Consciousness, Literature and the Arts




Volume 9 Number 1, April 2008


 Consciousness, Contemplation and the Academy


Barbara Sellers-Young

University of California Davis



Anthropologist Maria Julia Carozzi maintains that contemporary academic discourse is a continuation of western medieval monastic conceptions of the division of consciousness between the distrusted realms of the body and the exaltation of abstract thinking represented by the spirit.  Carozzi argues that contemporary rational empiricism is an extension of this approach to knowledge and questions its ability to legitimately theorize the body’s corporeality.  While acknowledging the domination of the academy by a positivist discourse, this essay discusses a movement within academic circles to engage an approach that incorporates the recent research of neuroscience in constructing curriculums that integrate eastern and western contemplative practices and related mind/body unity within the classroom. Of which, the pedagogical goal is to expand a student’s awareness beyond rationale empiricism to a deepened mode of concentration that promotes creative insight.



To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity, not reasoning, Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to tread this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, the are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions which are being continually thrust upon them.

George Spencer-Brown (1979, 110)


            Maria Julia Carozzi (2005) points out in “Talking Minds: The Scholastic Construction of Incorporeal Discourse” that the current evolution of the academy’s mind/body split is the result of medieval monastic conceptions of the relationship between body and spirit in which spirit is defined as separate from the “devil-prone flesh” (28). Carozzi notes there is a tendency to “define the body as something human that does not produce nor perceive discourses” (26). Citing several contemporary thinkers, Bourdieu, Butler and Connerton among others, she argues that the academy in its positivist pursuit of the rationale trains a selective attention which separates bodily experience from an engagement with subjective knowledge.  She claims that the result is a ‘selective training of attention’ that lacks conscious awareness of the contribution of the entire self. As she phrases it,  “Academic forms of writing, reading and silent production of discourses seem then to be imprinted on the body through the repeated participation in similar school and academic situations” (31).  


            While I would basically agree with Carozzi’s observations on the positioning of the mind and body within the academy, I would also point to a movement within American universities which positions contemplative practices derived from monastic traditions as an educational method that actually increases body/mind unity and as a consequence expanded states of attention and consciousness. This development in education has been influenced by an increased awareness of the unity of the mind and body on several fronts. These include the general public’s discovery of Asian theories of the body in the 1960s and 70s and the incorporation into medical practice and people’s daily lives various Asian medical and physical disciplines from acupuncture to chi gong and yoga, The contemplative practice movement has also been influenced by new discoveries in neuroscience and such concepts as neuroplasticity which have challenged previous conceptions of the brain as static. Finally, there is social political activism of the Dalai Lama and his work with the Mind Life Institute which has sought to demonstrate the connections between Buddhist philosophy and contemporary science, particularly in the area of neuroscience (Begley 2007). In this essay, I will illustrate the breadth of this movement within the North American universities and describe some of the practices associated with it.


            Counterculture and the Rise of Asian Religions in the United States

            The American fascination with Asian philosophy and related approaches to the body and mind was initially part of several social and cultural forces.  These include, 1) increased translation of Asian religious and philosophical texts, 2) the inclusion of Asian arts at events such as the Chicago World’s Faire of 1893, and 3) the increased immigration to the United States from China and Japan and the Taoist and Buddhist traditions they brought with them. Although each of the latter had an impact on metaphysical and artistic movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth century (Pronko 1967), Asian conceptions of body did not gain wide popular appeal until the 1960s and 70s.

            Isserman and Kazim indicate in America Divided that the pursuit of Asian religious traditions in the 1960s and 70s was due to the fact that young people “no longer felt comfortable with faiths allegedly drenched in the polluted stream of the commercialized, competitive, power-hungry West” (2004, 263) and its association with the pursuit of war.  These young people were searching for a spiritual foundation that did not rely on drugs but instead united a transformative experience of self with nature and the cosmos. Popular groups such as the British rock band, the Beatles, who had studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in England and at his ashram in India, were emblematic of this quest. Fans of the Beatles  followed their lead traveling to South East Asia for study at similar ashrams and in some instances sought out those versed in Asian philosophy and related disciplines who came to teach in the United States. Ultimately, there evolved two paths those that followed a secular version of oriental spirituality in such groups as EST founded by Wener Erhard and those who became involved in Asian religious traditions that had come with the immigrant population to the United States; one example of which is the Zen Center in San Francisco established by Shunryu Suzuki in the 1960s.

