The Art and Science of Contemplative Teaching and Learning: Exploring Ways of Knowing

November 16-18, 2012

A Symposium of the Garrison Institute’s Contemplative Teaching and Learning Initiative

Symposium|Presenters|Agenda|Readings|Showcase Your Program

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Friday, November 16

7:30-9:00   Opening session: Cultivating Different Ways of Knowing (Laura Rendón with Tobin Hart and Linda Lantieri)

In this session we will discuss a range of contemplative approaches that can support the development of attention, insight, emotional self-regulation, empathy, and compassionate action. We will explore how storytelling, music, movement, silence, specific meditation practices and indigenous ways of knowing can engage learners more fully and can cultivate the capacity for deep concentration and insight. A transformative, integrated vision of teaching and learning will be presented that emphasizes reimagining classrooms as spaces that attend to multiculturalism, diverse ways of knowing and social justice. We will also deepen our understanding of how contemplative teaching and learning can be integrated into a variety of educational settings including K-12 and college classrooms.

9:00-9:20   Optional contemplative practice: Yoga Nidra: A Mindful Restoration Protocol - Randal Williams (Meditation Hall)

In a busy world, finding peace of mind is not only a precious experience; it is also vital for health and wellness. Traditional yoga practitioners have accessed deep states of peace through the direct and simple exercise of yoga nidra, also known as mindful and integrative relaxation. In this optional session, yoga nidra or 'yogic sleep' will be briefly introduced as a efficacy based protocol along with a 20 minute guided experience.


Saturday, November 17

7:30-8:00     Optional mindful yoga – Bidyut Bose (Auditorium) 

                 Optional meditation – Mark Wilding (Meditation Hall Annex)

8:00-9:00     Breakfast

9:00-9:15     Opening contemplative practice

9:15-10:00   Time-In: Reflection, Relationships and Resilience at the Heart of Internal Education (Dan Siegel)

In this presentation we will dive deeply into the role of education in developing the parts of the students’ brain responsible for self-awareness, empathy, and resilience. Reflective practices include a range of ways to cultivate mindful awareness that harness the neural structures involved in the regulation of attention and emotion, the differentiation of here-and-now sensory experience from more narrative self-understanding, and the capacity to create compassionate responses and moral reasoning. These mind-developing strategies can be seen to nurture the ways we “see the mind” and generate “mindsight” maps of me, you, and we. Yet many schools lack such a focus on the mind itself.  In fact, a survey of thousands of teachers (as well as mental health professionals) reveals that over ninety-five percent have never had even a single lecture that defined what the mind is. In this presentation, we’ll offer a working definition of a core aspect of the mind that empowers both teacher and student alike to then be able to systematically cultivate a strong and healthy mind. Rather than being limited to focusing on the important skills of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, a mindsight approach strengthens the mind itself. Such an internal education teaches students to take time-in and develop a new set of skills, the Rs of Reflection, Relationships, and Resilience. As many of these functions are related to the integrative role of the frontal areas of the brain, we can call this a policy of “no prefrontal cortex left behind.” Together we can bring these roots of resilience at the heart of social and emotional intelligence into the daily experience for students of all ages.

10:00-10:15   Reflective time to form questions in response to the talk

10:15-10:30   Break

10:30-11:15   Q&A

11:15-12:15   Structured small group discussions

12:15-1:15    Lunch (including “interest group” tables)

1:45-3:15     Breakout session 1

Contemplation and Poetry: Lindamichelle Baron (Meditation Hall)

This presentation will guide participants through experiences of contemplation, reflection and poetry to support self-insight, and self-knowledge designed to connect to the students we teach. It will also suggest approaches to scaffolding students toward self-awareness. Participants will be asked to engage and respond through a variety of modalities.

