Book Discussion: Contemplative Practices in Higher Education

A discussion and exploration of contemplative pedagogy described by in Contemplative Practices in Higher Education by Daniel Barzebat and Mirabai Bush

Academy for Teaching Excellence

Harper College, Nov 13, 20015


Mindfulness  p. 97

Lectio Divina p. 115

Contemplative Writing p. 133

Sound Meditation p.139

Mindful Listening p. 144-5

Beholding p.155

Walking p. 161

Lovingkindness p. 179

Related links and images


What is Mindfulness?


What is the science of mindfulness?

A short video summary:



An fMRI study with college students (Creswell, Way, Eisenberger, and Lieberman, 2007) found that those higher in MAAS-measured dispositionalbrain map of amygdalamindfulness showed less reactivity to emotionally threatening visual stimuli, as indexed by lower amygdala activation, as well as stronger prefrontal cortical (PFC) activation, suggestive of better executive control.  More mindful students also showed a stronger inhibitory association between PFC and amygdala, suggesting better regulation of emotional reactions.  Other recent research has shown that induced mindful states can produce a quicker recovery from negative mood states, in comparison to other, common regulatory strategies like distraction and rumination (Broderick, 2005)

–  “Toward the Integration of Meditation into Higher Education: A Review of Research Evidence” published Contemplative Mind in Society (2008), republished under same title in Teachers’ College Record 113. 3 (2011) : 493-528

brain images

Benefits of Meditation for Attention

  • improves attentional performance
  • increased efficiency of networks recruited during the attention and impulse control
  • meditation may change brain morphology and function, particularly in areas related to attention and response selection

[Source:  “Meditation training increases brain efficiency in an attention task,”  <em>Neuroimage </em>59 (2012): 745-9]


The Tree of Contemplative Practices



Contemplate this image.  What ideas/thoughts/feelings/memories arise in your mind as you examine this picture? Write for 10 minutes in as much detail as possible.



Blackboard can be used to do short surveys of the contemplative practices employed. Sample questions:

  • What is your opinion about the short focusing periods we have been doing at the beginning of our class meetings?
  • How do you feel during those two minute breaks?
  • Would you want them longer, shorter, or completely gone?

Administered as an add-on to a quiz in Blackboard

– Jon Brammer, Three Rivers Community College, CT

Results of Assessment

“I had 23 students respond-everyone in the section- and the responses were generally very good. 21/23 liked the brief “chill time” periods, but they were mixed in terms of wanting them longer. I would guess there were 6-7 who wanted the time increased to five minutes or more. No student thought they should be shorter than the two minutes.

Of the two folks who didn’t see any benefit, one thought it was a waste of time and the other was completely neutral.”  – via email from J. Brammer



We will now take some to write contemplatively in response to Dan and Mirabai’s questions.  What would you like to tell them about your experience with their book?  Your answers will posted on this website and be made available to the authors.


Conferences and Intensive Training

  1. Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy.   A week-long intensive held every August at Smith College, Northampton, MA
  2. Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference.
  3. International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (emphasis on neuroscience):
  4. Advances in Meditation Research:  (neuroscience/medical)

Join the Contemplative Mind in Society for updates and webinars:


One thought on “Book Discussion: Contemplative Practices in Higher Education

  1. Personally, I think the specific practices were interesting to me, but as a person who is a little uncomfortable with this sort of classroom activity, I think building that sort of change in environment into my own classroom, both in terms of changing the mood of my class and in terms of student acceptance of these sorts of activities. I would have liked to read more about doing some of these activities in a more informal way. As someone who is generally skeptical about these sorts of activities, I feel that I may also not have been the target demographic, so to speak. I suppose, then, that it feels a little out-of-character to do some of these things. I would be interested to learn more about some, I guess, lower key versions of these activities.

    Cory Long, ESL


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