Contemplative engagement with a text

(This was previously wrongly uploaded as a separate page, so you may have seen it before. It is now in the correct spot as a blog)

At the contemplative pedagogy symposium in November, Robert-Louis Abrahamson led a very interesting discussion about an approach to contemplative engagement with texts that he had developed in his teaching. I am very pleased that he has taken the time to write-up a brief guide. I think many of you will find it helpful regardless of the type of texts your students study. Here is a brief excerpt from the guide, followed by the full text in a PDF document that is accessed by clicking on the link at the bottom.

If anyone else feels inspired to share a successful technique or approach that you have used in your teaching do get in touch (barrattc@essex.ac.uk).

Warm wishes to you all

Caroline

‘If Contemplative Mind is concerned with experiencing unity rather than duality, I–Thou not I–It, how do we bring such experiences to the academic study of a text? How does the student experience unity with the text? T. S. Eliot speaks of those who have had the experience but missed the meaning, but what often happens in academic life is that a text is analysed and labelled to such a degree that the student has the meaning but misses the experience. The unity lies in the experience, the experience of the student’s spirit going out to meet and receive the spirit of the text so the two can come together. This is why what we are talking about here is basically a spiritual experience, and why our prime question is how to encourage students to become aware of both their own spirit and that of the text they are studying…

I want to make it clear first that we are not talking here about any technique or method that will produce some sort of desired results. “The wind bloweth where it listeth”; that is, the spirit moves according to its own pleasure, not ours. What we are looking for here is more like an attitude of mind, or of heart, not quite in control and never sure what the results will be. Techniques are useful, to be sure, but only as preparation for the experience. Of course we have to know the technical language of our discipline and the methodologies the discipline calls for, just as outside of academics, when we meet another person we have to understand the techniques of social interaction: the conventions of greeting and speaking to that person. And just as there is much more going on when speaking with a person than the mere technicalities of language or behaviour, so our contemplative study of a text asks us to go beyond the techniques of academic study.’

(Abrahamson 2015:1)

RL Abrahamson Contemplative Engagement with a Text

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