            Other outgrowths of this interest in Asian spirituality are two American universities in which contemplation is integral to their curriculum–the California Institute of Integral Studies started in 1964 by Dr. Haridas Chaduri from Bengal and Naropa University founded in 1974 by Chögyam Rinpoche of Tibet. These two institutions share the same goal of uniting east and west in a discourse that encourages the transformation of social discourse through the vehicle of contemplation. The California Institute of Integral Studies particularly defines its position within its undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs as expanding “the boundaries of traditional degree programs with interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and applied studies in psychology, philosophy, religion, cultural anthropology, transformative learning and leadership, integrative health, and the arts for people committed to transforming themselves and the world” (2007). 

            Naropa, a four year degree program that also offers an MFA in the arts states that its mission is to integrate the wisdom traditions of east and west:

 Drawing on the vital insights of the world's wisdom traditions, the University is simultaneously Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical and nonsectarian. Naropa values ethnic and cultural differences for their essential role  in education. It embraces the richness of human diversity with the aim of fostering a more just and equitable society and an expanded awareness of our common humanity. The rigor of these disciplined practices prepares the mind to process information in new and perhaps unexpected ways. Contemplative practice unlocks the power of deep inward observation, enabling the learner to tap into a wellspring of knowledge about the nature of mind, self and other that has been largely overlooked by traditional, Western-oriented liberal education (2007).

Within the academic community in the United States, Naropa has become particularly noted for its programs in creative writing, poetry, visual and performing arts in which contemplative practice is the foundation of the curriculum.

            Buddhism has continued to be part of popular culture at the end of the twentieth cenutry and the beginning of the 21st century with Hollywood films– Little Buddha, Kundun, and Seven Years in Tibet –and the acknowlegement of Buddhist practice as a significant part of their lives by such stars as Tina Turner, Orlando Bloom, Richard Gere, Steven Seagal, and Keanu Reeves. Thus, the interest in Asian spiritual traditions, specifically Buddhism, has become in the 21st century America a spiritual and cultural force. As a consequence, there are over 1000 Buddhist meditation centers listed in the Complete Guide to Buddhist America (1998). Each of these sponsor numerous small meditation groups.  As documented by Charles Prebish in Luminous Passage (1999), many of these centers have been founded by a generation of Americans who started their practice in the 60s, studied for periods of time in parts of Asia, but returned to the United States to create an American version of Buddhism.  These centers provide opportunities for daily and long term training and practice through the programs that emphasize meditation as a means of self-knowledge, actualization and cultivation. 


            Expanding Consciousness and the Role of the Fetzer Insitute

            A major contributor to programs incorporating contemplation has been the Fetzer Institute started by John Earl Fetzer (1901-1991). Fetzer an owner of a Michigan-based, multi-state broadcasting empire including radio, television, cable, and closed-circuit music transmission established the institute to “foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community”(2007).  It was Fetzer’s belief that global issues could not be solved only via political, social, and economic strategies. The answers to these issues were also psychological and spiritual, using the latter term not only to refer to religious traditions, but in how individuals, communities and nations interact with each other. The Fetzer institute has provided funds for a variety of projects including the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University and the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the Life Research Center at the University of Chicago.

            A related project supported by Fetzer Institute is the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. This center has a variety of programs that encourage the integration of contemplation into the decision making processes of a community. The Center’s definition of contemplation is expansive and integrates a variety of modes of contemplation. The variety of approaches include Buddhist methods of contemplation, methods such as lectio divinia derived from western monastic practices, and council circles adapted from Native American traditions.  The Center’s approach is illustrated in the form of a meditation tree that lists seven different styles of practice; each form embraces the concept of mindfulness, defined broadly as the moment-to-moment observation of one’s physical, mental and emotional experience. The meditation tree is made up of: ‘stillness practices’ including silence, centering prayer, insight and sitting meditation, ‘movement practices’ from walking meditation to t’ai chi and contemplative movement, ‘creation process practices’ such as singing, brushwork, and creating a mandala, ‘activist practices’ from pilgrimages to the inclusion of mindfulness as part of a work environment, ‘generative practices’ such as prayer, lectio divinia and loving kindness meditation, ‘ritual/cyclical practices’ such as vision quests and other acknowledgments of sacred space, and ‘relational practices’ which focus on dialogue, deep listening, and/or a council circle.  In workshops for lawyers, social justice and business leaders the center guides groups into new methods of community building and problem solving using a combination of these practices.

