[Paleopsych] CHE: Meditate on It

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Meditate on It
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.10.21

[Colloquy with Zajonc appended. I got in a question, on whether meditation is a 
progressive discipline (think Lakatos here). I went to a talk on acupuncture. I 
had to leave early but did ask if such and such was a new treatment. The 
promoter said it was not.

[He also said chiropracty is a part of acupuncture. Chiropracty is a much more 
recent form of supposed therapy, but there may be something in acupuncture that 
looks enough like chiropracty for the claim to make some sort of sense. I 
confess to general ignorance on these matters, trusting neither the 
establishment nor the quacks and realizing that any evaluation I made would 
just be one more book to add to the heap.

[The Enlightenment optimism that our brains are big enough and our 
personalities disinterested enough to solve all problems died in six seconds in 

    Can adding contemplation to the classroom lead students to more eureka

    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 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

    "We're not alone anymore," Mr. Zajonc tells the group of session
    attendees. "Science is being done, conferences are happening,
    communities are getting together locally, regionally, nationally.

    "It's a wave," he says. "It's a movement."

    Buoyed by Research

    There's no place for this in the academy. This is spirituality in the
    classroom. This is Buddhism Lite. Meditative silence is a home for the
    demonic. How can you grade inner experience? This is pseudoscience.
    You can do the same thing with Prozac. How do you justify having
    students pay all those tuition dollars to do ... nothing?

    Professors who want to introduce contemplation into the classroom take
    heat from all sides. But now isn't a bad time for them to make their

    Over the past decade, and particularly in the past year,
    neuroscientific research on the effects of meditation has flourished.
    In a much publicized study last November, Richard J. Davidson, a
    neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, showed that
    Buddhist monks who have logged more than 10,000 hours in contemplation
    are able -- far better than novice meditators -- to activate "positive
    emotion" centers in their brains when concentrating on compassion.

    In fact, Mr. Davidson found that some of the most experienced monks
    registered higher brain activity in those regions than had ever been
    recorded in a healthy person.

    Another recent study, by Paul Ekman at the University of California at
    San Francisco, indicates that the monks' compassion is more than a
    mere head trip. When experienced monks were shown a rapid succession
    of video images of minutely different facial expressions, they were
    better at distinguishing among the emotional states registered than
    were all 5,000 of Mr. Ekman's other test subjects.

    Next month, in what is perhaps the most vivid sign of neuroscience's
    contemporary romance with Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to
    deliver the inaugural lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for
    Neuroscience, fresh on the heels of the publication of his new book,
    The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and

    In it, he writes: "My confidence in venturing into science lies in my
    basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the
    nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: If
    scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in
    Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and
    abandon those claims."

    It is as though Buddhism were saying to science: Let's play ball.

    Mr. Zajonc, who has coordinated some of the Dalai Lama's meetings with
    scientists, has much the same attitude about contemplation in higher

    "I think it's totally fair to be held to high standards in the
    academy," he says. "We just have to develop the responses."

    In the classroom, Mr. Zajonc believes that contemplative practice
    should function on multiple levels. The most basic is what he calls
    "mental hygiene" -- the therapeutic, relaxing, focusing effect that
    most people think of when they imagine someone tuned out in a
    half-lotus position.

    But beyond that, he says, there are more-specific exercises -- like
    free writing, for instance, in which a practitioner writes for a set
    interval of time without ever lifting her pen -- that can help
    students observe their emotional, intuitive, or physical responses to
    course material.

    At the highest level, Mr. Zajonc says, meditation can shade into
    something he calls "contemplative inquiry," where students try to
    create the mental circumstances for moments of insight -- minor
    versions of the "eureka moments" in the history of science.

    That's not to say that adducing evidence and crunching equations
    should ever go out the window. But truly original discoveries don't
    usually spring straight from logical proofs, he says: "The conditions
    required for intuitive insight are quite different from the subsequent
    dispassionate, logical testing of it."

