Mediation bowl on rockThe Wheaton Contemplative Studies Initiative (CSI) is comprised of a small but committed group of faculty, students, parents, alums, community members and staff who are working to define the appropriate range and nature of topics and activities that will guide the evolution of a Wheaton contemplative studies awareness on campus and in our local communities.

This Initiative supports the creation of contexts for compassion, self-reflection, and present moment awareness in our daily lives as learners, teachers and scholars. Contemplative studies encourage individuals to explore intersections of their spiritual histories and inner wisdom with their outer activities as scholars. From these vantage points, teaching, learning, and research are viewed as potential loci for the sacred. Within this framework, disciplines are regarded as ways of making meaning, not to be confused with meaning itself. Contemplative studies assume that disciplinary study is rooted in parallel exploration of students’ answers to questions of meaning, thus provoking transformation.

Transformative learning is possible when we use contemplation as a practice and teach ‘contemplative’ as a way of being in the world and with ourselves. Contemplative studies support community engagement and ethical action while helping students―and all stakeholders―to acquire knowledge with greater focus and attention, to apply knowledge and information in creative and critical ways, and to make the healthy choices that will lessen stress, and promote personal wellness and growth.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the CSI group focused efforts on study and research to learn more about how other colleges and universities were integrating contemplative studies. In addition to many other strands of investigation, members of CSI met in June of 2013 with Harold Roth, Professor of Religious Studies and a founding member of the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University, to learn about the evolution of Brown’s decade old Contemplative Studies Initiative.

In the second year (2013-14), Wheaton’s CSI chose to focus on programming to raise campus awareness of contemplative studies. Within this context, we welcomed Harold Roth to deliver a lecture, “Contemplative Studies in the Liberal Arts” on October 21, 2013. His lecture to a large gathering of faculty, students, staff and community members generated a powerful discussion on the nature of thought and states of experience in academic life. On March 19, 2014, the CSI hosted a lecture by Dr. Sara Lazar titled “The Impact of Meditation on Cognition, Aging, and the Brain.” Sara W. Lazar, PhD is an Associate Researcher in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. The focus of her team’s research is elucidating the neural mechanisms that underlie the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, both in clinical settings and in healthy individuals.

During the 2014-15 academic year, the CSI hosted a number of events and initiatives. Most notably, on October 7th , 2014 Jon Kabat-Zinn addressed a full auditorium on the topic “Insight, Understanding, Wisdom, Cooperativity, and Creativity: The Promise of Mindfulness and other Contemplative Practices in Higher Education — and in Life.”  And on April 6th, 2015 Metta McGarvey spoke to large audience on Meditation and Human Development: Short-term Benefits and Long-term Potential.

Spring of 2017 brought Mark W. Muesse, who lectured on “Cultivating Compassion on Campus and in the Community.” Professor Muesse is a longtime practitioner of meditation and the author of Practicing Mindfulness. He has taught and studied throughout Asia and is the founder of the Compassionate Campus Initiative at Rhodes.

This year brings bestselling author, psychologist and consultant Dr. Christopher Willard, who will speak about mindfulness for kids, teens and families, in school, therapy and beyond. Dr. Willard will discuss tailoring mindfulness techniques to a range of children’s issues, including learning differences, medical concerns, and mental health issues.

For more information, contact Professor Mary Lee Griffin.

Resources

These resources were created by independent study students in the Department of Education, working with Professor Mary-Lee Griffin.

Mindfulness for Teens An excellent site for teens about mindfulness created and maintained by Dzung X. Vo, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at British Columbia Children’s Hospital, and clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver, Canada.

Mindfulness for College Students This was created by Raffi Sweet and Caity Vomastek, from the class of 2012. Visit their Facebook page.

Mindfulness Living and Learning Page This was created by Geovanny Reyes (class of 2014) and Elaine Yuan (2015). The site was designed to be a resource for parents of young children and also a resource for college students.

Center for Investigating Healthy Minds   A curriculum of practices implemented in public schools in Wisconsin, currently being investigated Richard Davidson and his research team.

Contemplative Outreach Events Events in the Boston area for reflection and contemplation.