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The Contemplative Studies Unit at the American Academy of Religion is sponsoring three panels at the annual conference in Denver, CO from November 19-22, 2022:

Engaging The Soul of Higher Education: Contemplative Pedagogy, Research, and Institutional Life for the Twenty-first Century (Information Age Publishing, 2019) . Christian Spirituality Unit and Contemplative Studies Unit. Saturday, 12:30-2:30. In-person at the HyattRegency-Mineral B (Third Level).

The Soul of Higher Education explores such questions as “How can a contemplative culture be nurtured in the classroom? What difference does that culture make in teaching and learning? What is the role of individual and institutional leadership in creating and sustaining this culture? What is an appropriate epistemological grounding for contemplative higher education? We gather a variety of presenters to discuss ways in which contemplative pedagogy, research and institutional life might be advanced, both in the field of Christian Spirituality and in the field of Contemplative Studies. We will explore lacunae that remain in the discussion, and in the volume, in particular, and offer fresh ways forward, for example, in connecting contemplative studies to social justice efforts.

Anita Houck, Saint Mary’s College, Indiana

Margaret Benefiel, Shalem Institute For Spiritual Formation 
Mary Frohlich, Catholic Theological Union 
Stephanie Paulsell, Harvard University 
Daniel Barbezat, Amherst College

Bo Karen Lee, Princeton Theological Seminary 
Leonard McMahon, Graduate Theological Union 
Contemplation, Ecology, and the Post-Human. Contemplative Studies Unit. Saturday, 3:00-4:30. In-person at Convention Center-107 (Street Level).

Driven both by the internal contradictions and limitations of anthropocentric theories of religion and by the challenges of a world increasingly beset by mass extinction, climate change, and other ecological disruptions, many religious studies scholars have sought to reimagine the field in a non-anthropocentric or posthuman manner. What might this look like from the standpoint of Contemplative Studies and how might the latter contribute to the effort to rethink our scholarship beyond dualistic or bifurcated accounts of a world divided between nature and culture or the human and the nonhuman? How can such reimagining better equip us to address ecological and environmental challenges both in the world and in our classrooms? In this session, panelists will consider such questions from a variety of angles: from the practical aid that contemplative approaches may give to engaged environmental action, to the theoretical challenges that contemplative traditions pose for the new posthumanities, to the pedagogical salience of critical first-person reflection on contemplative practices within classrooms engaging the various crises and metacrisis of our time.

Niki Clements, Rice University

Jessica Beaudette, Arizona State University 
Transcending Disciplines: Contemplative Approaches to Biodiversity and Climate Science 

Sam Mickey, University of San Francisco
Contemplative Posthuman Design: Reclaiming Attention and Re-Placing the Human

Daan Oostveen, Utrecht University
Posthuman Religion

Wendy Petersen-Boring, Willamette University
Andrew Dreitcer, Claremont School of Theology 
The Inner Life of Activism and The Conversation Project: Alternative Contemplative Pedagogies to Revitalize Higher Education

Jacob Sherman, California Institute of Integral Studies 
Contemplative Praxis: Its Roots in Traditional Religious Praxis in Relation to Contemporary Concerns. Contemplative Studies Unit. Sunday, 5:00-6:30. In-person at Convention Center-108 (Street Level).

These four papers forming this panel address the tensions between traditional forms of religiosity and the contemplative practices entailed in these traditions as these practices are interpreted and rewritten for our contemporary world. The first paper offers a way of understanding traditional Hindu practices of devotion founding the medieval sect of Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavism, arguing that we perhaps ought to expand our understanding of contemplative praxis to incorporate a notion of interrelationship beyond a simple notion of enlightenment as a realization of self. The second paper draws from the 14th century Christian text to trace the development of its popularity for a contemporary contemplative Christianity as a way of incorporating meditative praxis within Christianity. The third paper urges us to reconsider our stereotypes of bhakti, typified as simple emotive praxis, in light of its deliberate cognitive mental elements, through a close examination of the19th century lyric poem by the Hindu monk Nishkulanand Swami. The final paper shines a light on the nonreciprocal appropriations of indigenous medicines and psychedelics in a contemporary West that does not acknowledge or return benefit derived from these practices to the indigenous communities that pioneered them.

Harold D. Roth, Brown University

Eileen Goddard, University of California, Santa Barbara
Meditation and Correct Perception in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Tradition

Stephen Molvarec, Boston College
Thomas Keating’s “Blend of Teas”: Keating as a Reader and Interpreter of The Cloud of Unknowing

Iva Patel, Augsburg University
“Enlightening the Mind-Heart”: Mechanics of Contemplation in Swaminarayan Hindu Devotion

Yuria Celidwen, Independent Scholar
Spirit Medicine beyond Mind Medicine: Indigenous Ethics for Western Psychedelic Research

Loriliai Biernacki, University of Colorado