I’ll admit that I was slightly taken aback and heartily amused when Professor Liftin proposed such a meditative approach to consuming a raisin. It was perfect; the lights were dim, the mood was set, and after having just watched the contrasting videos on raisin production before and after industrialization, I was ready to eat that raisin. Granted, I’m a raisin fan. I dare say some days I’d choose an oatmeal raisin cookie over chocolate chip one. However, I’ve never stopped to consider the processes that went into putting this little, dried fruit on the shelf for my consumption.
What I think is so compelling about using contemplative practices during class isn’t necessarily what you get out of it in the moment, but rather reflecting on it after the fact. I’m sure a handful of people could get a significant understanding at the moment as well, but the lesson didn’t fully settle with me until I was able to reflect on the process as a whole. If that doesn’t quite make sense, I’ll offer up my experience as an example.
During the practice, I tried my best to focus on Liftin’s voice while the other twenty or so things on my mind tried to get in on the action. Part of me thought “why this” and “can we not,” while yet another part thought “chew the raisin,” and “I could sleep RIGHT here.” Ultimately, I thought I got the message: this raisin came a long way. But it wasn’t until that night, while my roommates and I were cooking dinner, did I start to think “wait… where did all this food come from.” This ultimately reminded me of lecture, which I was excited to tell my roommates about because it was quirky and something I hadn’t done in a lecture before. From there we launched into a discussion about food insecurity, globalization, and industrialization.
Much like the active learning and discussions my biology professors use, contemplative practices are a way to physically and verbally connect with the material, and get you to stretch your mind beyond just listening to a lecture. They facilitate original thought and help you form your own interpretations and understanding of the material.