Learning as a Path, Not a Goal: Contemplative Pedagogy – Its Principles and Practices



What is contemplative pedagogy and how is it practiced in Religious Studies classrooms? Contemplative pedagogy cultivates inner awareness through first-person investigations, often called “contemplative practices.” Contemplative teaching practices range widely: silent sitting meditation, compassion practices, walking meditation, deep listening, mindfulness, yoga, calligraphy, chant, guided meditations, nature observation, self-inquiry, and many others. Since narrative is a mode of instruction prevalent in contemplative literature, the article includes first-hand reflections from students and a narrative account of how an initially skeptical professor came to incorporate contemplative teaching methods into her courses. It expands from the personal narratives to highlight the work of many contemplative professors in the field. These real-life examples are put into the context of recent publications on shifts in higher education and meditation research. The article seeks to demonstrate the power of contemplative teaching to fulfill many hopes for liberal arts learning. Of particular importance is its emphasis on interior qualities of lifelong impact, such as self-knowledge and ethical cultivation.