    In his mind, the mental state behind such epiphanies is more akin to
    seeing than to deductive reasoning. Meditation, which builds skills of
    self-observation and trains the mind to mull contradictions without
    jumping to resolve them, he says, may be the best way to cultivate
    that special kind of vision.

    Curriculum Fight

    In 2000, three years after getting a contemplative-practice fellowship
    from the American Council of Learned Societies, Ed Sarath submitted a
    proposal for an entire degree program in jazz and contemplative
    studies to the curriculum committee at the University of Michigan
    School of Music. In addition to typical courses in music theory,
    performance, and improvisation, the major would require four semesters
    of a "contemplative-practice seminar" and a course called "Creativity
    and Consciousness," plus work in meditation-related fields like
    psychology and religion.

    To his surprise, the idea sailed through the committee with a
    unanimous vote. Then it went before the entire faculty of the school
    for consideration. Ten days went by before anyone weighed in.

    Then the exchange of a few e-mail messages started what is still known
    at the school as "the great debate."

    "Things got testy," says Mr. Sarath, a jazz professor. "I was getting
    tendonitis every night responding to challenges to it."

    Logan Skelton, an associate professor of piano at the school, was one
    of the curriculum's most vocal opponents -- though he took pains not
    to attack contemplative practice in its own right.

    "Not everything that's worth doing belongs in a classroom," he says,
    still maintaining the position he held five years ago. "How do you
    grade contemplative achievement? How do you assess anything to do with
    it? It seems to me that it is in a domain that is deeply personal."

    Mr. Skelton also took issue with the amount of class time the
    curriculum required students to spend in meditation.

    "If you were to add it up," he says, "you'd probably have something
    like an entire semester's class where they do nothing but sit in
    silence. That seems out of balance to me."

    What seems to divide Mr. Sarath and Mr. Skelton most is a disagreement
    over whether something akin to inquiry -- something substantive -- is
    happening when students meditate.

    "It's not just that the students are sitting in silence, it's that
    they're reflecting on related models, theoretical models of
    consciousness," says Mr. Sarath. Moreover, he says, "the quality of
    interaction that happens after that silent time can be very powerful."

    After weeks of debate, Mr. Sarath's curriculum passed by roughly a
    two-thirds majority.

    According to Stephen Shipps, an associate dean of the music school who
    supported the program from the beginning, it has thrived. "It's
    probably one of the three or four most difficult curricula in the
    school academically," he says. "And it has attracted some of the most
    intelligent and interesting students we have."

    'Out of the Closet'

    Frank L. Maddox, an associate professor of economics at Oxford College
    of Emory University, is a big guy with a Southern drawl and a short
    goatee. An avid country two-stepper, he might not seem out of place at
    a monster-truck rally -- except that he is wearing a sea-green T-shirt
    emblazoned with a big Sanskrit "Om."

    Mr. Maddox is sitting with a handful of other professors in a bright
    and airy classroom at Smith. They've just come in from a "walking
    meditation," where they clocked a tortoiselike average of 20 steps per
    minute around the campus quad. Now they are sharing their plans to
    incorporate contemplation into their students' college experience.

    "I might have them look at an image of something to do with poverty or
    globalization," Mr. Maddox says, "then free write, then meditate, then
    look at the image again, then free write." He pauses. "And then watch
    all hell break loose with my course evaluations."

    (In fact, most professors at the seminar who have tried out
    contemplative exercises in the classroom report overwhelmingly
    positive reviews from students.)

    Like many of the professors attending the seminar here, Mr. Maddox has
    incorporated vaguely contemplative elements into his classes for
    years, without flagging them as such -- and he certainly didn't
    trumpet his meditative intentions when he was still an assistant
    professor. "I did not come out of the closet that much until I was
    tenured," he says, "and it was a good call."

    At times, the trepidation that the professors here feel about bringing
    contemplative practice into their classrooms shades all the way into
    skepticism and self-doubt. A constant anxiety in group discussions is
    "the flake factor," as in "we must minimize the flake factor."

