July – August 2022 Newsletter

Mindfulness and Contemplative Education Newsletter


Think Piece Pg. 1-4
New Books Pg. 5 – 6 JOHN MILLER, Taoism, Teaching and Learning
Pg. 7 CHERYL COWDEY, Neither Here nor There
Journals Pg. 8 Canadian Journal of Higher Education
Pg. 9 Other Education
Conference Pg. 10 Conference “Awakened Schools”

Greetings Colleagues, Students, and all Other Readers of the Newsletter,

I trust that previous and new readers are all keeping well. We have had a hiatus and missed sending several issues and now are keen to begin getting them out again. This was simply due to an extremely demanding workload. So, now since Fall-Winter teaching is over and other commitments have been dealt with – at least to some degree – it is the time to get caught up and begin to think again about this issue and future issues.

If you have comments on the Newsletter or material you would like to have posted on the next issue kindly contact Deborah Orr at dorr@yorku.ca


As usual, the Newsletter will begin with the Think Piece. For new readers I will note that the purpose of the Think Piece is to attempt to understand current issues and bring to bear the practice of mindful and contemplative education and of personal practice as ways of, if not of dealing completely with them, at least of having some positive effect. When dealing with issues as they are experienced by individuals this can have a strong potential for their change as well. I will explain this below. But when we look at the extreme and wide-spread level of violence, discrimination, inequality, greed, lack of resources, destruction of the environment, and the many other problems humans cause and suffer from this may seem simply impossible. It may be,  but I want to argue that if we bring Buddhist meditation to education and teach it at all levels then we may find that it has real positive potential for students’ development. With the practice and the self-awareness they develop   they may begin to make changes in their lives and in their actions in the world to bring about change.

The arguments I will make in this Think Piece draw on the cultural developments which underlay and foster the issues we are facing. In “Giving up our Cultural Addiction” (Orr, 2021) I made the argument that the culture which we are dealing with today has developed out of an interpretation, often inaccurate, of the Genesis 2 – 3 story of human creation and fall into sin. I will not attempt to synopsize that arguments of that essay but will note that the interpretation of that story was conveyed to ordinary people who were illiterate and heard it in the sacred environment of a church which gave it powerful credence. The basic interpretation was that men were superior to women and to all else in that only they had spirit/soul and reason. Women lacked these qualities and were believed to have committed the first sins, disobeying God and concupiscence. In consequence, men were understood as superior to all else, but as time passed only some men, and the fundamental cultural values that emerged were the acquisition of wealth, power, and status. This, in brief, is patriarchal culture.

Buddhist practice, which was developed at least 2,500 years ago, is grounded in an insight that was not accepted by Western culture until the 20th century. This is that humans’ self-understanding and therefore their behavior is an acquisition, something they are socialized to, not their inherent nature. Clinging to it is the root cause of suffering for themselves, others, and the world around them.  The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths give a medical model of our addiction and its cure.

The First Truth is diagnostic: human life is psycho-spiritual suffering/dukkha.

The Second Noble Truth is dukkha’s etiology. It is caused by the three poisons or ailments, the kleshas. These are: 1. Greed or clinging/raga, that is clinging to what is harmful such as the patriarchal worldview, its values and practices. 2. Anger or aversion/dvesa, where we avoid accepting the way things really are, e.g., the poisonous nature of patriarchy. 3. Delusion/avidya is one’s false understanding of ones’ sense-of-self and other things. The root cause of suffering/dukkha is identification with one’s delusion/avidya of a separate, atomistic, reified sense-of-self which is grounded in the patriarchal worldview and its value system.

The Third Noble Truth is that dukkha can be overcome, and Buddhist practice is the mode of cure for our suffering.

The fourth Noble Truth gives the treatment, a life lived in accord with the Noble Eightfold Path, which is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. These should form an integrated practice of one’s life. There are no universal laws which will determine the ‘rightness’ of one’s actions rather they are grounded in the compassion/karuna, non-violence/ahimsa, and wisdom/prajna meditation will foster and which may culminate in enlightenment.

