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  • Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning by Daniel P. Barbezat and Mirabai Bush
  • Alison B. Diefenderfer
Daniel P. Barbezat and Mirabai Bush. Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014. 231 pp. Paperback: $38.54. ISBN: 978-1-118-43527-4.

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning, by Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush, is a two-part, multi-disciplinary book synthesizing the pedagogical reasons and methods for introducing post-secondary students to “contemplative practices” (like meditation, journaling, yoga, among others). The authors concisely move through this material, presenting in a rapid succession, a myriad of examples and compelling reasons for using “contemplative practices” in academic settings. They furthermore argue that higher education and the student populations it serves need more “contemplative practices” and exposure to the benefits it provides not only educationally, but also holistically for self and identity development.

Daniel P. Barbezat and Mirabai Bush come to this book with expertise in higher education as well as in “contemplative practices.” Both authors serve as directors within the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Their years of experience with “contemplative practice” includes serving as trainers and advocates of these practices, as well as using these pedagogical practices in their own post-secondary courses (Barbezat in economics, Bush in writing and English literature).

There is a combination of primary experience and secondary research supporting the efforts of this ambitious and much-needed text within higher education literature. This book gains strength and momentum from the backgrounds of the authors. Not only do they practice what they advocate, they acknowledge that there are other higher educational professionals also using “contemplative practices” whose works should also be featured. Throughout this book, readers learn from personal experiences and ideas of the authors as well as leading practitioners at a host of colleges and universities, particularly ones within the United States, and benefit from seeing a truly diverse and creative array of “contemplative practices” in practice. No single academic discipline is over-represented, and the authors do a commendable job of showing the realm of possibilities through the inclusion of non-humanities disciplines ranging from medicine to physics. This approach sets forth a means of propelling the discussions onward to a broader audience and beyond the scope of the humanities and arts.

In the first half of this book, Barbezat and Bush develop a compendium of reasons why we should use these practices, inclusive of the psychological, neuroscience, and emotional regulation benefits. In Part 1, “Theoretical and Practical Background,” readers can explore the changes occurring within 21st century inclusive of shifts in priority of lessons conveyed within higher education. This discussion includes acknowledgements in the changes related to critical and reflective thought and inquiry. This first section of the book details the research and theoretical frameworks behind contemplative practice and grounds it as in an important element of the 21st century post-secondary classroom curriculum. Part 1 concludes with reflection on how one prepares to use “contemplative practice” and acknowledges the factors one must consider to avoid complications or factors that reduce the efficacy of “contemplative practice.” It also advises first-time users of things to consider prior to integration [End Page 153] of “contemplative practices” in curriculum and lesson delivery throughout an academic course, semester, or degree program.

In part 2 of Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, the authors compile a host of “contemplative practices” in practice, where educators share the lesson plans and reasons for using “contemplative practices” in their classrooms. In this second half of Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, readers learn about the types of “contemplative practices” through exposure to many creative endeavors placed in practice at colleges and universities around the United States. Here, readers get to see truly the prospects and potentials of having “contemplative practices” in multiple postsecondary courses.

To this end, this book offers perspective on the scaffolding potentials and avenues for putting contemplation into daily and curricular practice. In particular, Barbezat and Bush reflect upon “mindfulness” (Chapter 5), “approaches to reading and writing” (Chapter 6), “deep listening and beholding” (Chapter...


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pp. 153-156
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