Mindful U at Naropa University
Summary: As the birthplace of the mindfulness movement in the United States, Naropa University has a unique perspective when it comes to higher education in the West. Founded in 1974 by renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar and lineage holder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Naropa was intended to be a place where students could study Eastern and Western religions, writing, psychology, science, and the arts, while also receiving contemplative and meditation training. Forty-three years later, Naropa is a leader in ‘contemplative education’, a pedagogical approach that blends rigorous academics, contemplative practice, and experiential learning. Naropa President Chuck Lief explains, “Mindfulness here is not a class. Mindfulness is basically the underpinning of what we do in all of our classes. That said, the flavor or the color of mindfulness from class to class is really completely up to the individual faculty member to work on—on their own. So, what happens in a poetry class is going to look very different from what happens in a research psychology class. But, one way or another the contemplative practices are brought into the mix.” This podcast is for those with an interest in mindfulness and a curiosity about its place in both higher education and the world at large. Hosted by Naropa alumnus and Multimedia Manager David DeVine, episodes feature Naropa faculty, alumni, and special guests on a wide variety of topics including compassion, permaculture, social justice, herbal healing, and green architecture—to name a few. Listen to explore the transformative possibilities of mindfulness, both in the classroom and beyond!
Richard Rudis spent years in Tibet and Nepal, and in the Himalayas, where he met many teachers and many fundamental teachings came forward. At some point, the outline of sacred sound healing became clear, and he introduced the gong once he found a manufacturer who was creating a poly-tonal instrument that was noble enough and had as much expansion of sound, overtones, harmonics, and frequencies that would reflect sacred sound healing as it came from tradition. Then, he started on the journey of offering gong baths.Special Guest: Richard Rudis.
Diane Israel's platform is about remembering wholeness and healing the complexity of humanity. Very inspired and excited and alive by exercise, she is still very much here to move. Her movie "Beauty Mark" is "...a raw exploration of this quest for perfection." Speaking about filming the movie: "I was like: 'This is what you want to work on -- like fitting in a smaller pair of pants. When we could be leading the world and changing the world and doing such incredible service.'" Diane made it her goal to change that, and to help others find the tools - in the plain air and out in the open - to heal their lives.Special Guest: Diane Israel.
Being a better person within the dynamics of relationships really starts with our relationship to ourselves. We constantly cultivate our amazing relationship with who we are in the context of relationships. We can learn to have a better relationship with ourselves sitting on the cushion, and that's super useful, but getting the day in and day out feedback from other human beings telling me what an asshole I am is also powerful.Special Guest: Jayson Gaddis.
Join us as we sit with Betsy Leach, Elementary Education instructor at Naropa, and discuss the multicultural aspects of public education, and how training in contemplative practices can enhance the experience for everyone. "My experience with students has always been that when they feel like you're real–like you're being genuine rather than pretending to be some perfect authority figure...they trust you and they are willing. I had students telling other students "You got to be good for Miss Leach because she keeps it real, and she's going to have your back!" That to me was huge, especially going into teaching at 22, with only a summer of training. It was really important to bring that humility, and not to pretend to know more than I did, and to be really transparent with students. When I had a bad day, where my lesson was not engaging, I would say "That wasn't as awesome as I wanted it to be. What could I have done better?"
Listen in to get a history of the first year of Naropa's podcast, Mindful U, via an intimate discussion with our delightful host, David DeVine. From David: "So, before I was 14, I almost became like 8 different religions. But when I turned 21 -- I found Buddhism and what I realized is Spirit is within. So, I didn't have to -- go to church. And, like, kind of hear some stuff I kind of get, and kind of don't get. What I've realized is like we all have self-healing mechanisms within us and we just need to learn how to activate them and or find them within ourselves. So, we have the capability to find Spirit all the time."Special Guest: Kelly Watt.
