Meditation is a hot commodity in contemporary American popular culture. Ever widening circles of people are becoming interested in the benefits that meditation can offer in stress-relief, regulation of blood pressure, pain control, and so on. While meditation can be seen as a neutral technology, free of ties to any one spiritual path or worldview, we will examine these practices through the cultural and religious contexts that gave rise to them.
This 360 course comprises three classes plus an independent study (fourth class) that share an interest in contemplative or mindfulness traditions and practice. The courses weave together historical, cultural, psychological and religious perspectives. Mindfulness is an important aspect of Eastern religious and Christian monastic traditions. With its recent introduction as a key component of Western therapeutic attempts to remediate psychological difficulties or cope with stress, it has also become a central focus of much psychological research and theory.
The History and Rhetoric of Buddhist Meditation
This course examines a great variety of discourses surrounding meditation in traditional Buddhist texts. While meditation may seem to be something that there is not much to say about, we shall find that in ancient texts as well as in modern scholarship, much ink has been spilled on the topic.
Silent Spaces: A History of Contemplation in the West
In the age of the iPod, wi-fi and the cell phone, silence and solitude have become a deliberate choice, not the default. Why would anyone elect silence as a way of life? This course explores elected silence and the ways in which it has shaped, and still shapes, people and places in the Western contemplative tradition from the desert hermitages of the third and fourth centuries through modern communities as diverse as an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns living outside Washington, DC to Quaker meetings.
Listening to Mind and Body: The Psychology of Mindfulness
This course will consider modern conceptualizations and implementation of mindfulness practices that have arisen in the West. The course will focus on psychological theory and research examining the potential health benefits of these practices as well as scientific study of more ancient meditative approaches.
More information on the 360 program at Bryn Mawr.