By COLLEEN SULLIVAN
Information learned in school is often applied solely in practicum, jobs or internships. Contemplative studies, unlike other programs, is directly applied alongside the learning process, rather than only afterwards. This minor is centered upon meditation and contemplation in everyday life, which is both a personal and intellectual skill. Five years ago, a contemplative practice class started being offered by professors David Ambuel and Angela Pitts and many students were eager to become involved.
Due to the combination of student interest and growing popularity of the topic around the globe, in 2016 the contemplative studies minor was offered here at UMW.
The concept of contemplative studies can be seen globally, from meditation to mindfulness. These ideas are studied by experts intensively due to their stress-relieving qualities, which have become all the more important in a world where busier schedules dominate everything else.
Relaxation apps, coloring books and courses are offered everywhere it seems, now it is even being taught on college campuses. One may wonder how feasible it is to apply this in a classroom, but Professor Daniel Hershberg is confident in the ease of combining application and knowledge studies in this particular minor.
The scope of this area of study is broad; it spans from Classics, Philosophy and Religion studies to Art History studies. The concepts taught in class can be used by students as extensively as they would like, since they are applicable on a daily basis.
Hirshberg, who worked to create this minor, emphasized the uniqueness of the interdisciplinary study. “It can be amazingly empowering to discover that mind and experience in fact are workable,” said Hirshberg. “That you can make progress towards reducing stress and anxiety, towards deepening relaxation and concentration, through exercising the mind and brain directly.”
This minor is not only a growing field of study in the world, it is also an opportunity to build upon meditative skills, which can be useful for stressed college students.
Over a dozen students have declared this minor within the past year and a few have already graduated. The uniqueness of this area of study sets it apart from other minors offered. When asked about where this minor would be best used, Hirshberg said, “Its most direct career path would be towards graduate studies or research in psychology and neuroscience.” He encourages less conventional uses though, such as dealing with difficult stages of one’s life or coping with high-stress occupations. Overall, the pathways students can explore with this minor are numerous and the benefits are personal and intellectual.