Big minds. Small classes.
At Naropa University, academic rigor addresses intellectual growth, but it doesn't stop there. The university's approach to teaching includes not only the logical, rational, discursive linear aspects of the subject matter, but also encompasses the body, the heart, and the totality of one's consciousness in learning. At Naropa, education is aimed at the mind, the body, and the heart. Faculty members are committed to working closely with students to foster development in each of these areas so that the educational experience is a truly transformational one.
Abigail Lindemann (MA, Contemplative Psychotherapy, '09) discovered Naropa when she sought a graduate psychology program where she could integrate her interests in positive psychology and contemplative studies. She was prepared to set aside her research ambitions, but Graduate School of Psychology director MacAndrew Jack encouraged her to pursue her passion for scientific investigation. Jack and Lindemann studied retreat experience and long-term meditation among MACP students. Lindemann is a professional research assistant at the University of Colorado's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
Body, Heart, and Consciousness
Rabbi Zvi Ish-Shalom, an instructor in Religious Studies, believes that an unconventional approach to teaching is Naropa's purpose. Central to that approach is Naropa's inclusion of the body, the heart, and the consciousness.
"At Naropa, we are not just imparting information. We are teaching how to cultivate wisdom. And true wisdom is discovered in the 'not-knowing,' in the paradoxes, in the mysterious depths of our Being. When this kind of openness to the mystery is integrated with the body, the mind, and the heart, then our wisdom can be expressed more authentically in the world. This is the whole point of a Naropa University education,"Ish-Shalom says.
The Naropa Model
Susan Burggraf, an associate professor in contemplative psychology, has participated in several contemplative education conferences where Naropa University's expertise has been sought out. Collegiate conferences are forums for Naropa faculty to cultivate relationships with colleagues and to participate in the burgeoning contemplative education movement. Throughout the United States, and in countries such as Bhutan, educators are exploring more heart-centric methods of teaching. Often, they seek advice from Naropa educators because the university serves as a model for contemplative education.
"The holistic contemplative approach to higher education that the founding faculty at Naropa began over thirty years ago is very much alive today and spreading rapidly as faculty—some individually and some whole departments or groups—are inspired by the power and sense of possibility that come from incorporating contemplative modes of inquiry into syllabi and curricula," Burggraf says.
Many faculty from other colleges and universities have visited Naropa University to see contemplative education in practice. Mirabai Bush, a senior fellow and the founding director of the Center on Contemplative Mind in Society, calls Naropa "an early leader and an important center for this work."
Barry Kroll, the Rodale Professor in Writing and chair of English at Lehigh University, says, "My sense is that the contemplative education community has much to learn from Naropa, where there is a repository of experience and wisdom to be tapped. Because contemplative practice is woven into the curriculum as well as student life at Naropa, it is the premier experiment in contemplative pedagogy, from which those of us who teach in other (especially secular institutions) can learn a great deal."