            In 1997, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society also initiated, with the support of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Fetzer Institute, yearly Contemplative Practice Fellowships. These fellowships are designed to provide opportunities for academics to integrate contemplative practices into their classes; the goal is to have a student expand their ability for critical analysis into the realm of reflective thinking. Philosophically, the Center links the democratic process to an individual’s ability for reflective insight. As noted in the following quote this insight is considered as significant as critical thinking to the democratic process:

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society believes that a fully democratic society requires a system of higher education that trains students for reflective insight as well as critical thinking. We believe that the cultivation of mindfulness amid the busy-ness of contemporary life can open up the possibility for developing new wisdom through introspection, to complement existing intellectual and analytic undertakings. We also believe that meditative practices can help shape the direction of social action, contributing to an integration of the ethical and the political, the spiritual and the practical; the undergraduate college is one place where these issues can and should be thoughtfully explored. Accordingly, the Contemplative Practice Fellowships were designed to support the study of contemplation, not just as a category of religious and cultural practice, but as a method for developing concentration and deeper understanding - in particular, as a means of intellectual and pedagogic revitalization and change (2007).

Thus far, the Center has awarded 121 American and Canadian academics fellowships at over 105 universities from a variety disciplines in the humanities, arts, social sciences and sciences.  Each summer the Center provides a week long seminar for fellows.

            Two recipients of the Contemplative Practice fellowship, Ed Surath and Hal Roth, have created programs in contemplative studies on their university campuses. They are the Program in Creativity and Consciousness at University of Michigan and Contemplative Studies at Brown University.  The University of Michigan program has evolved from the Music Department’s jazz curriculum and its primary focus is on contemplation as a means of increasing creativity. The intersection between creativity and consciousness is defined as:

                        Creativity pertains to capacities such as inventiveness, risk-taking, self-sufficiency,                      adaptability to change, and the ability to synthesize new forms of knowledge from diverse sources. Consciousness pertains to the interior dimensions of mind and experience that underlie creative activity. Recent decades have seen increased interest in the "flow" or "peak experiences" that are reported by creative practitioners in a variety of fields. Characterized by features such as heightened mental clarity, mind-body integration, inner calm, intuition, insight, and communion with surroundings, these capacities in human consciousness—long relegated to mystical traditions—pose important ramifications for both educational theory and practice (2007).

            The Contemplative Studies Program at Brown focuses on the history of contemplative practices from several traditions and carries out an exploration of them through a laboratory environment.  The goal is to develop “a third-person philosophical and scientific understanding of the variety of contemplative experiences” and to develop “critical first-person understanding of the great variety of ways that these contemplative states are attained through religious practice, through the creation and appreciation of literature and art, through dramatic arts and music” (2007).            

            In February of 2007, the California Institute of Integral Studies and the Fetzer Institute, organized a conference titled “Uncovering the Heart of Higher Education: Integrative Learning for Compassionate Action in an Interconnected World”.  The conference was attended by over 600 academics and administrators from all over North America, including many academics who had participated in the contemplative practice fellowship program. The goal of the conference was to provide a forum for the development of an integrated learning environment that supports a holistic approach to education that besides teaching necessary vocational skills provides a means for the student to develop an ethical framework.  The conference keynote speakers included author Parker Palmer and professors and upper-level administrators from programs at the University of Cape Town (Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela), UCLA (Professors Alexander and Helen Astin), Richland College (President Stephen Mittelstet), Kalamzaoo College (President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran), Naropa University (President Thomas Coburn), Wellesley College (President Diana Chapman Walsh) as well as the President and CEO of Public Radio International, Alisa Miller.  The topics of their presentations focused on issues of creating dialogue in conflicting situations, integration of emotional and academic intelligence, cross-cultural competency in creating a community, and the importance of leadership were indicative of the subsequent panel sessions. Consistently, contemplation in all its variety of practice was advocated as a pedagogical method  as it cultivates “a balanced education of heart, mind and spirit” (2007).  Contemplative techniques were in the discourse of the conference considered part of a movement that advocates for transformative learning in higher education and its focus on self-authorization, collaboration in an atmosphere that allows for insight, intuition and creativity in response to the forces of materialism and its definition of knowledge and power. 