    Aron Shlonsky, an associate professor of social work who recently left
    Columbia University to teach at the University of Toronto and is a
    dedicated meditator, makes repeated calls for measurable results. "If
    we're going to be doing this in the academy," he asks the group, "does
    this result in better knowing? Does this result in a student doing
    better on a physics test?"

    "Remember," he says, "people used to think phrenology was a real

    Future Plans

    On the last day of the session, the group of 40 professors gathers in
    a circle one last time to discuss the future. One of the attendees,
    David Kahane, an associate professor of philosophy at the University
    of Alberta, in Canada, who only found his way to the session because
    he spent years doing Google searches for "Zen" and "pedagogy,"
    volunteers to start a Web log so the group can keep trading ideas

    Another attendee proposes a "road show" that would take the session
    leaders to various campuses across the country. Others hatch plans for
    meetings on the West Coast. Still others make ardent last-minute
    suggestions for rhetorical strategies to convince administrators of
    the worth of contemplation in the classroom.

    (And sure enough, in the weeks after the August session, the blog will
    take off, new gatherings will land on the Center for Contemplative
    Mind in Society's calendar, attendees will set up their own workshops
    on contemplative pedagogy at their home universities, and one
    professor -- Fred Curtis, an economist at Drew University -- will
    deliver his institution's convocation address with a surprise emphasis
    on mindfulness.)

    If nothing else, the session confirms that contemplative practice in
    higher education is an idea on the march -- or at least an idea on a
    very slow walk.

    After about an hour of increasingly breathless brainstorming, Mr.
    Zajonc brings the discussion to a close, ushering everyone back into a
    final period of silence with the sound of a bell. The air wobbles. The
    room disappears.

Putting the 'Om' in Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy Transcript

    Wednesday, October 19, at 12 p.m., U.S. Eastern time

    The topic

    With fellowships from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and
    the American Council of Learned Societies, professors in a wide range
    of disciplines are building meditation into their curricula. Students
    might participate in "meditation labs," spend time contemplating
    photographs related to the subject matter, or engage in
    stream-of-consciousness writing exercises to observe their emotional,
    intuitive, or physical responses to course material.
    Proponents say contemplative practice can deepen students' engagement
    with the subject matter. Recent neuroscientific research suggests that
    meditation promotes brain activity, leading to greater insights. But
    critics of the contemplative-practice movement say classroom
    meditation is watered-down Buddhism, pseudoscience, or simply not
    worth students' tuition dollars.
    Is there a place for meditation in the college classroom? If so, what
    are the most effective ways to incorporate it into the curriculum? Or
    will meditation always be tainted by the "flake factor"?

    The guest

    Arthur Zajonc, a professor of physics at Amherst College, runs the
    academic program at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a
    nonprofit organization based in Northampton, Mass., that aims to
    foster better living -- and better society -- through meditation and
    yoga. In addition to his work promoting ocontemplative curriculum
    developmento in higher education for the center, Mr. Zajonc has
    moderated several meetings between scientists and the Dalai Lama. He
    has been a visiting professor and researcher at the École Normale
    Superieure, in Paris, and at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum
    Optics, in Garching, Germany.

                      A transcript of the chat follows.

    John Gravois (Moderator):
        Hello, I'm John Gravois, the reporter who wrote this week's piece
    on Contemplation in Higher Education, and I'll be moderating today's
    chat. Let's go ahead and get started.

    Question from Elizabeth K. Best PhD, Shoah Education Project-Web:
        All ideas come from or are integrated with other ideas.
    "Meditation," while mentioned in most world religions, does not even
    remotely mean the same thing in each. Christian meditation focuses on
    Christ and the Word of God, Jewish Meditation, on the Torah and other
    commands, Buddhism and Hinduism have their own brand and I have spoken
    with TM people whose idea of meditation can involved trained
    'dissociative' processes, which while they define spiritually, are
    found also in premorbid schizophrenia and other psychoses. Do you
    really think there is a value-less 'meditation'?

