Contemplating Contemplative Practices

I have taken two classes so far at the University of Washington in which the professor has implemented the use of contemplative practices as a part of their curriculum. Although I find the concept of them interesting, I personally do not feel that I am able to gain as much as desired from them. The biggest issue that I find myself facing is the fact that I am in a classroom with so many other people. I find it hard to really allow myself to think and process larger things like the topics of these contemplative practices when I am not alone. For some reason or another, I am not able to fully relax and allow myself to delve into these issues. Something else that I find myself facing, and that I am sure at least some other students are as well is the fact that they are typically done at the end of class. This detracts from the experience for me because I find myself already thinking about what I have coming up in my day and anything related to that, so it is difficult to focus on whatever topic we are contemplating. I have gained knowledge from them which I have used in takeaways and assignments for other classes which is incredibly helpful, but I feel like I am not gaining all that I could due to what I mentioned above. What has been most helpful about participating in them is the professor going slightly more in depth with the issues then they do while touching on them during the lecture. While it may not have the desired effect, I still find that I am able to come away from them with more knowledge or ideas then I possessed prior to them.

5 thoughts on “Contemplating Contemplative Practices

  1. Sydney Schrader

    Response 2: I can totally relate to not feeling comfortable processing things around that many people. It’s hard to think about what things make me think and feel when I’m just one person in a sea of faces. Especially when I’m told to “focus on my breathing,” I get conscious because I often think I breathe weird or forget to breathe all together, and when I’m told to focus on that specific topic it makes me focus on something I’d rather not focus on. In general, contemplative practices are not something I’m overly comfortable with because being in a dark room surrounded by other people seems like it would be intimate, but since we are all strangers there’s nothing familiar about it at all. It’s hard to focus on me when I’m on edge about those around me. And as you mentioned, they’re done at the end of class when I’m more focused on packing up, so to be forced to sit stationary and think about my thoughts and feelings in a dark, uncomfortable environment is not my idea of relaxing. Regardless about how you feel or how I feel, at least they’re quick and do help us narrow in on the specific topic Litfin wants us to focus on, and I admittedly can’t think of a way that could be more effective to get her point across, so I’ll continue sitting through them, as I’m sure you will, too. Hopefully you can take solace in the fact that you’re not the only person who’s uncomfortable in there.

  2. Billy Stafford

    Interesting thoughts Cole. I think contemplative practices (when used correctly) can be incredibly helpful in gaining deeper knowledge or understanding of a particular topic – maybe the way the professor has gone about them has not been suited for you? I agree with what you have said in respect to being unable to focus and concentrate deeply when surrounded by others – I too find it more beneficial to reflect and get introspective when I’m alone, and have also struggled with this in the class. Perhaps it would be more helpful for the professor to set ungraded reflections based on a video that the students could meditate on 20 minutes before class? Just some food for thought. But I really like your analysis, especially in its honesty.

  3. Felix Benedict Reinhold

    Some good points raised Cole, I felt when done right contemplative practice works for me but i like your point of it taking place later in class detracting from its efficiency. if we were to start out with the practice it could set up an interesting new atmosphere and environment for the rest of the class. I do feel that this different style of teaching can be very beneficial if done right and taken seriously by the whole class, i feel the reason people feel uncomfortable is because not everyone is on board.

  4. Karen Litfin

    Thank you, Cole and all. I very much appreciate your comments, particularly about doing practices at the end of class. I’ll be sure to do our final practice next Thursday earlier in the lecture.

    It also occurs to me that watching the mind wander towards “the next thing” can also be an edifying experience: that’s what most of us are doing most of the time. It’s one of the human mind’s extremely important superpowers but it can also prevent us from being fully present. For me, the challenge is to become more the master of this superpower than its servant. But even after working on it for decades, I’m probably still mostly its servant. 😉

  5. JIN H LEE

    Respond 2
    Hi, I understand your opinion about not feeling good when you think about contemplative practice. Because I sometimes know when we think about something so genuinely, we might not get out of the thought. As you saying above, I agree with that facing in class is more efficient essential to interact with classmates. Either way, you might look at the contemplative practice with the different point of view. not only focusing on facing with classmates, but you might also listen when your classmates are expressing their opinion. My key point is that facing and speaking is not only a method of interacting people. Listening other’s thought and thinking deeply(Contemplative practice) will help your idea to be more elaborate and delicately. There is no right to answer this question. However, I strongly recommend that you should try both methods because you will need these methods sometimes or others.


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