If we were to create a regenerative economy here in this region -- what would it look like? People say the Colorado economy is nothing but extractive industries–mining, conventional agriculture, oil and gas–and that's what it always has been, and what it always will be. But that’s not true. Colorado's economy is really predominantly services. It's educational institutions, a growing natural foods industry and organic agriculture, a lot of tech, and a lot of entrepreneurial startups. Outside of Silicon Valley, the Denver-Boulder area is one of the hottest startup communities in the world. There's tourism, the outdoor industries, and the cannabis industry. Put all of these together and they dwarf the so-called "heritage industries" of oil, gas, coal, mining, and conventional agriculture. We have a regenerative economy, and its actually already bigger than the old-fashioned extractive economy, but we don't recognize it. We don't celebrate it and we aren't asking: "What is it about our current economy that served us in the past, but is no longer?" Or, "What is the economy we do want, and how do we encourage that?"Special Guest: L. Hunter Lovins.
What is the singular thread that runs through every spiritual tradition? Yoga nidra (nidra means "sleep" in Yoga) gives us a framework off of which to hang so many teachings. Yoga nidra is like a tree with many branches that many spiritual teachings can hang off of, and the main trunk is the singularity. Yoga nidra offers many branches to hang Eastern teachings off of, and one can also hang many Western teachings off of it too. We can see every western psychological approach and every eastern approach reflect one another, but we can also see the singularity within them that they all share in common, and so East and West fall away into one singularity of understanding. We can learn how to welcome the fact that all that we are is an expression that comes out of this deep mystery that has given birth to the entire cosmos. Everything, everything is part of that mystery. Every thought, every emotion, every body sensation, every person, every tree, every rock is that mystery incarnate. So, you have to think, "What am I trying to get rid of? What am I trying to change?"Special Guest: Richard Miller, PhD.
If we can protect top-tier predators then we can protect large wilderness areas. The United States wilderness system, the national park system, and the national forest system–which are unparalleled globally–could help us build the room in our hearts for wilderness areas. And that's what really called to me. As I went into a career at Boulder County Parks and Open Space, I really started to notice and get more concerned about climate change. I realized that we can protect wilderness from mining and logging and overuse and create the cultural space in our hearts for that wilderness, but we can't protect it from climate change directly. It has to be a change in the hearts of people. So, that got me really paranoid. Special Guest: Michael Bauer.
"I have been thinking a lot these days in this world we inhabit about how our traditions give us companions and teachers, and that it's one of the most important things. In Buddhism, there are the lineages of teachers that are just absolutely critical–living and dead–but in Christianity, there is the communion of saints and the cloud of witnesses. It’s the same idea - but my tradition hadn't given me that. So, I discovered a lot of depth. Theology has a whole different set of questions about our lives and about what happens between people in the world–about our conduct moment to moment. Looking at the world with the eyes of a journalist, but with a theological education, I eventually had this idea for a public radio show, which is how "On Being" started. A show in which the theological part of life would be addressed with intelligence, and that would also be attentive to spiritual depth and the intellectual content of our traditions." - Krista TippettSpecial Guest: Krista Tippett.
Marlow Brooks teaches a class about the human predicament of being very diverse and celebrating differences. For instance, a fire-type person likes to be out in the sun, likes heat, likes passion. Hot, firey people want to lead. They have great senses of humor, and great heart, but they are prone to burning themselves out. Consider a water type person - a personality like winter, being in the depths under the ground, or like a ball on the ground, gathering potency, gathering wisdom. For them to go into situations with loads of fire might feel extremely threatening. Many people that show a propensity for water think they are depressed, or that they are too serious. This class is about learning to accept yourself and then learning to accept the differences in others. Every organism really has different ways of coming into its own. The compassionate approach is to give that organism the type of elemental energy that will nurture them into the person that they will, or that they could, become.Special Guest: Marlow Brooks.