    Over years I have found in secular institutions that Eastern Mysticism
    and other eastern forms of meditation are almost always the ways the
    methods you suggest pattern themselves after, and they almost alway
    include a religious point of view and a fundamental dissociative
    process. Are physicists, chemists, literature professors, and secular
    psychologists really capable of teaching or integrating this and
    handling outcomes, both legal and emotional? I think there are also
    primary Civil Liberties issues which will disallow most practicing
    Christian and Jewish students from accessing this troubling part of a
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Most academics who use contemplative practice as part of their
    classroom pedagogy teach simple exercises such as stilling the mind,
    cultivating attention, practicing open awareness, reading slowly and
    reflectively, listening deeply... These are largely secular practices
    and have been successful with students at all types of institutions,
    large and small, public and private. In recent years increasing effort
    is being made to bring such practices into direct relationship with
    the course content. For example, when teaching classes on poetry,
    painting, medicine, ecology, philosophy, and even economics,
    professors are developing contemplative practices that assist students
    in establishing deeper and more insightful relationships to the course
    material itself. I should also say that in some cases, for example in
    religion departments, the content of the course may be the
    contemplative dimensions of a religious tradition such as Judaism or
    Buddhism. In such cases the contemplative methods taught are drawn
    from the particular tradition under study. Harold Roth at Brown
    University (Asian Studies and Religion) has taught such a course for
    several years, and students participate in "lab" sessions during which
    time the practices being studied formally in class are explored
    directly and freely. Larry Fine at Mt. Holyoke College is Professor of
    Jewish Studies, and he also uses contemplative methods in his course
    on Jewish Spirituality.

    Question from Doug Hanvey, Indiana University Bloomington:
        Are there success stories of instructors who have not only taught
    meditation as part of an academic class, but who have taught an entire
    class devoted to contemplative practice (i.e., not just thinking about
    it or studying it intellectually, but engaging in the practice for its
    own sake)? (Excepting, of course, physical education or
    medically-related classes that teach meditation for stress reduction,
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Yes, many of our 100 ACLS Contemplative Practice Fellows do
    include substantial practice with students. Hal Roth of Brown
    University offers an entire course with a "lab" component in which
    contemplative practices are taught.

    Question from Doug Hanvey, Indiana University Bloomington:
        What are the main issues with bringing the teaching of
    contemplative practices into publicly-funded universities?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Many professors in our network are at state-funded, public
    universities or secular private universities. We have had much less
    difficulty with church-state issues than expected. Professors are
    clear in their course descriptions and syllabus, and always allow
    students to opt out if they care too (very few do).

    Question from Clifford Hill, Columbia University:
        What does Contemplative Mind in Society see as the most important
    next steps in strengthening the presence of contemplative practices in
    higher education?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We see two directions as being especially important for the
    development of contemplative practices in higher education. The first
    is to broaden the availablity of such courses both by extending our
    network of academics and by involving more students in such courses.
    Our annual conferences and summer workshops, as well as the ACLS
    fellowship, are our means of doing so. Second, we believe it will be
    increasingly important to connect the practices with the specific
    content of the courses themselves. For example architect professor
    Peter Schneider at the University of Colorado asks student to meditate
    within different types of architectural spaces and then assigns design
    problems that rely, in part, on their contemplative experiences.
    Finally we are finding that academics are forming networks of support
    at their home institutions or within regions.

    Question from Scott Smallwood:
        You mentioned that few students opt out of such contemplative
    parts of the class when given a chance. What kind of reactions do
    students ususally have? Are they supportive? Do professors find that
    it changes the way students think about them? Or their relationships
    with the students?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Very few students do opt out, and the vast majority are quite
    enthusiastic about their experiences. In a survey we made professors
    report that these courses are their most successful, and they have to
    limit enrollment. See our webiste www.contemplativemind.org and see
    The Contemplative Scholar survey of our fellows.

