I have been fortunate to have been invited to a number of universities this year to lead contemplative practice workshops for faculty, staff, and students. In Oct. 2017 I was hosted by my dear friend, colleague, and teacher LeeRay Costa at Hollins University. We did some meaningful work during my visit which culminated in a lively conversation, in the final hours of the visit, among Hollins faculty and staff about ways they already are incorporating contemplative practices in their work--in the classroom, in the library, elsewhere--and ways they could expand their use of contemplative practices. If my visit offered the Hollins faculty and staff nothing other than an opportunity to get together, do a few exercises, and then have a lively, passionate conversation with each other, then, I think, it was worth it. Create conditions for folks to connect meaningfully and deeply, then get out of the way. That's how I like to work.
Next week, I'll be at the University of Tampa to lead workshops for faculty, staff, and honors students. I'll also be doing a reading while I'm there. The faculty workshop will focus on practices of setting intentions, directing attention, and reflecting on our experiences. With the honors students, I'll be leading a session called "How the Light Gets In: Making Room for Bodies, Hearts, Minds, and Spirits in the Honors Classroom and Beyond." And with the staff, we'll work on experiences of scattering and gathering. Thanks to my dear friend and teacher Don Morrill for inviting me back, yet again, to the University of Tampa. Don's new book, Beaut, a novel, recently won the Lee Smith Novel Prize sponsored by Carolina Wren Press. Don and his wife, Lisa Birnbaum, author of the fabulous novel Worthy, will be in Asheville to read from their work on April 3, 2018.
Since beginning my career as an educator, I've always been interested in creating transformative experiences for my students and myself in the classroom. That, at least, has been my intention. Sometimes it has happened. Sometimes it hasn't. Sometimes I've been aware that it's happened. Sometimes it's happened without my being aware that it had. The approaches I took in the classroom were never informed by a methodical study of pedagogy. I worked intuitively. I still work intuitively. But now I have more to draw on in developing approaches to teaching. For one, I can draw on my own experiences with 10 years of formal meditation practice. For another, I can draw on the inspiration of colleagues around the country who have invited their experiences and knowledge of contemplative practices to point them toward ways of teaching that can create conditions in which deep learning can happen.
I'm grateful for opportunities to work with colleagues and students in ways that I hope will help open minds and hearts, lead to new insights, to greater compassion, and to action, doing the outer work that our world so badly needs at this time.