            Neuroscience Research and Contemplative Practice

            As mentioned previously, the pedagogical approaches by Surath, Roth and other American academics have been influenced by new discoveries in neuroscience and related redefinition of the body/mind. Neuroscientist and author of The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (1999), Antonio Damasio, defines mind, or consciousness, as the interplay between the brain and the body.  Describing in great detail the relationship between brain states, reason, and emotion, he provides a theoretical view point that regards people as complex organisms with interdependent systems that connect brain and body to create what he refers to as the “body-minded, brain" (223-244).  As he phrases it: "The body contributes more than life support and modulatory effects to the brain.  It contributes a content that is part and parcel of the workings of the normal mind " (226).  Beyond well-documented laboratory tests, his conclusions are based on the realization that the brain is the result of thousands of years of evolution in which one of the brain’s primary tasks was the survival of the body.

In brief, neural circuits represent the organism continuously, as it is perturbed by stimuli from the physical and sociocultural environments, and as it acts on those environments.  If the basic topic of those representations were not an organism anchored in the body, we might have some form of mind, but I doubt it would be the mind we do have. (226)

Mind and thought or consciousness are, according to Damasio, an extension of the body-minded brain’s feed back mechanisms and are therefore related to individual interaction with an environment. While we, as organisms, share similar information from the environment that becomes part of these feedback loops, the manner in which we process this sensory information in highly individualized acts leads to the creation of what Damasio refers to as ‘somatic markers’. These markers are essentially memories evolved from interactions between individual perceptual systems and the environment. 

            A series of neuroscience studies in the area of neuroplasticity have demonstrated that this interaction between the mind and the environment is assisted by an individual’s ability to reprogram themself as needed in some cases creating new neurons and related neural pathways (Koch 2004, Noe 2004). Sharon Begley (2007) in a historical review of neuroscience research summaries the results of studies in neuroplasticity by observing that the research indicates that the brain is capable of “wholesale changes in job functions of particular areas of the brain” (129).  For example sections of the cortex originally designated for sight can be revised for touch in a blind person.  Furthermore, “The brain remakes itself throughout life, in response to outside stimuli–to its environment and to experience” (129). An individual’s ability to transform a brain’s function is closely related to a mental state that is marked by attention and focus. A state a philosopher of neuroscience  S. L. Hurely refers to as Consciousness in Action (1998).

            Physicist and member of the Mind Life Institute Arthur Zajonc has documented a series of recent studies which have examined the relationship to brain activity and states of attention associated with meditation (2007). The studies range from those conducted by Antoine Lutz, John D. Dunne, and Richard Davidson (2007) that considered the relationship between focused attention, open presence and non-referential attention to longitudinal studies undertaken by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, Herbert Benson at Harvard University, Margaret Kemeny at the University of San Francisco which consider meditation in relationship to stress reduction and emotional balance and finally James H. Austin’s extensive study titled Zen and the Brain (1999) which documents brain states associated with Zen meditation.  The initial positive correlation between meditation and deepening states of attention and self-awareness has encouraged further research in this area.

            One such study is the Shamatha project. This project is a joint venture between the Center for Consciousness Studies in Santa Barbara and the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.  It is funded jointly by the Fetzer Institute, the Hershey Family Foundation and the Yoga Research and Education Foundation. The study follows the psychic/emotional life of a group of mediators both during two three-month periods of isolation at a Rocky Mountain retreat, in which the participants will be meditating eight to ten hours a day, and when they have left the cloistered meditation environment and have returned to daily life. The study also includes a control group. Each group will undergo similar tests using a combination of daily dairies, a 96-channel surface electroencephalography, video-recorded facial expressions, and tests of community problem solving.

