Light in the classroom: Contemplative practice as a resource for navigating uncomfortable feelings and difficult conversations in Women’s and Gender Studies’, anti-oppression, and social justice classrooms

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This dissertation, “Light in the Classroom: Contemplative Practices as a Tool for Navigating Uncomfortable Feelings and Difficult Conversations in Women’s and Gender Studies’ Anti-Oppression, and Social Justice Classrooms,” explores contemplative practices such as mindfulness, meditation, compassionate listening, and journaling as a means to self-awareness, self-compassion, and empathy for self and others. Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) and social justice classrooms and pedagogy include difficult conversations on social justice topics such as privilege, oppression, and white supremacy culture and characteristics. Difficult conversations often invoke uncomfortable feelings such as defensiveness, denial, anger, sadness, tension, grief, and resistance. I propose that contemplative practices can provide students with opportunities to self-reflect, to observe their feelings with self-compassion, and to listen to their bodies as a source of wisdom, enabling them to stay present and engaged when uncomfortable feelings arise during difficult classroom conversations about social justice and anti-oppression. The knowledge generated from my exploration will contribute to two ongoing conversations: scholarship on WGS and social justice pedagogies (especially concerning difficult conversations) and the growing discourse on contemplative practices in higher education. Through a qualitative study, my dissertation offers new insights to the conversations on the implementation of contemplative practices in a WGS classroom, in a social justice pedagogy, and in a higher education context through listening to WGS students’ self-reported experiences participating in contemplative practices.

Transformative learning, Transformative pedagogy, Contemplative practices, Contemplative pedagogy, Compassionate listening, Mindfulness, Uncomfortable feelings, Difficult conversations, Social justice, Anti-oppression, Oppression, Privilege, Embodied pedagogy