Meditation in Higher Education

Meditation in Higher Education -...

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View Full Document Right Arrow Icon From the issue dated October 21, 2005 Meditate on It Can adding contemplation to the classroom lead students to more eureka moments? By JOHN GRAVOIS Northampton, Mass. Arthur Zajonc is sitting on the edge of a chair with his back straight, his eyes closed, and his brow lightly furrowed in concentration. He is meditating, but he does not look especially beatific. He looks like someone dreaming of algebra. He sits in a circle of about 40 other people, some perched on chairs, others sitting cross-legged on plump, round floor cushions called zafus, many of their faces likewise knit with mild concern. After a time, Mr. Zajonc lifts his hands from his thighs and retrieves a bell from a table behind him. He strikes it, the air seems to wobble a little, and the meditators blink open their eyes. When the room has come back into focus — dark wood paneling, clothbound books, old portraits on the walls — Mr. Zajonc begins to speak, and the gears of a group discussion slowly start to turn. He is speaking to professors who have traveled from all over the country to Smith College for a weeklong seminar. Here in a region dubbed the "the Buddha Belt" for its preponderance of meditation centers, they are talking about adding meditation and other contemplative practices to the college curriculum. Mr. Zajonc (pronounced like "science," but with a "z") is a physics professor at Amherst College and the director of the academic program at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a Northampton nonprofit group that seeks to promote better living and a better society through meditation and yoga. This seminar is only the latest flowering of the center's efforts in higher education. Over the past seven years, it has paired up with the American Council of Learned Societies to give out a handful of fellowships annually to professors who want to build contemplative components into their curricula — in subjects as varied as physics, business, and art history. The idea is that
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meditation doesn't just help stressed-out students find their happy place; rather, it actually deepens their engagement with subject matter — and may even prompt moments of insight. The Northampton center's efforts are already bearing fruit. At the University of Michigan School of Music, students can receive bachelor's degrees in a program called jazz and contemplative studies. An economist at Emory University has drawn up a syllabus that requires his students to meditate on pictures of poor people. And at Brown, a religious-studies professor includes meditation "labs" among his course requirements. When the center advertised this curriculum-development seminar for paying customers, it received twice as many applications as it could accept. "We're not alone anymore," Mr. Zajonc tells the group of session attendees. "Science is being
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Meditation in Higher Education -...

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