            During the three months of meditation training, Alan Wallace, an ordained Buddhist Monk and director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, will guide the participants in a series of meditations from the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions that focus on expanded attention, compassion, and empathetic joy. Neuroscientist Clifford Saffron will guide the group of neuroscientists responsible for the tests, before, during and after the periods of meditation.  The questions the study seeks to answer are:

What measurable changes in attentional ability occur as a function of intensive meditation training? What are the neural correlates of these changes and the range of their consequences? Is it true, as Buddhist contemplatives claim, that improvements in the voluntary control of attention and associated improvements in attention systems in the brain make it easier to recognize and overcome negative emotions, maintain resilience in the face of stress, and improve relationships with other people? Do the changes persist after meditation trainees return from the retreat experience to the cacophony of everyday life in a modern society? (2007)

While these studies such a the Shamatha Project are not undertaken to validate the inclusion of contemplative practice into the academic curriculum, the positive results of the studies have been used by those advocating contemplation in conversations with administrative leaders and have been pointed to in stories about contemplation in the classroom by the American Chronicle of Higher Education(2005)  and the New York Times (2007).


            Classroom Applications of Contemplative Practice

            Educator Tobin Hart elaborates Carozzi’s thesis on the mind body split in university discursive structures by noting the academy’s focus on the rational and empirical modes of attention. He writes, “The rational involves calculation, explanation, and analysis; the sensory lives off of observation and measurement.  Together these form the rational-empirical approach that has set standard for knowledge across most disciplines” (2004, 28).  While acknowledging this method of knowing, he advocates for another way of knowing—contemplation.

            Contemplation, as defined by Hart, is “a third way of knowing that compliments the rational and the sensory” (28).  Hart notes that there are a variety of ways to engage the potential of the contemplative mind from open writing assignments to meditation.  Each is designed to “shift the habitual chatter of the mind to cultivate a capacity for deepened awareness, concentration, and insight” (28).  And, “they share in common a distinct nonlinear consciousness that invites an inner opening of awareness” (28). The latter state promotes the possibility of new ideas as past frameworks are viewed through a new perspective promoted by the relaxation of the neural processes supported by a form of contemplative practice. 

            The embodied state Hart advocates has been supported in the research of psychologists Shapiro, Carlson, Astin and Freedman (2006). In an article titled “Mechanisms of Mindfulness”, they posit three components to mindfulness–intention, attention, and attitude. The initial reason or intention for engaging in contemplative practice can vary from wanting to reduce stress to developing a method of understanding the workings of the mind. Regardless of initial intention, those who practice a contemplative technique over time shift their intentions “from self-regulation, to self-exploration and finally to self-liberation” (2006, 4).  Shaprio, et al further suggest that intention, as a category of mindfulness, is not static but dynamic in which deepening awareness and insight are part of the process.

            The second category of mindfulness, attention, is acquiring the ability to observe the moment-to-moment experience, both internal and external. This is a mode of attention familiar to phenomenologists such as Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (1999) who describes this moment-to-moment awareness as kinesthetic consciousness in which the individual suspends interpreting in order to attend to the experience of being. This attention involves a combination of inhibiting distracting thoughts in order to focus for long periods of time on one object or if necessary shift focus between objects or tasks.  It is a mode of attention familiar to dancers and actors who in a constant process of exploration attend to sensory stimulus in order to learn the necessary sensitivity to respond on stage to each other and to an audience.

            The final component of mindfulness is attitude or the general quality one brings to an ability to focus attention.  Shapiro, et al point out, “Often mindfulness is associated with bare awareness, but the quality of this awareness is not explicitly addressed. However, the quality one brings to the act of paying attention is crucial” (4). For example, attention can be completely self absorbed with a cold, critical quality lacking in generosity or it can be compassionate and open anticipating neither the negative or the positive, but in a stance of active listening.

            Joined together in the act of contemplation or mindfulness–intention, attention, and attitude– provide the necessary observational skills to learn that the material observed is distinct from the mind observing them. Shapro, et al term this process “reperceiving” in which through the process of nonjudgmental attention on the contents of consciousness, the student begins to strengthen their powers of observation to become an observing self. An ability to be self observing helps students develop a set of skills in self-regulation, psychological flexibility, clarification of values, and the willingness to explore areas of knowledge that might be outside their social/cultural background. 

