Fostering An Interdisciplinary Field of Contemplative Studies

I’m in Boston, where I am attending International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, sponsored by the Mind & Life Institute, an organization that aims to learn from the “pairing the oldest wisdom traditions with cutting-edge scientific research, contemplative science uncovers groundbreaking and holistic insights into the human mind and condition.” The Symposium “seeks to encourage and help shape a cohesive interdisciplinary field of contemplative studies.”

I’ll be speaking Sunday morning, delivering a talk titled A Comparison of the Thematic Unfolding of Experiences in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Tibetan Buddhist Lam.rim Meditations. It’s a handful of a title, I know, but I couldn’t come up with a shorter one. In the meantime, I have an amazing array of sessions to choose from over the next two days, supplemented by various meditation sessions.

Tonight was the opening keynote, delivered by Diana Chapman Walsh, former president of Wellesley College. She gave an inspiring talk on Education for Ethical and Compassionate Leadership, focusing on the need for higher education (and society as a whole) to shift from emphasizing independence and competition to emphasizing connection, mutuality and interdependence.

Tomorrow morning opens with a Keynote by the Dalai Lama. I always enjoy his talks and am looking forward to it.

I’ll try to share some other thoughts about the symposium tomorrow or Saturday.

Where is the Invitation?

Our speaker at Weekly Manna yesterday was my friend Martha (Marty) Storz, the Bernhard M. Christensen Chair in Religion and Vocation at Augsburg College. Marty’s talk was titled, “The Big Questions.” She used the questions posed by God in Chapters 3 and 4 of Genesis as her frame for talking about discernment.

Marty began her talk by sharing a conversation she had had with a student who was trying to decide whether to accept a prestigious internship in another city or stay home, where her beloved grandmother was ailing and on her way to death. The student, torn between an internship that could have an enormous impact on her career and the ability to spend precious time with her grandmother, asked, “What should I do?” Marty’s reply was “Where is the invitation?”

The reframing of the question, she observed, made an enormous difference to the student. The two questions are very different.

“What should I do” implies I am the moving agent, free to choose unrestrictedly. “Where is the invitaion? reminds us that we are always responding to God’s call, trying to discern where God is calling us. Changing the question, completely changes how one approaches discerning between various options.

Sometime the best answer to a question is another question.