The practice of mindfulness is a contemplative practice that has been implemented in educational settings as well as in various models of treatment for stress and other conditions. This paper examines how Western scientific psychology has participated in this implementation and the dangers to the practice and concepts of mindfulness inherent in shifting a practice from the cultural and philosophic ground in which it developed to another ground and another discourse. Some caveats for implementing contemplative practices are considered.
Various kinds of contemplative practices have been a part of the western philosophical tradition since the Age of Antiquity. Today, however, philosophy as a way of life has ceased to be an integral part of academic practice. The capability to gain knowledge or understanding is believed to come out of pure intellectual endeavor, without exercising the mind and body holistically. This has created a blind spot for philosophy, where no profound pedagogical and moral transformation of subjectivity can be articulated. Furthermore, meditation practices have often been understood as egoistic, apolitical activity. Our purpose is to suggest that this understanding is due to the liberalist and Cartesian tradition of subjectivity today widely proliferated in education. However, through an analysis of a meditation exercise in breathing, it is possible to deconstruct these notions and open novel vistas for thinking about the relationship between truth and subjectivity in education. A simple breathing exercise can dissolve the dualisms ingrained in occidental philosophy and culture - which has many socio-political implications for educational theory and praxis
Starting with the argument that what we attend to is important for how we act in and on the world – and, thus, our moral living – the article conceptualizes teaching as contemplative practice, arguing that attending pre-conceptually and non-judgmentally to our inner life as teachers as we teach moment-by-moment will give us the basis upon which we can engage developmentally in teaching as a moral endeavour. Central to the conceptualization of teaching as contemplative professional practice is the idea of on-going wok on one’s awareness, attention, and noticing of one’s inner life while teaching. Such on-going professional development is undertaken in regard of others, the students, and, thus, makes teaching as contemplative practice a moral endeavour.
This essay proposes a pedagogical ethic of love based on the four brahma-viharas -- also called the divine abodes-- of Theravada Buddhism. Witnessing, Kelly Oliver’s theory of mutual subjectivity, finds practical expression in the brahma-viharas, a comprehensive way to train the mind and heart to sustain an ethic of love in all of our relationships. Together, witnessing and the brahma-viharas offer an approach whereby we may choose to love students and to cultivate more open, responsive and egalitarian relations with them, in spite of academic asymmetries of power. In perplexing or vexing interactions with students, I draw strength from three of the four divine abodes: metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity). Consistently applying the contemplative practices associated with these states begins to disentangle the threads of complicated social relations.
Bloom’s taxonomy has become a pedagogical orthodoxy in schools. This paper challenges Bloom’s assumptions about thinking (the cognitive domain) and willing (the affective domain). A careful examination of ancient and medieval understandings – and of Thomas Aquinas’ contemplative taxonomy in particular – demonstrates how Bloom’s taxonomy is both disordered and reductionistic. The thesis of this paper is that, if education is to be truly aimed at our “highest happiness,” we must begin, in some small ways at least, to relate our educational efforts to the pursuit of wisdom. This pursuit, it is argued, involves engaging components of thinking and willing that transcend Bloom’s taxonomy.