            Ultimately, Hart, Shapiro, Carlson, Astin and Freedman maintain that contemplative practice rewards students via physiological coherence or increased function of the body, brain and nervous system. Students are also able to embody an attitude of deep listening that notes not only the surface level of knowledge but its subtext. In the process of reflection associated with contemplative practices, they can engage ideas without becoming so attached that they lose perspective.  The combination of the latter encourages students to be open to the possibility of creative thinking that we often associate with inspired insight.

            Two examples of the incorporation of contemplative practice in a course are Arthur Zajonc and Joe Upton at Amherst University and Kat Valhos at the University of Colorado.

            Arthur Zajonc and Joel Upton, in their course ‘Eros and Insight’ follow a carefully crafted pedagogical process to take students from contemplation and reflection to insights regarding contemporary life.  The process consists of four parts observing silence, noting the afterimage, reflecting on value, and sustaining contradictions. The initial exercise begins with sitting in silence for a brief period of time with a focus on the breath. The students are then asked to describe silence as an embodied practice and note their internal state in relationship to their external environment. The second phase is an investigation of somatic nuances of silence through the incorporation of sound and the sustained attention to the afterimage. For example, a bell is rung three times followed by a period of silence. The students are asked to note the sound of the bell that still exists within their memory as they move internally toward stillness. The ability to conceptualize via experience the complexities of the spaces between action and non-action are further explored through a set of valuing practices. In this practice, the student begins from a state of open attention to consider the relationships between forms and discern difference. The forms can be paintings, specific readings, pieces of music, architectural drawings, photographs, etc.  The final phase enhances the students’ ability to hold two contrary concepts and/or situations in tension with each other via a state of open attention that is aware of difference, but not critical of difference. Instead, the students are encouraged to discern without judgment the areas of contradiction. Zajonc and Upton’s fundamental goal is to provide students with the necessary skills to live in a complex world in which it is important to contemplate with an open mind the contradictory situations and identities that are part of contemporary existence.

            Professor of Architecture in the graduate program at the University of Colorado, Kat Vlahos, uses guided meditation to expand student’s awareness of the bodies as intertwined with the forces of nature.  This initial awareness of the sun’s warmth and the trajectory of its light become studies in using their eyes open and closed in an investigation of the micro and macro observations of the landscape. In Vlahos view, the contemplation of the landscape becomes pivotal to the evolution of the students architectural design and provides them a design process that mathematical equations or theories simply cannot.

            Other faculty have evolved a variety of methods based on the nature of the course. Some have used contemplation at the beginning or during a course in order to center the student’s attention. Others have integrated lectio divinia, a method borrowed from medieval monasteries in which one individual reads the text while others actively listen. It is a practice advocated by some who teach lecture classes, a reading is often followed by discussion.  The faculties who teach in the creative and performing arts engage in interactive exercises that are conceptually based on mindfulness. 



In sum, there are a variety of directions taken by the increased academic interest in contemplative practice. Contemplative practices are, as demonstrated in the programs at Naropa and Brown Universities, a site of study of eastern and western traditions associated with contemplative practice. New areas of study involving contemplative practice such as East/West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies or the program in Creativity and Consciousness at the University of Michigan are demonstrating new uses for these monastic traditions.  Individual faculty are using contemplative practices as a means to expand and transform existing disciplines or interdisciplinary areas. In each instance, the contemplative practice or somatic mode of attention, as demonstrated in the course by Zajon and Uptonc, is not just added onto a course but is significantly integrated into its methodology and subject matter.

From the standpoint of history, this academic community is participating in a continuation of the 1960s and 70s resistance to the dominant discourses of commercialism and materialism that originally led many to the study of Asian philosophy. As a consequence the new discourses concerning contemplation, there has been a rediscovery of  western contemplative traditions such as centering prayer and lectio divinia. Those involved in this method of teaching would argue that integrating contemplation into the curriculum is not separating the spirit from the body. It is instead expanding the potential for rationale discourse through the discovery of the potential of non-judgmental thinking and inspired creativity.  Or as Sufi poet Rumi writes in “Two Kinds of Intelligence” (quoted in Brady, 2007)                       

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,

as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts

from books and from what the teacher says,

collecting information from the traditional sciences

as well as from the new sciences.


With such intelligence you rise in the world.

