Why Contemplative Practices?
Meditation, yoga, journaling and other contemplative practices have gained popularity in recent years and are recognized widely for the ways they contribute to physical, psychological and spiritual health. While we often think of these practices as important for personal growth, they are also beneficial in academic settings, where the focus is on teaching and learning.
There are two main reasons contemplative practices are especially important for educators of color. First, they enable educators to navigate the stressors of academic life. The important work of educating young people places intense, multi-faceted demands on teachers, professors and administrators. These demands are magnified for people of color—especially at predominantly white institutions—who face additional stressors, among them a sense of isolation, the need to justify their research interests, and other ways that their race and culture are devalued or are invisible in the academy.
The other main reason contemplative practices are important for educators of color is that they enhance teaching and learning. Contemplative and other reflective activities have been shown to increase cognitive, emotional and learning capabilities in individuals (Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, Barbezat and Bush 2014). Thus they are good for both faculty development and student learning. But, in order for educators to guide students in using reflective practices for their own learning and growth, the educators must be experienced in utilizing contemplative efforts themselves.
My retreats offer educators of color opportunities to pause, reflect on who they are, and renew. Indeed, my primary retreat goal is for participants to engage in deep reflection for personal and professional development.
Through well planned reflective and contemplative practices, my retreats enable individuals to increase their self-knowledge, explore their values and understand how these connect (or do not connect) to their work, access their creativity, gain personal insights and direction, and experience a sense of renewal and rejuvenation.
These benefits then enable participants to return to the classroom or other learning environment in ways that are more authentic and that resist burnout. Two quotes capture the underlying value of my retreats—"We teach who we are" and "Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." Both of these quotes are from Parker J. Palmer's groundbreaking book The Courage to Teach (1997). Many teachers and professors find it difficult to be fully themselves in the classroom, but this is especially true for faculty of color in predominantly white institutions. By helping educators of color reconnect with who they are and what they value, my retreats enable them to access the courage they need to stand in their own truth more fully in the classroom and elsewhere.