Jois-connected Contemplative Sciences Center to offer free online courses

I’ve been periodically checking in with the Paul Tudor and Sonia Jones-backed Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia since its $12-million funding was announced a year ago.

There hasn’t been a lot to see, I have to admit. But today, for whatever reason, I finally found the Center’s UVa web home. In other words, those of you who want to know more about this program, with its more-or-less Jois/Ashtanga connections, now have something to investigate. (It’s copyrighted 2013, so I’m assuming it is relatively new.)

What jumped out at me is:

  • The “Contemplative University” will begin offering free online courses via Coursera in spring 2014. From the website: “The Contemplative University will thus function as a virtual University for members of the public, as well as a powerful resource for on grounds teachers, researchers, and students. The Contemplative University will be a profoundly dynamic site where partners from all across the world and social sectors will be empowered to contribute to form a remarkable distributed network of knowledge production about contemplation in all aspects.”
  • The first “Contemplative Institute” will also happen in spring 2014. Again from the site: “The Contemplative Institute is an annual private symposium hosted at UVa each year to explore the possibilty [sic] of transformative impact by new contemplative approaches in a specific social sector.”
  • The “Contemplative Encyclopedia”  will be “a massive and unprecedented reference resource that will provide an elaborate guide to the true diversity and depth of the world’s traditional and modern contemplative practices and traditions, as well as contemporary research and applications. The Encyclopedia will provide, through this structured and deeply layered outline, a way for scholars, students, and the general public to explore these traditions in the past and present, and view audio-video, texts, translations, photographs, and much more.”
  • There also is a page seeking proposals, but it seems limited to UVa faculty and staff.

That encyclopedia sounds interesting, right? At the same time, it also is a bit quaint in our Internet / wikipedia era. But the way lots of yogis/Ashtangis love their deep resources, this could be a hit for a certain circle of the Internet.

The site looks to be still in somewhat a development stage; its contact page promises “More information is coming soon.”

Posted by Steve

Jois Yoga backers to give $12 million for UVa contemplative studies program

UPDATE: Thaddeus at Elephant Journal asked me to write a little something about it. I was a bit more awake when I did, and it’s been posted. Feel free to have a look. I tried to sum up some of the discussion going on here and I noted John Campbell’s possible role.

Here is the link.

***

Sonia and Paul Tudor Jones, the force behind the Jois Yoga studios, are set to give a $12-million grant to the University of Virginia to establish a Contemplative Sciences Center.

The grant is to be announced Friday, according to a UVa press release. Here’s more:

At its heart, the center will be a series of collaborations among the College, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Curry School of Education, fostering partnerships among humanities scholars, medical and nursing practitioners, clinical researchers, education researchers, and contemplative practitioners, among others. Plans call for evolving partnerships with other schools, including those focusing on architecture, business, public policy and adult learning.

The center will foster exploration of the practices, ideas, and modern applications of contemplation, building on existing strands of related research and activity around the University, Germano said. [David Germano is a professor of religious studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, who will help lead the new center.]

“U.Va. has had, for a number of years, remarkable expertise in different sectors,” Paul Jones said. “What we need now are threads to tie them together and weave them into a greater whole. Our goal with this gift is to enable the Contemplative Sciences Center to function as an integrative force that pulls together disparate parts of the University.

And before you ask, yes, Ashtanga and Guruji get mentioned:

The Joneses’ initial inspiration for funding the center came as a result of their devotion to their Ashtanga yoga teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and a desire to honor his life and legacy, she said.

The Joneses added that, in the next five to 10 years, they would like to see U.Va. emerge as the world’s center of thinking about how higher education, and society at large, can be transformed by contemplative and yogic practices, ideas and values.

In its inaugural year, the center plans to offer courses from yoga and contemplation instructors, host a “contemplative-in-residence” and award research funding. The center also plans to host an annual contemplative summit and a speaker series.

An interesting aspect to this is the interdisciplinary aspect to it:

The center plans to offer an innovative – and perhaps unprecedented – combination of diverse programs that integrate contemplation and yoga into a major research university, Germano said. The center will focus on providing basic and applied research, curricular programs and practical applications to real-life situations. The nursing and education schools, for example, plan to partner with the center to study how contemplative practices could help nurses and teachers be more effective and resilient.

Both Tudor Jones and his wife address that very idea:

“U.Va. has had, for a number of years, remarkable expertise in different sectors,” Paul Jones said. “What we need now are threads to tie them together and weave them into a greater whole. Our goal with this gift is to enable the Contemplative Sciences Center to function as an integrative force that pulls together disparate parts of the University.”

[snip]

“At this juncture,” Sonia Jones said, “our educational system needs to consider new ideas and practices for the mind and body that can complement its traditional valuation of critical thought and debate. We think contemplative and yogic traditions offer transformative possibilities in this regard, and hope that our gift will enable U.Va. to engage in an extraordinary experiment aimed at reassessing learning and well-being in relationship to these traditions.”

It’s a busy week for the Tudor Jones, with the opening of the new Jois Yoga studio in their hometown of Greenwich, Ct. Tudor Jones, by the way, is an alum of UVa.

As far as I can tell from this initial press release, this sounds like a more campus- and community-engaged studies program than what we have out here in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. LMU’s is more a “yoga studies” program, so the mission obviously is different.  I don’t think there is nearly the same emphasis on research.

It certainly sounds interesting, and it is promising to see yoga, meditation and other similar studies be treated more seriously in an academic situation.

The program is set to launch in October, and they are searching for an executive director. Get your applications in!

Update: There seems to be a lot of chatter about John Campbell’s position. (See the comments below.) I failed — because I wrote this first thing this morning — to note that among the other items the program will include during the first year is a “contemplative-in-residence.” Perhaps that’s the position Campbell is taking. Also planned are a “contemplative summit” and a speaker series.

Posted by Steve