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A Course in Heartfulness: Mindfulness, Compassion, and Responsibility

Yesterday we began a class at Stanford called Heartfulness: Mindfulness, Compassion, and Responsibility. It is a Sophomore Seminar and interested students had to apply to get in and there were 64 applicants for 14 spaces, demonstrating the exploding interest in mindfulness. The course is offered through Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and has a clear focus of connecting mindfulness and social justice. We're exploring a way of being and doing in which embracing vulnerability enables us to cross borders within ourselves and between us and others. We seek to cultivate humility, gratitude, and acceptance, becoming more authentic and kinder to ourselves and all other beings. We're striving to be mindful citizens through compassionate and responsible actions for social justice, with our work a way of making peace in ourselves and in the world.

Here is the course description that attracted so many students:

How does the “Mindfulness Revolution” declared by the cover of Time magazine in 2014 affect you as a person seeking a life of meaning, success, and fulfillment? We will learn how mindfulness, a practice of bringing attention and awareness to the present moment, has swept the nation from health care and education to Silicon Valley and Stanford. We also examine how mindfulness is supported by an increasingly robust science of its practice and effects on our biology, psychology, and social interactions. Our inquiry is based in integrating embodied practice, experiential learning, and creative expression into cutting-edge scholarship, including cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

We engage diversity by exploring how mindfulness is related to power in social, racial, gendered and cultural contexts. The association of mindfulness and positive psychology with privileged social groups presents a danger if those less privileged are encouraged to peacefully accept their situation instead of engaging in social activism. We examine the intimate connection of compassion and responsibility and its expression in concern and social action for justice and equality through stories of people whose lives are dedicated to both contemplation and social action.

Class activities and assignments are based in creative expression, include journaling, mindfulness practices, and expressive arts, including drama, music, and improvisation. We will take a field trip to experience how arts such as dancing and drumming can enhance learning about self and others. Guest artists will bring us into a circle of healing music. A final project is the creation of a digital storytelling to be presented in class.

When you have completed this seminar, you will have greater understanding of the science of finding focus in a stressed out, multitasking culture. You will have learned ways of acting in groups emphasizing appreciative intelligence and connected knowing that will be invaluable multicultural, global skills. You will also be able to practice mindfulness as a way of enhancing well-being, interacting compassionately with others, and engaging in socially responsible actions as global citizens. We aim to develop the capacity to move among worldviews, transcending particular identities while simultaneously honoring each of them, finding peace among the component parts of our own psyche, and possessing the inner resources to make peace in a multicultural society.

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