    Question from Cynthia Drake, Central Michigan University:
        Are there plans to research the impact of meditation on student
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We are anxious to encourage much more research on the efficacy and
    benefits of meditation in both student life and in classroom
    performance. There have been relatively few studies of sufficient
    scope and methodological sophistication to make a clear scientific
    statement. Many studies of meditation in clinical settings or lab
    environments have been done and show quite positive effects. The time
    has come to extend these studies to this new area of the classroom.

    Question from Jennifer K. Ruark, The Chronicle:
        John's article mentioned a few of the contemplative practices --
    seated meditation, free writing -- that some professors have
    incorporated into the classroom. Could you give some more examples?
    What about long-distance running or fly-fishing as contemplative
    Arthur Zajonc:
        There are a host of practices that have been used successfully. At
    our website www.contemplativemind.org we offer a introduction and
    description of many of these at the part of the site labelled "About
    Contemplative Practices." Tobin Hart's article in the site's
    bibliography is a good general resource as well.

    Question from Maya Talisman Frost, mindfulness trainer, Real-World
    MIndfulness Training:
        Why the focus on the university level? We know that there are some
    skills--music, foreign languages--that are more easily learned when we
    are younger. Why not focus on making mindfulness a part of the
    kindergarten curriculum? Notice I did not say meditation--as
    mentioned, this word has different meanings depending upon the
    individual's interpretation. I wonder why we don't shift toward
    "mindfulness"--the practice of nonjudgmental awareness. Seems we'd
    avoid several hurdles at once. In working with several hundred
    preschoolers (as as the mother of four myself) I know firsthand how
    powerful--and fun!--mindfulness exercises can be in the eyes of a
    typical five-year-old. Are college freshmen more likely to respond to
    teachings about meditation...or less?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We have chosen to focus on higher education, but we are aware of
    the great interest in meditation in K-12. Others are working on this
    area. The Mindfulness in Education Network is one such group.

    Question from Constance Krosney, Vermont College of Union Institute
    and University:
        Would you elaborate on the assertion that contemplative practice
    deepens students' engagement with subject matter? Do you have evidence
    of this?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        In my own Amherst College course with art historian Joel Upton, we
    work slowly and reflectively with, for example, a single painting for
    over an hour. We alternate between lecturing and silent observation
    and reflection. Students do, in our experience, gradually come to a
    deeper level of engagement through such methods. We have developed a
    whole series of exercises and writing assignments that lead them
    through to such an engagement.

    Question from Doug Hanvey, Indiana University Bloomington:
        Arthur, you suggested in a previous answer that there have been
    fewer difficulties with church-state issues (i.e., especially in
    public universities) than expected. This is good to hear, but I
    sometimes feel that contemplative practices may be so watered down and
    secularized in order to "sell" them to academia (or medicine, or
    psychology, etc.) that they may lose their spiritual roots, which I
    feel is what they are really about. Yet if the spiritual aspects are
    emphasized, there does seem to be a potential problem with the
    church-state issue. Have you or others thought about how to redefine
    or reframe contemplative practices in such a way as to keep the
    connection with spirituality alive, but to de-emphasize their
    religious origins? (I am defining spirituality and religion
    differently here, and I realize that some may disagree.) Do you think
    this is even possible?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We have focused on two areas of practice. One concerns the basic
    practices of attention and clarity of mind. The other practices are
    directed more toward the goal of contemplative inquiry and knowing.
    These usually raise few church-state issues. We also recognize that
    many of these practices have their roots in spiritual traditions, and
    we have granted fellowships to a number of professors studying these
    traditions, especially in the West where less his known. Of course,
    this is a large and important issue which many of us have thought
    about since the program's beginning.

