The twenty-one day summer retreat program held in Boulder, Colorado, is the foundation of the low-residency Master of Arts in Contemplative Education. The July retreat marks the beginning of the two-year MA program and is designed to give students an opportunity to live and study in an integrated contemplative learning community. First and second-year MA students, professional enrichment students and non-program students, share meals, meditations and celebrations with department faculty. The core courses for first and second-year students are taught separately. (See Degree Requirements and Courses)
The retreat is held on Naropa University’s Arapahoe Campus, occupying a five-acre site near downtown Boulder and next to Boulder Creek. Students are housed in university-owned Snow Lion Apartments, which is a two-block walk from campus. Lunch and dinner are provided for students and faculty who dine together on campus.
Faculty and students participate in twenty-one days of uninterrupted programing intended to immerse the community in contemplative studies, practices and community life. By means of a thorough, but gently designed, schedule, students begin to actually experience the contemplative transformations at the heart of the program.
A typical day begins with breakfast followed by group meditation. The rest of the morning includes classes and a study period. After lunch is a short rest period, followed by afternoon classes and tea. Dinner is preceded by group meditation. After dinner, comes the community seminar that concludes by 8:00. First and second-year courses are held separately during the morning and afternoon class blocks; the exception is the evening community events, which often combines both cohorts.
By experiencing contemplative transformation, this educational approach is so much more than just another theory and methodology. Contemplative education at its best involves deep changes that begin in the body, heart and mind of the teacher. Contemplative pedagogy cannot be meaningfully learned nor practiced in classrooms without the kind of personal journey that the summer retreat provides.
The summer program concludes with a weekend the presentation of capstone projects by graduating students. During this weekend, three cohorts of students and families gather for this inspiring experience for all. The presentation of MA Projects by graduating students represents the culmination of two years of work in applying contemplative principles and practices to their teaching (listing of prior theses). The weekend also features a meaningful commencement ceremony for those graduating.
The strength of the degree program lies, in large part, in the integration of awareness practices with academic study. Mindfulness and awareness of speech, listening, writing, reading, thinking, arts and movement are seen as essential practices in the educational transformation of the teacher. In every course, awareness activities are inseparably integrated into daily classes. The aesthetics and movement classes are at the heart of a holistic understanding and experience of contemplative teaching.
Some of the awareness activities are done indoors and many outdoors. Naropa’s intimate campus has some lovely outdoor spaces and Boulder Creek is close enough for easy daily use. Every few days, classes venture forth into the beautiful natural surroundings of the Boulder Mountain Parks. These extended periods of rest and open awareness complement the gentle, yet urban environment of the Naropa campus. The combination of both urban and wild settings in the program underlines the fundamental principle that all learning environments can be experienced as sacred.
During the second summer retreat, students study Maitri Space Awareness and the Ten Aspects of Knowledge. These traditional Tibetan Buddhist areas of study and practice lay the personal foundations for students to begin to make thorough and meaningful changes in their classroom teaching. Building on the first summer’s work of developing awareness in the student, the areas of study in the second summer deepen compassion, broaden understanding of effective pedagogy and lay the foundation for contemplative curricular change.
... are welcome with certain considerations. Part of the effectiveness of any meaningful retreat is based upon removing oneself temporarily from one’s usual surroundings, friends and family. Friends and family should be aware that when students are in the program there are no days off. Even when classes are suspended for a morning for rest and awareness walks in the mountains, these times are still considered part of the program.