You get ranked ahead or behind others

in regard to your competence in retaining

information. You stroll with this intelligence

in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more

marks on your preserving tablets.


There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside you.

A spring overflowing its spring box. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through the conduits of plumbing-learning.


The second knowing is a fountain head

from within you, moving out.





Austin, James , 1999,. Zen and the Brain, Massachusetts: MIT Press.


Begley, Sharon, 2007, Train Your Mind: Change Your Brain. New York: Ballantine Books.


Brady, Richard, 2007, “Learning to Stop: Stopping to Learn: Embarking on the Contemplative Learning Path,” unpublished manuscript.


Brown, Patricia Leigh Brown, 2007, “In the Classroom, a New Focus on Quieting the Mind,” New York Times,, June 16.


Brown University, Contemplative Studies, 2007,, June.


California Institute for Integral Studies, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., June 2007.


Carozzi, Maria Julia, 2005, “Talking Minds: The Scholastic Construction of Incorporeal

Discourse,” Body and Society 11:2, 25-39.


Center for the Study of Contemplative Mind in Society, 2007, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., June.


Damasio, Antonio R, 1999, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Duerr, Maia, Arthur Zajonc and Diane Dana, 2003, “Survey of Transformative and Spiritual Dimensions of Higher Education.” Journal of Transformative Education 1, 177-211.


Fetzer Institute, 2007,  Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., June.


Garrison Institute Report, 2005, “Contemplation and Education: A Survey of Programs Using Contemplative Techniques in K-12", New York: Garrison Institute.


Gravois, John, 2005, “Meditate on it: Can adding contemplation to the classroom lead students to more eureka moments?” Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/21.


Hart, Tobin, 2004, “Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom.” Journal of Tranformative Education  2:1, 28-46.


Hurley, S. L, 1998, Consciousness in Action. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


Isserman, Maurice and Michael Kazin, 2004, American Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s. Oxford: Oxford Press.


Koch, Christof, 2004, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Englewood, Colorado: Roberts and Company.


Lutz, Antoine, John D. Dunne and Richard J. Davidson, 2007, Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Mind and Life Institute, 2007, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. June.


Morreale, Don, 1998, Complete Guide to Buddhism in America. New York: Shambhala Press.


Naropa University, 2007,, June.


Noe, Alva, 2004,. Action in Perception. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


Nunez, Rafael and Walter J. Freeman, eds. 1999, Reclaiming Cognition: The primacy of intention and emotion. UK: Imprint Academic.


Pronko, Leonard, 1967, Theatre East and West, Berkeley: University of California Press.


Prebish, Charales S., 1999, Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Robinson, Phyllis, 2004, “Meditation: Its Role in Tranformative Learning and in the Fostering of an Integrative Vision for Higher Education.” Journal of Transformative Education 2, 107-119.


Sellers-Young, Barbara, 2002,  “Breath, Perception, and Action: The Body and Critical Thinking,” Consciousness, Literature, and the Arts,” 3/2 (August 2002) 1-15.


_____, 1998, "Somatic Processes: Convergence of Theory and Practice," Theatre Topics 8:2,  173-187.


Shambhala Project, 2007,  Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., June.


Shapiro, Shauna L., Linda E. Carlson, John A. Astin, Benedict Freedman, 2006, “Mechanisms of Mindfulness,” Journal of Clinical Psychology 10, 2-14.


Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine, 1999, The Primacy of Movement, Philadelphia: John Benjamins..


Spencer-Brown, George, 1979, Laws of Form, New York: E.P. Dutton, 110.


Taylor, John, 1999, The Race for Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


“Uncovering the Heart of Higher Education,” (2007), Program.


University of Michigan, Program in Creativity and Consciousness, 2007,, June.


Wallace, B. Alan, 2007, Contemplative Science, New York: Columbia University Press.


_____. and Shauna L. Shapiro, 2006, “Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology.” American Psychologist. 61:7, 690-701.


Walsh, Roger and Shauna L. Shapiro, 2006, “The Meeting of Meditative Disciplines and Western Psychology: A Mutually Enriching Dialogue,” American Psychologist 61:3, 227-239.


Zajonc, Arthur, 2007, “ The Science of Meditation”, Paper presented at the Uncovering the Heart of Education Conference, San Francisco, California.