    Question from Jennifer K. Ruark, The Chronicle of Higher Education:
        Meditation -- successfully "quieting" the mind -- takes years of
    practice, and I imagine is especially challenging for the current
    generation of college students, people not accustomed to spending time
    simply sitting in silence. How effective can a single semester's worth
    of meditative practice really be?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Of course you are right. But we have found that students are
    grateful for being introduced to contemplative practice. We also
    support venues other than the classroom for practice, and hope that
    students will choose to continue to deepen their practice throughout
    their time at the university, and beyond.

    Question from Doug Hanvey, Indiana University Bloomington:
        Elizabeth Best brings up an interesting point. While I think she
    misinterprets contemplative practices as being dissociative (authentic
    contemplative practices are quite the opposite in my experience),
    certainly emotional challenges can arise when engaging in a
    contemplative practice. Do you share her concern that professors who
    may not be thoroughly trained or experienced in meditation may not
    know how to deal with such challenges in the classroom?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        By creating a contemplative space in the classroom, Mary Rose
    O'Reilley (St. Thomas) and others have found that they are better able
    to hold and respond to student contributions, even those that come
    from a deep emotional level. In our experience this has not been a
    great problem. Students do often seek out closer relationships with
    their professors as a consequence, which means more time commitment
    for academics.

    Question from Viviane Ephraimson-Abt,Colorado State University:
        Do you have any examples of meditation and contemplation being
    incorporated into student life programs beyond health, counseling, or
    recreation centers, such as residents halls or student leadership
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Yes, we know other practice venues are quite widespread but we
    have not tracked them.

    Comment from Suzanne Montgomery College:
        I think this is a wonderful topic to consider adding to curricula.
    Arthur Chickering et al. just published a book on authenticity and
    spirituality in higher education. One of the points in the book is
    that authenticity cannot happen without real reflection on what we
    think, who we are, what our lives mean - the essential questions. I
    think that meditative practices can help students to focus on these
    issues - to help them develop in all areas of their lives - not just
    the intellectual.

    Question from Frank Forman, U.S. Department of Education:
        Is meditation, or any school of practice of meditation, a
    progressive discipline? I do not know of any progress in this field,
    just techniques that were perfected hundreds, if not thousands, of
    years ago. If not, it doesn't mean medidation is useless, but why no
    Arthur Zajonc:
        While many of the practices do indeed come from traditions of the
    past, many of our fellows are working with their own insight and
    initiative to develop or modify practices so they suit modern life and
    the academic context.

    Question from Constance Krosney, Vermont College of Union Institute
    and University:
        What is your goal for the incorporation of contemplative practice
    in higher education? Is there something specific you hope will be
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We feel that the academy excels at analytical and critical modes
    of thinking and writing. While we all fully recognize the importance
    of these modalities, we feel that they should be balanced by a
    curriculum that honors and supports a more integrative form of inquiry
    and insight. I have written on this in a forthcoming article for the
    Teachers College Record. See our website, Academic Program Report,
    Love and Knowledge, Recovering the Heart of Learning through

    Question from Guy Burneko, The Institute for Contemporary/Ancient
    Learning (Seattle):
        Do we know if the brainwave activity of mature contemplatives and
    meditators is regularly associated with a corresponding chemical

    It would seem the interdisciplinary intersection of sciences,
    (chemistries, biologies, psychologies, anthropologies, etc.) and
    humanities (religious studies, literatures, hermeneutics, political
    studies, etc.) in the case of researching meditation would allow
    opportunity for an entirely new curriculum.

    Morevoer, doesn't it seem such inquiry would be especially suited to
    our present needs if, as Theodore Roszak has argued, the world
    population is getting older? What might we learn about the
    possibilites of human (self) understanding if education, (as Julian
    Huxley proposed, and Thomas Berry in his way) were reconceived as a
    significant agent of human evolution? Or do you suppose that is
    over-thinking the issue? Thanks
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Yes, there is now ample research that demonstrates the chemical
    and neural correlates of meditation. The best known research is that
    of Richard Davidson of the Keck Lab University of Wisconsin, Madison.
    Expert meditators have dramatically different prefrontal activity than
    a standard population. See the Mind and Life website for reseach
    results and new acitivity in this area.

