How to Write and Think and Meditate Yourself Into Being Happier: The HAPPINESS CLASS!

ERDG 491Z -- University at Albany, SUNY

Professor Claudia Ricci, Ph.D.


Reading and writing transform the way we think, and how we see ourselves in the world. Neurological research now shows that changing the way we think can produce positive physiological changes in the brain. At a time when an epidemic of mental health issues plagues our nation, and threatens to paralyze students in the academy, this class presents a set of cognitive tools and practical skills that will help students refine and enhance their educational goals while examining a broad range of life issues. Beginning with philosophical ideas set forth by Aristotle, the class will rely on texts from psychology, neuroscience, literature and narrative theory, to open up discussions about the patterns of human behavior and thinking that tend to produce lasting fulfillment and deep reward. In keeping with research by psychologist James Pennebaker and others who have demonstrated the value of expressive writing, students will engage in extensive journaling and other self-reflective writing assignments as they seek to define what it means, and what it takes, to find happiness. Part of the work in the classroom will be to help students identify their individual “signature strengths” that can produce what positive psychologist Martin Seligman defines as “authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” In addition to classroom work, a special two-hour laboratory session, with attendant readings and writing exercises, will be required each week; students will work with experts in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, spirituality and stress reduction, and will document how these techniques can help the student better cope with the inherently stressful nature of University life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Check this out: Meditation Sparks Creativity in a College Classroom in Detroit

By Claudia Ricci

One of the most exciting things about attending a conference is that you often meet the most creative people doing the most amazing and creative things.

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a conference on "contemplative pedagogy" in higher education at Amherst College. Sponsored by the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, the conference attracted swarms of fascinating educators from across the country, all of whom are committed to using meditation, mindfulness and other "contemplative" practices in their college classrooms.

The faculty using these practices are generally very innovative and incredibly dedicated and dynamic teachers. They are the type who not only think outside the box, they tend to dismiss the box altogether and rethink the whole container problem top to bottom. Teachers who use contemplative practices also tend to place great value on teaching to the "whole" student, not just to a student's disembodied mind or brain.

One such extra-special teacher I met is Molly Beauregard, who teaches at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Art schools tend to be extremely competitive; they are pressure cookers for the students who attend them. Routinely students pull all-nighters to get their creative work completed to meet tight deadlines.

To help students deal with the stress, and to get them in touch with their creative powers, Beauregard has developed a fascinating new class in which the college students learn to manage their stress by meditating twice daily.

After the conference, Beauregard emailed me a wonderful short video produced by The David Lynch Foundation. The video will show you exactly how meditation is helping these young college students discover new ways of finding happiness and satisfaction despite very demanding workloads.

Watching the students meditating reminded me, once again, about the enormous power of meditation. Not only does it heal us, emotionally, spiritually and physically, it makes us feel better. As suggested by this video, meditation also opens the doors into our deepest and richest sources of creative power. A few years back, filmmaker Lynch wrote a very popular book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, in which he shared his own Transcendental meditation practice (he's been practicing meditation every day for more than three decades and established the foundation to promote meditation.)

Hats off to you Molly Beauregard, for this incredibly exciting work out in Detroit! And thanks to David Lynch and the foundation for making the film.

This piece also appeared on the Huffington Post and MyStoryLives.