MoDancing Contemplatively in Our Classrooms: Ann Mary Roberts (Auditorium)

How can we creatively, playfully, meditatively, joyfully help our students imbue qualities that will help further develop the classroom community and self? Participants will first learn about the Dances of Universal Peace, which take words, phrases, and mantras from the world’s different wisdom traditions, and put them to movement and song.  From that experience we will play with music and words to develop song and movement that will support contemplative approaches, empathy and connection. This is a very experiential workshop where participants will learn several dances and then collectively we will create dances that can be used in the classroom. You do not have to be a music expert... Just a playful spirit.  

Developing the Habits of Mind and Heart: A Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Vision of Education: Laura Rendón (Classroom)

Participants will discuss a Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) model of education that represents the union and coexistence of two seemingly opposite concepts: the sentir of intuition, introspection, and the inner life and the pensar of intellectual development and the outer life of action and service. Examples of innovative, faculty-designed activities that embrace and realize a Sentipensante Pedagogy and the implications for developing an education addressing multicultural issues and social justice will be presented.

The Montessori Approach to Contemplative Teaching and Learning: Tish Jennings (Classroom)

The Montessori curriculum includes a component called “Practical Life,” in which children use familiar objects to complete simple, daily activities. Through the materials in the Practical Life area, children are able to explore their natural curiosities.  They become independent, self-reliant, and acquire the tools necessary to function in society. The purpose of Practical Life is to provide both physical and developmental skills through direct and indirect aims.  The direct aims of Practical Life are to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order through prepared activities that are attractive and draw the child’s attention.  In working with these materials the child indirectly obtains emotional enrichment, social skills, physical development of both fine and gross motor, objective and independent judgment, and learns natural consequences. Tish Jennings will provide examples of Practical Life activities and how to introduce them using a contemplative approach.

Growing the Integrative Mind: Tobin Hart (Classroom)

If education is about information, and information now lives in a device in your pocket, what is the point of schooling once we can read, write and count a bit?

Our goal for this age of unprecedented possibility and peril must be to grow the mind. Currently education leaves out essential aspects of mind. Five hundred years ago Leonardo da Vinci warned about taking an “abbreviators” approach to knowledge and feared that in doing so we would lose our minds or at least our way.

We know that knowledge comes always and only through us. That is, how we know, and who we are, effects what we know: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” The task of education for the 21st century is not just to load us up, but instead especially to open us up to that which is of value. In order to do so we need to include missing minds–ways of knowing–that help us integrate certainty and mystery, rationality and reverence, objective and participative, linear and viral, components and systems, opening more of human consciousness.

In this session we will return information and basic skills to the worthwhile currency of education, and find ways to bring growth of the mind (knower and knowing) to the head of the class. The missing minds to be explored include: contemplative, imaginative, beautiful, empathic, embodied, and meaningful minds. This places an emphasis not only on what we are to know–knowledge–but especially on knower and knowing–the inner life and processes that make us go and know.

3:15-4:00   Break

4:00-5:30   Breakout Session 2

Transforming Classroom Climate with Mindful Yoga: Bidyut Bose (Auditorium)

This interactive and experiential session will present the power and potential of Transformative Life/Leadership Skills (TLS) for personal and professional sustainability. TLS is a multi-modality intervention including yoga, breathing techniques and meditation, validated by neuroscience, epigenetics and somatic psychology.  Teachers and leaders will experience and learn these foundational life and leadership skills for personal stress management and self-care, as well as healing from secondary trauma. This has a three-fold objective: to diminish burnout creep, to enable educators to teach from a more optimal state, and build mindful learning communities through pervasive application of these practices inside and outside the classroom. Data from current TLS work from the Niroga Institute ( will accompany the workshop.

Mindful Monologues: Lynne Hurdle-Price (Meditation Hall)

In theater a monologue is a single voice speaking dramatically about something important enough in that moment to have profound effect. This fun and powerful workshop presents an interesting approach to identifying and managing emotions while incorporating mindfulness and deep listening. 

Everyone participating will warm up with a theater game meant to allow us to get in touch with our inner selves by tapping in to our emotions. From this space we will each create a short monologue that pays specific attention to something important to us emotionally. As each person “takes the stage” they will have the unique opportunity to have a dramatic impact on a group that is practicing the skill of mindful listening.