Look at statistics about our civic literacy in this country–we're in the grip of civic illiteracy largely because not all high schools and colleges are doing enough, though some might be. Not doing enough to make civic literacy actually enough of the required general education of the students. As a result, students have largely turned away–the humanities, which includes history and civics, have been demeaned. We've commodified higher education in such a way that we've actually monetized it. This is not a liberal or conservative issue–both sides are at fault in the continuing removal of civic education and history from high school and college curricula. Statistically, student participation in history majors, history departments goes down about 10 percent a year or every two years. Particularly at this point in our history, when everyone has an opinion about our history and what it means, and access to more information, opinions, viewpoints, and propaganda than ever before. We're politicizing history, which is why it's a lot easier for colleges and high schools to drop the subjects altogether, rather than to try and sort through it. Naropa's founder talked a great deal about creating an enlightened society, and he thought that Naropa should model that society institutionally. But he also thought Naropa should graduate students who would long for a better world, and who were willing to put their bodies, speech, and minds on the line for that world. This is why we're here at Naropa, and why we're committed to teaching a contemplative approach to social justice.Special Guest: John Cobb.
Think about eco-poetics as not just a focus on degraded soil, air and water, but vibrational absence. When a species leaves the planet, they take everything with them. Their heartbeat, their flutter, their footfalls, their hooves. In the past 50 years, the planet has seen a 60% loss of all the wildlife. We've recently found out that we've lost 50% of the coral reefs in that time. Europe has lost 75% of its flying insects. I immediately started making rituals to create a place of extreme present. That's the purpose of what I do. And, when I am doing these rituals -- translate into all art forms. "Each morning a blue jay screams at the edge of the clear cut forest I scream with her at the bleeding stumps Scream inside something borrowed like ocean, like skin I want to see before I die a mink wearing a human scarf..." – CA ConradSpecial Guest: CA Conrad.
Kaṭha Upaniṣad is a sacred text from the Upaniṣad that describes yoga as a state of mind after the wild horses of the senses have been reined in. There is a metaphor of the body as a chariot, and horse-driven chariots were an important part of Hindu culture, so the metaphor resonated strongly in medieval India. Harnessing all of the mental energies–not letting your mind become your master, but becoming the master of your mind–is an important inner technology that many yoga traditions emphasize. When the mind is not running the show, I find that my perception actually becomes more beautiful, deeper. I see things more crisply and find beauty in unexpected places, including painful or dark situations. I'm able to extract more joy, inspiration, and meaning out of life. Our inner discernment of experiences and awareness is foundational to yoga traditions. We need to encourage a more historical awareness–one that focuses one's ability to discern between many different extremes in yoga traditions, and understanding their fundamental orientations, outlooks, and practices. That's something that's missing in the broader, popular world of yoga practice today.Special Guests: Ben Williams, PhD and Nataraja Kallio.
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni on performing her wildly popular one-woman piece, "One Drop of Love," for the Naropa community as part of the Bayard and John Cobb Peace Lecture last Spring: "I have been doing this performance for 5 years, and have been in a lot of different communities–some certainly more receptive to the themes around race and racism and class and gender than others. Sometimes I think people feel uncomfortable with it, or maybe they're shy because of the stigma of being in a theater. But I got the sense after being here at Naropa for about a day that this might be a very embracing community–and that's exactly what it was. Still, something that I really appreciate about this community was its natural interaction–a kind of vocal interaction–which I don't always get. Naropa was just right there along with me, laughing out loud, saying "Hmmmmm...," and just offering both a wise and calming response."Special Guest: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni.
Traditionally, Judaism is practiced by way of rituals. This includes actual ritualistic practices that involve ritual objects, but it also includes ritualistic prayer, as well as ritualistic forms of study, such as studying Torah in a certain way. My personal practice has shifted from one that is centered around ritual to one that is more about integrating the direct experience of presence, or of divinity, or of reality into everyday life. The rituals' original function was to facilitate that kind of a process, but there are more accessible ways for many people in our culture to access an embodied condition of presence in everyday life. There are ways that do not require people to engage in these complicated and inaccessible rituals that are relevant for someone in an Orthodox community, but not very relevant for 99 percent of the planet. For me, Kedumah represents a way to transmit the essence – the Primordial spirit of Judaism – into a paradigm that is accessible for anybody, really, originating from any tradition, anywhere, or from no tradition at all.Special Guest: Zvi Ish-Shalom.