Queer Dimensions in Contemplative Methodologies

This is a companion piece to our most recent blog on Contemplative Pedagogy. It portrays an accurate account of what constitutes today’s academic atmosphere in purported “higher-education.” The vanguard to such a reality consists in a reformulation of sexual identity, one that not only occurs at the college branch, but also under all levels of educational institutions, even within the tender and formative years of kindergarten. Alternative communities would insist that these are Survival Strategies but what they amount to more often than not is a direct incursion into normative social mores, the end result is an endless mix-up of what embodies sexual identification, relabeling it all as LGBTQAI+:

That includes but is not limited to lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender, agender, asexual, pansexual, intersex, genderqueer, aromantic, androgynous, bigender, bicurious, androsexual, gynosexual, demisexual, polyamorous, genderfluid, and questioning individuals. (Mindfulness as a Healing, Liberatory Practice in Queer Anti-Oppression Pedagogy, Beth Berila)

Notice how “straight” or heterosexual doesn’t enter the equation. In fact, such an identification in today’s rapidly declining “western world” is fast becoming un-normative. The author of the above quote is Beth Berila, a Professor in the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department at St. Cloud State University, USA.

Professor Berila identifies as, “a white, middle-class, Western, cisgender, lesbian, queer woman who is not currently living with a dis/ability. I am a Women’s Studies professor at a Midwestern state four-year college in the US where I am out as a feminist queer professor.” Professor Berila is at the forefront of utilizing contemplative pedagogy in context of heightening social justice awareness:

What I would like to focus on here is how contemplative pedagogy can be combined with queer theory/pedagogy to better empower our LGBTQAI+ college students. And, since these relationships are best when they are reciprocal, queer theory can help us imagine social justice contemplative pedagogy in transformative ways….

Contemplative pedagogy and a feminist queer pedagogy have many similar principles, including a recognition that knowledge is contextual, a focus on the generative nature of teaching practices, an embrace of multiple perspectives, and a recognition that the ‘life of the mind’ is inevitably connected to our bodies (Langer 1997: 129-138; Berila 2015: 12-15). Of course, what is meant by that last point often differs dramatically between the two fields. When contemplative pedagogy talks about linking the mind with the body, it often means becoming aware of our physiological and emotional reactions to our thoughts. When feminist queer pedagogy talks of the body, it is often in terms of a site of oppression and as a venue for the performance of our identities. Until recently, these two directions often veered far apart. (ibid)

What needs to be emphasized for the remainder of this blog concerns the above stated “recognition that the ‘life of the mind’ is inevitably connected to our bodies” and how “contemplative pedagogy” concerns this linkage with the body. Professor Berila contains a quote in her article that pinpoints not only the obsessive component with the body, but also the direct inadequacy of contemplative pedagogy as a contemplative discipline:

‘To acknowledge our pain is to recognise the complexities of our bodies as both the place in which we forge meaning in our lives, and the location within which we catalyse liberation’ (Manuel 2015: 79). (ibid)

THAT is the muddled equation: contemplation=exclusive psychophysical identity + radicalized social reinforcement of this identity. To equate contemplation with psychophysical dimensions is a bastardization of the term itself. Contemplation goes beyond the psychophysical into the realm of transcendental enlightenment. THAT is what is sorely absent here: the Transcendent Dimension. Before reinforcing this assertion let us return to the notion of contemplative pedagogy:

Contemplative pedagogy integrates various mindfulness practices into modes of learning. Activities such as meditation, journaling, mindful dialogue, and deep listening can enhance students’ focus, cultivate compassion, and deepen inquiry and introspection (Barbezat and Bush 2014: 11). These practices deepen analytical skills and enhance holistic education. They help students reflect on their relationship and responses to the material they are studying; something that is also central to feminist queer social change. (ibid)

Reinforcing Professor Berila’s contention is an article entitled, Contemplative Pedagogy: Equipping Students for Everyday Social Activism by Amanda Wray & Ameena Battada. The article purports to portray in a feminist-led classroom, the actual practice of contemplation in interrelationship with social change:

We begin with a discussion of how connecting students with social justice principles through our everyday realities may be facilitated by contemplative inquiry and pedagogy, and we offer practical teaching strategies for helping students to use contemplation to actively identify and disrupt social oppressions within their everyday lives…

To cultivate the first-person realization, or inquiry, Kahane proposes the use of contemplative pedagogy, which “can help students to understand the habits of thought, judgment, and reaction that keep them trapped in the cocoon of their own privilege.”Kahane refers this privilege as “their own suffering,” and Wendell Berry describes it as a “hidden wound” that the dominant majority experiences as “a profound disorder” that damages one’s mind and society.