    Comment from Ed Sarath, The University of Michigan:
        Comment: Someone mentioned the possibility of diluting
    contemplative disciplines in order to make them suitable for academic
    contexts. This is a valid concern. Another concern is integrity of
    practice. One way some of us are dealing with these issues is having
    students learn meditation at local meditation centers in conjunction
    with university coursework.

    Question from Maya Talisman Frost, Real-World Mindfulness Training:
        Do you find that most univerisities are more likely to embrace the
    notion of meditation being incorporated in an academic course
    (philosophy, religion, art) or are some opting to teach meditation as
    an activity credit course only?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Nearly all of the courses we know of are academic in character.

    Comment from Elizabeth Kirkley Best PhD:
        I am aware deeply the nature of 'contemplative' practices across
    religions and those which some deem 'independent'. The truth is
    however, that some meditative practices do indeed involve a
    dissociative process: e.g in traditional transcendental meditation
    there is a process referred to a 'witnessing' [far from the Christian
    concept] in which one is trained to see oneself as a part of an
    oversoul or oversoul-like entity, and become a part of that viewing
    the natural life. Depersonalization phenomena [sometimes called
    derealization] is a psychological process entirely similar although
    usually involuntary, and can occur in normals, in intense situations,
    in drug use and in certain forms of mental illness and is often a
    'symptom' of premorbid schizophrenia. It appears to be in the short
    run in normals a defensive cognitive-emotional reaction and in the
    long run a disintegration of the personality or self: there are
    elements of transcendental meditation in which this is literally
    trained. In Christian and Jewish meditation, there is form and
    substance to the meditation, i.e. the Scriptures, and not just a
    divorcing of one part of consciousness or an 'emptying' of self toward
    no other cause than what is defined as clear thinking. This is theory
    tainted with religion: it should be in the realm of individual choice
    outside the classroom in secular universities.

    Question from Cori Mar, University of Washington:
        Do you think that mindfulness meditation is potentially subversive
    with regards to the values of a consumerist society where more and
    faster is encouraged?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Ethical issues naturally arise in the context of contemplation.
    One example is an economist who uses compassion as an important
    contemplative practice as we consider the distribution of wealth.
    David Levy (IT, Seattle) is working on contemplation and the speedup
    associated with our information society. These are but two examples.
    Alan Klima in teaching Anthopology at Bard explores violence and the
    media, and uses contemplationto help students deconstruct images of

    Question from anonymous Gallaudet U.:
        Has anyone tried this with deaf education?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        Yes, there is an effort to work with deaf students. We have a
    fellow who is working especially with the disabled.

    Arthur Zajonc:
        Dan Holland at University of Arkansas is the person working with
    the disabled.

    Question from Viviane Ephraimson-Abt,Colorado State University:
        How important is it that faculty/ staff themselves have a strong
    contemplative practice as they are introducing it into their settings
    in classes or student life. Academia, with its competing demands, can
    make it difficult to build and maintain contemplative practices. In
    what ways have you seen faculty and administrators strengthen
    themselves in this area?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        While many of our fellows have strong practices of their own,
    others are inspired by the work to begin or strengthen their practices
    through retreats and other means. Some do not rely on their own
    expertise, but rather bring in local meditation or movement teachers.

    Question from Judith Simmer-Brown, Naropa University:
        This is such an important conversation. How do we continue it
    beyond today?
    Arthur Zajonc:
        We agree that this conversation is important for the future
    development of higher education. Please write to us at
    info at contemplativemind.org and we will do our best to respond and keep
    the dialogue going. Thanks for asking...

    John Gravois (Moderator):
        Sadly, we've come to the end of our allotted time. Feel free to
    take a moment of silence now that the conversation's over, and thanks
    for joining us.

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