Fourth Annual CUNY General Education Conference Gen Ed: Making It Work and Making It Matter
Opening the Circle: Building a Community of Contemplative Educators across CUNY • Geraldine Deluca, Ph.D. • English Department • Brooklyn College • Helene Dunkelblau, Ph.D. • Department of Basic Educational Skills • Queensborough Community College • Rick Repetti, Ph.D. • Department of History, Philosophy & Political Science • Kingsborough Community College • Alexandra Tarasko, R.N., M.A., C.S. • Department of Nursing • Queensborough Community College
Agenda • 1. Brief overview of contemplative practices & benefits • 2. The presenters will discuss: • What they do in their classes • What is happening on their campuses • 3. Practicum • Experience a sample of contemplative practices • 4. Brief Q&A • 5. Planning session aimed at CUNY-wide network • 6. Brief closing meditation
Types of contemplative practices • Why? • “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will... An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about.” - William James, Principles of Psychology • Meditation: the paradigm case • One-pointedness (candle flame, image, mandala, etc.)
Other forms of meditation • Mindfulness (non-judgmental observing) • Thoughts, breath, bodily sensations, walking, etc. • Visualization and guided imagery • Breathing exercises • Mantra • Informal: Reflective dwelling, reverie, or free associating on a topic, image, word, idea, variations • Ram Dass: “Undigested experiences”
Other forms • Close reading of a passage • Lectio divina • 1. Visual reading aloud • 2. Mental reading, silently • 3. Receptive listening, creative opening • Writing • Focused, reflective, journaling, free writing, etc.
Effects of contemplative practices • Mindfulness, heightened awareness • Clarity of mind • Focused attention • Inner calm • Presence (cf. art studio atmosphere) • Sense of connectedness to others and the work • Broadening of perspective • Metacognitive processes • Intrinsic curiosity
Geri Deluca’s class • Practices used: • 1. Meditation and body scan • 2. Lectio divina • 3. Close listening and saying back what you hear • 4. Reading texts with a “spiritual” orientation: considering the connection between great literature and a deep sense of values
Helene Dunkelblau’s class • Practices used: • 1. Reflective writing • Reader response journals in conjunction with The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (spiritual content) • 2. Guided imagery • Stimulus for essay writing • 3. Breath meditation • Before high-stakes tests
Rick Repetti’s philosophy classes • Calming breath, mindfulness, lectiodivina • Post-meditation free-writing, post-reading journaling • Content-related meditations • Sample 1: Identity • “What if…?” Imagine a different childhood, career • All things considered: Who am I? What am I? • Sample 2 : What would it be like to be a brain in a vat? • Sample 3: If in an experience machine, why be moral? • Sociology teacher uses calming breath before exams
Alex Tarasko’s class Practices used: 1.Loving-kindness meditation • to develop empathy in nursing students 2.Story telling and active listening • as therapeutic interventions with patients facing losses 3. Focused breathing meditation • to help students diminish their distractive thoughts at beginning of lecture • as stress reduction prior to an exam
At Brooklyn College • Weekly meditations open to faculty, staff, students • Formerly: Monthly meetings of the involved faculty • Periodic (1/semester) meetings with KCC/QCC faculty
At Queensborough CC • Monthly meetings of the faculty from Queensborough and from Queens College • Periodic (1/semester) meetings with BC & KCC faculty • Presentations at conferences
At Kingsborough CC • FIG’s weekly meditations for faculty/staff, 1 release hour • Periodic (1/semester) meetings with BC’s & QCC’s faculty • Presentations at conferences on teaching • PSC-CUNY grant to research use of meditation in my classes Also: • Contemplative classes at Vassar College summer program
Practicum: Hands-on • Techniques: • Lectio divina – followed by: • Reflective free-writing • Cf. 3 levels of the bell ring • 1. actual sound • 2. mental repetition of sound (cf. after-image) • 3. silent, receptive, listening, opening (creative effects)
Lectio divina Passage: You’re sitting here with us, but you’re also out walking in a field at dawn. You are yourself the animal we hunt when you come with us on the hunt. You’re in your body like a plant is solid on the ground, yet you’re wind. You’re the diver’s clothes lying empty on the beach. You’re the fish. In the ocean are many bright strands and many dark strands like veins that are seen when a wing is lifted up. Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins that are lute strings that make ocean music, not the sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore. - Rumi (Born in Afghanistan, 1207, fled to Turkey to escape Mongol invasion, became a scholar, mystic, died 1279.)
Reflective Free-writing 5 minutes, non-stop writing. Uncensored, unedited. Stream of consciousness. Whatever comes up. Or whatever came up.
Q&A and Planning Stage • Q & A? • Questions to address: • What would a CUNY-wide network look like? • What sorts of events would we plan? • How would we connect and organize activities? • http://cunycontemplatives.pbwiki.com • Sign our email list, and you’ll get an e-vite to the wiki • What would we read? • What kinds of funding could we seek? • Other questions, comments?
Thank you! • http://cunycontemplatives.pbwiki.com • Geri Deluca (BC): • Gerdlu@aol.com • Helene Dunkelblau (QCC): • HDunkelblau@qcc.cuny.edu • Rick Repetti (KCC): • RRepetti@kingsborough.edu • Alexandra Tarasko (QCC): • firstname.lastname@example.org