Educators and parents will learn how to use this as a tool for opening up dialogue both at home and in classrooms. 

Cultivating the Inner Lives of Students and Teachers in K-8 Schools: Linda Lantieri and Madhavi Nambiar (Classroom)

Is it possible for schools to nurture the hearts and spirits of students without violating the beliefs of families or the separation of church and state? Many courageous educators are beginning to acknowledge that cultivating the inner lives of children can become an integral part of a child’s regular school experience. Using principles derived from modern brain research, this presentation explores how the adults in children’s lives can cultivate the habits of mind, body, and heart it will take to integrate social and emotional learning and contemplative teaching and learning. We will focus on how to strengthen social and emotional capacities by equipping both adults and young people with some form of regular contemplative practice that can help them manage emotions, increase compassion, and instill stillness. The presentation:

• Identifies the possibilities and practicalities of building a bridge between the inner life of mind and spirit and the outer life of secular education.

• Discusses the many pathways that support a whole school approach to integrating Social and Emotional Learning and Contemplative Teaching and Learning.

• Identifies self-care tools and reflective approaches for caring for school staff and k-8 students.

Courage to Teach: Pamela Seigle (Classroom)

Courage To Teach® (CTT) is a program inspired by the work of Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal. CTT focuses on the inner dimensions of teaching and leading. In this workshop, participants will experience the touchstones and practices that help to create conditions that build trust in school communities. We will explore "the heart of a teacher," through personal stories, reflection and insights from poetry, music and mindfulness.

6:00-7:00   Dinner

7:30-9:00   Evening session: Weaving Connections: Movement, Poetry and Song (Martha Eddy, Lindamichelle Baron, Pamela Seigle, Tobin Hart)

This celebratory and inspirational evening will weave together gentle movement, poetry and song, integrating the themes developed during earlier sessions. It will emphasize the power of simple rituals, based in the arts, to promote re-membering and rejuvenating. As participants discover the wisdom held within their bodies and are nourished by poetry and uplifted by song, they will also be able to take away practical strategies which can be integrated into their lives and work.

9:00-9:20   Optional contemplative practice: Yoga Nidra: A Mindful Restoration Protocol - Randal Williams (Meditation Hall)

In a busy world, finding peace of mind is not only a precious experience; it is also vital for health and wellness. Traditional yoga practitioners have accessed deep states of peace through the direct and simple exercise of yoga nidra, also known as mindful and integrative relaxation. In this optional session, yoga nidra or 'yogic sleep' will be briefly introduced as a efficacy based protocol along with a 20 minute guided experience.


Sunday, November 18

7:30-8:00   Optional mindful yoga – Bidyut Bose (Auditorium)

                  Optional meditation – Mark Wilding (Meditation Hall Annex)

8:00-9:00   Breakfast

9:00-9:15   Opening contemplative practice: Ann Mary Roberts 

9:15-10:00   Panel: A view from the field: Teachers and principals discuss their journey of bringing contemplative practice into classrooms. What’s been unique about bringing contemplative teaching and learning into your work on developing the whole child?


  • Lynne Hurdle-Price, Moderator (Consultant, Inner Resilience Program)
  • Stephanie Sibley (Principal, Excel High School, Boston, MA)
  • Maura McNiff (1st grade teacher, Belmont Public Schools, Belmont, MA)
  • Tom Roepke (Resource Room teacher, NYC Public Schools, East Harlem, NY)
  • Donalda Chumney (Principal, PS 228X Jonas Bronck Academy, Bronx, NY)

10:00-10:15   Reflection in small groups

10:15-10:40   Questions and discussion with panel

10:40-10:45   Closing

10:45-11:00   Break

11:00-11:45   Dances of Universal Peace: Ann Mary Roberts (Auditorium)


We will close with the Dances of Universal Peace, an integration of movement, music and ritual that both deepen interpersonal connections, and engage contemplative awareness among ourselves and the children we work with. 

11:45-12:00   Ritual/Closing

12:00-1:00   Lunch (Dining Hall)

Contemplative Teaching and Learning