A Growing Movement
"We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing
and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts."
—Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
Contemplative education has been growing as a pedagogical approach in higher education for decades. From its inception, Naropa University has been at the vanguard of this exciting movement to rethink and enhance the way we approach higher education. In the early years, our faculty collaborated and innovated, developing the distinctly Naropa approach to learning. At first this approach was uniquely Naropa. In the 1980's and early 1990's the holistic education movement began to turn to contemplative practice as a way to engage the whole student.
The current contemplative education movement in higher education was sparked by a landmark conference, hosted by Naropa University in 1997 entitled "Spirituality and Education." Eight hundred participants from many fields considered how spirituality could enrich the educational endeavor without devolving into sectarian agendas so common in previous "church-related" colleges. Presenters included spiritual leaders, educators, culture commentators, and reformers such as the Dalai Lama, Parker Palmer, bell hooks, Huston Smith, Rachel Naomi Remen, and Diana Chapman Walsh.
Since that landmark conference, Naropa faculty members have been engaged in a range of projects aimed at investigating the ways in which contemplative approaches enrich higher education research, teaching, administration, and campus life. Through Naropa's Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education (CACE), our faculty members have begun to share methods for infusing the academic experience with mindfulness, compassion, and creativity. The mission of CACE is to bring the expertise of Naropa's faculty into the national conversation about contemplative education relating to such issues as ethics, evaluation, learning outcomes, and the special role of the arts.
Currently, contemplative education programs have been launched at major American universities, including Brown, Emory, Rice, Vanderbilt, and the University of Virginia. Many other institutions have introduced contemplative classes as electives or co-curricular offerings.
Only Naropa University integrates contemplative learning into every department and school, pervading the graduate and undergraduate curricula.