Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Mindfully. (On-Going Topics)

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Mindfully. (On-Going Topics)

Article excerpt

Teaching and Learning as Spiritual Exercises. Scholarly teaching requires active reflection and inquiry into teaching and student learning, trying to make the learning process itself transparent. Both instructors and students are actively engaged in questioning this teaching and learning.

Spiritual teaching and learning are also founded upon the practices of deep questioning and reflection. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus encourages his followers, "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you." Spanish soldier-turned-priest Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founded of the Company or Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in part to train others in specific methods for such spiritual questioning and searching. In his Spiritual Exercises, he drew on Jesus' teachings as a foundation for many practical forms of spiritual questioning and reflection, including a "prayer of consideration" based on Matthew 6:25-34. Prayer itself is a form of active reflection and of learning from that reflection. In this form of prayer, the seeker deeply and carefully considers both her real needs, her real value to God, and her "field"--her environment and context--and how these all interact.

More famous than the prayer of consideration is Loyola's "examen of conscience," which Jesuit author John A. Hardon considers to be "an essential part of the spiritual life" for "writers of the spiritual life" in particular. Certainly, the same rigor and consistency in spiritual self-examination is just as essential for teachers. Indeed, this process, like all of the Spiritual Exercises, is intended to be a transparent learning process shared with a spiritual director. The director, though a teacher of the exercises, is also a gentle facilitator and attentive listener rather than a lecturer. The experience of learning is led more by the needs, maturity, and readiness of the one doing the exercises than by the spiritual director. The process of teaching is responsive, guided by the process of learning.

Another of the spiritual exercises, lectio divina, is actually based on a much earlier tradition, with roots in both ancient Hebrew scripture study (haggada) and ancient Greco-Roman meditation practices (meditari). Benedict (480-547), a Roman noble and founder of the Benedictine order originally articulated this process of contemplative scripture reading in The Rule of Saint Benedict (ca. …

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