Buddhist practice is a life-long undertaking and, as the Four Noble Truths clearly show, it is fraught with difficulties. However, it can be taught even to the very young in ways that are not difficult or hurtful. Work is now being done by teachers and scholars to develop learning strategies to bring this about. For example, Debra Danilewitz (Danilewitz, York University, September 2021) is a Social Worker at Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto. Her doctoral research encompassed  designing and delivering an eight-week educational program “Mindfulness Matters to Us” to students in Grade Two incorporating bibliotherapy. Her results revealed that students understood the main tenets of mindfulness and were able to practice kindness and empathy. Students were also able to teach their siblings, parents and grandparents about mindfulness through the interactive workbook on mindfulness, ‘The Present’, written by Debra Danilewitz that the students worked on during the mindfulness program. Her work exemplifies what Thich Nhat Hahn said, “when one person in the family knows about mindfulness the rest of the family learns about mindfulness too.”

As students practice Buddhist meditation, they come to realize the value in their own lives of the three aspects of their nature that they find there. Compassion/karuna, non-violence/ahimsa, and wisdom/prajna are powerful tools to achieve a moral life and the satisfaction that can bring. In living this life their action is very likely to positively impact one or more of the multitude of negative issues we are now facing.

This Think Piece is a very brief introduction to the nature and possibilities of Buddhist practice as a tool which can be given to students which can help them to understand and avoid many of the beliefs and behaviors which cause the issues we are now faced with.


  • Danilewitz, Debra,  Ph. D. Thesis, Incorporating Children’s  Mindfulness Picturebooks in Bibliotherapy. York University, September 2021.
  • Orr, Deborah, 2021, “Giving Up Our Cultural Addiction” 12,  no. 10: 825.



JOHN MILLER, Taoism, Teaching and Learning, UToronto Press, 2022

Book cover, Taoism, Teaching. and Learning by John MillerUniversity of Toronto Press – Taoism, Teaching, and Learning

The ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism contains profound wisdom about the cosmos, nature, human life, and education. Taoism seeks to be in harmony with nature




CHERYL COWDY, NEITHER HERE NOR THERE,  2022, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Inaugural Robarts Keynote

Neither Here nor There:
A Canadian Suburban Imaginary

Speaker: Cheryl Cowdy, Associate Professor of Humanities, York University

“Although a large percentage of the Canadian population live in suburban communities, literary studies of place and space have tended to ignore them. Their presumed homogeneity challenge notions of Canadian regionalism and our dearly held belief in the distinctiveness of local spaces, places and cultures. Stereotypically,  the suburbs represent values associated with American culture. Yet the strip mall, the automobile, the single-family home, the developing subdivision; all are now widely-recognized features of everyday life in Canada.

Cowdy considers the cultures of suburbia as they are articulated in English-Canadian fiction published from the 1960s to 2019. In her recent book, Neither Here nor There: A Canadian Suburban Imaginary, she agrees that there is no one authentic definition of a Canadian suburban imaginary but multiple, at times contradictory, representations that disrupt the dominant cultural discourse of homogeneity. ”

International Council For Canadian Studies.
Robarts, Centre for Canadian Studies.

Image of poster for International Council for Canadians Studies



Canadian Journal of Higher Education: AUGUST 5, 2022;

Read Vol 52, No 2 (2022)
Email: oise.editor.cjhe@utoronto.ca

The Journal of Educational Alternatives

Banner for Other Education, The journal of Educational Alternatives, Open to be different

This special issue 11,1,2022 will be published at the end of August and will include work on Krishnamurti and Education, papers on humour and internships sustainability, reports, book reviews, among other things.

The Spiritual Core in Whole Child Education

chorus os kids singing on the stage

Presentations, Community Conversations, Roundtable Discussions, Cutting Edge Research and Over 40 Engaging Workshops

We value your participation and this conference is offered free of charge.  All Are Welcome.
For detailed information, registration and call for proposals

Please visit our website Collaborative for Spirituality in Education or email lisar@spiritualityineducation.org
Phone: 917-407-4754

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