What this translates as is that white folk are entrapped within a cocoon of their own purported privilege. Hence, being white=a profound disorder that disrupts one’s mind and society. The actual contemplative “praxis” unfolds as follows:

Ameena prepares students for the visualization by telling them that they will be doing a contemplative exercise, which she describes early in the course as activities that will provide them with the opportunity to pause, bring their awareness to some focus, and consider course content on a more personal level. For Ameena’s and Amanda’s classes, our approach to contemplative exercises usually involves a focused individual or pair/group activity, writing, and discussing both the content and the process of what we and the students experience…

The body is relaxed and awake and breathing is regular. At least at first in this exercise, the body is receptive, not productive, so students can come into the present moment (emphasis mine) and appreciate how they feel prior to the engaging in the activity…

Ameena tells them that the class will soon wrap up the visualization and invites them, when they are ready, to bring their awareness back to the present moment by noticing their breathing. In the same way as earlier, they pay attention to different aspects of their breathing without manipulating. They notice any changes in the quality of their breath from the beginning of the visualization…

What must be emphasized unmistakably is that the above praxis has nothing to do with what constitutes the nature of authentic contemplation. What it amounts to is a teacher-led and reinforced visualization/meditation exercise (all bracketed within a limited, specified timeframe) whose outcome is always orchestrated at the fancies of the instructor. In other words, an agendacized feminist-propaganda tool session. Even the actual techniques are way off the mark from genuine contemplation: being aware of one’s breath, staying centered in the present moment. This is all antithetical to what we impart here in Unborn Mind Zen. The article above rather communicates, “sharing with students pithy articles, such as Everyday Feminism’s ‘8 Things White People Really Need to Understand about Race’; In this way, attempting to prepare students to become change agents by asking them to first tell about a moment of encountering injustice and then to collaboratively brainstorm interruption strategies.”

What was just communicated here is transpiring within what has become mainline academia and the ensuing educated populace at large. In my own day these nominally would be occurrences with just 15-20% of the faculty—usually radicalized personas with their own agendas. Today it is 90% of the faculty with just 10% harboring no such radicalized curriculums. All is upside down. It’s also as if the gene-pool itself has become unalterably corrupted over these past few decades. Unbridled self-abuse and sexual promiscuity within Western societies have by and large reduced former vibrant reproductive-capabilities that had formally fostered future and well-balanced generations. No such future any longer exists. Alienation, persistent drug abuse, hopelessness and disaffection have become normative, along with their alienating philosophies. Is it any wonder then that the present Islamist-Ascendency is increasing at a rate exponentially? Say what you will, but the Islamic populace still adheres to the natural law. They reproduce unhindered and with rampant tenacity. They shall soon inherit the earth. What we are witnessing is a new Dark Age; is this to be our Brave New World?

Like the former Dark Ages, it was isolated but vibrant contemplative monastic-communities and unbreachable mystic associations that kept the light of Western and Eastern Spirituality aflame. It will be no different in our own era. This has to do with that “Transcendent-factor” mentioned earlier in this blog. We here at Unborn Mind Zen believe that the best way to benefit humanity, especially spiritually, is first and foremost by directly “Recollecting the very vivifying ‘Source’ of one’s Unborn, Original Nature.” I daresay, once one does so it no longer matters whether one is gay or straight, LGBTQAI+, or otherwise—they all no longer enter the equation. The mad, insatiable desire to cling to one’s psychophysical makeup simply is unmasked for what it really is—Self-empty. What matters is attuning oneself to their “Original Buddha Nature.” One’s own Best-Self. All else is secondary and no longer matters. This is the ultimate liberation, turning-about completely from the psychophysical paradigm and once and for all relegating it to the dustbin of all temporal dissatisfactions. It is the unsurpassed “Contemplative-Dimension” wherein one transcends their own karmic factors that impinge upon True-Liberation of Mind and Spirit.

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