ethical conduct; fourth, current personal and social values. The conclusion contains a description of the ethical person.

Few counseling programs directly address the importance of self-care in reducing stress and burnout in their curricula. A course entitled Mind/Body Medicine and the Art of Self-Care was created to address personal and professional growth opportunities through self-care and mindfulness practices (meditation, yoga, qigong, and conscious relaxation exercises). Three methods of evaluating this 15-week 3-credit mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course for counseling students indicated positive changes for students in learning how to manage stress and improve counseling practice. Students reported positive physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and interpersonal changes and substantial effects on their counseling skills and therapeutic relationships. Information from a focus group, qualitative reports, and quantitative course evaluations were triangulated; all data signified positive student responses to the course, method of teaching, and course instructor. Most students reported intentions of integrating mindfulness practices into their future profession.

Bourgeault looks to the Gospels, to contemplative experience, and to recently discovered ancient Christian documents (such as the Nag Hammadi scriptures and the Gospel of Thomas) to reveal a fresh new understanding of Jesus and his teaching.

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