From November 1-7, I attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada. With a myriad of religions and spiritual traditions represented, this was my third Parliament. Inspiring people from all over the planet gathered to teach, to listen, to learn, and to grow as human beings. From there, we take that wisdom and knowledge back to our communities and live by example – at least I try.
I was struck this Parliament by two things: That our planet is in peril. Literally. And, Compassion is something that needs to be taught? I am asking, not stating.
Even though I encountered wisdom literature when specializing in Hinduism during my Religious Studies doctoral program, through reading the works of Christian female mystics and the liberation theologies of feminist spiritual guides, it took a book I never encountered in my academic studies to give me a spiritual foundation that feels complete after my departure from Christianity: Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It led me to the place where I am now, practicing mindfulness, being aware of the ego, and attempting to live in the present. Now I can return to wisdom literature with a lens that helps it make sense. Although I did not know it when I began utilizing these ideas in the classroom, there is an entire pedagogy based on them.
Contemplative education is based on the observation that the world is in need of healing and the majority of people have not encountered helpful ways to deal with their suffering. Why not use the classroom for healing and to create healers? Contemplative education has five goals or elements: 1. deep, or critical, thinking, 2. constructive communication, 3. awareness of the global impact of our behaviors, 4. personal development/well-being, and 5. a non-sectarian admiration for and inclusion of wisdom literature and traditions. This last element is what really distinguishes this pedagogy from others. And I see how it shares a great deal with feminist practices as well, especially as feminist pedagogy honors experiential knowledge, self-reflection, and activism. Continue reading “Contemplative Education: A Pedagogical Approach of Compassion by Elisabeth Schilling”
“So, when we in the West talk about religion as the cause of this violence, how much are we letting ourselves off the hook, and using religion as a way to ignore our role in the roots of this violence?” Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood This statement was made by scholar of religions Karen Armstrong in an interview in Salon magazine in response to characterizations of Islam as a violent religion by Bill Maher and others. Speaking in the context of the rise of anti-Islamist prejudice in Europe, Armstrong said that Maher’s demonization of “the other” was the kind of talk that could lead us back to the concentration camps.