A coalition of campus groups across disciplines is putting on Contemplation by Design Week from Nov. 4 to Nov. 12. The week includes events ranging from lectures to labyrinth walks to bell concerts, and all events are open to all University faculty, students and staff.
According to the Contemplation by Design website, the overarching theme of the program is PEACE — pause, exhale, attend, connect and express. The goal is that by practicing the PEACE skills, participants can find “a way of living by which solutions are created, wellbeing is enhanced and excellence is sustained.”
The week kicked off Wednesday with an event entitled “Introduction to Contemplation: The Power of the Pause for Calm, Compassionate Competence.” Tia Rich ’84 M.S. ’85 of the BeWell program was the instructor for this event, and she also came up with the idea for Contemplation by Design, hosting the first event in May 2014.
“Over the decades of helping people with their health and wellbeing, I have come to realize that contemplative processes… are really central to happiness and wellbeing,” Rich said. “I wanted to bring more opportunity to the faculty, staff and students to enjoy contemplation.”
According to Rich, one of the central components of the week is the Carollin Concert in Dorhmann Grove near the base of Hoover Tower. In this event, registered attendees and passers-by alike are invited to find reprieve in the playing of the bells in Hoover Tower. Originally, Contemplation by Design was solely this concert, but the program expanded as mental health became more of a recognized issue on campus. This year’s concert will take place on Nov. 6.
In addition to the concert near Hoover Tower, events are spread out around campus, with locations ranging from dorms to the Windhover Contemplation Center to the off-campus Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Registration is free and available online for all of the events, although some of the events that seek a smaller number of participants have already been filled.
In the year since its inception, Rich’s program has already grown. Last year, there were 1900 total people registered for the event; this year, there have already been 2800.
According to organizer Patrick Boyden, an administrative associate at Stanford’s Health Improvement Program (HIP), the outreach effort and planning began in the summer. Of the invited groups, community members have registered for the event in larger numbers, while students have been the least represented group.
According to Monica Worline ’91, who works as a researcher at the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, contemplation in the university setting is important because for many people, the university acts as not just a workplace or a school but also as a home.
Worline will be teaching a class entitled “Compassion in Management & Leadership” on Nov. 5 at noon in room 105 in the Geology Corner. She hopes to leave participants with three main takeaways in order to be more compassionate: actively try to notice the difficulties of people around you, practice personally “checking in” once a day to build empathy with others and understand that acts of compassion don’t need to be “big” to count.
“Thinking of the ways to build compassion and more mindful work is so important in today’s universities,” Worline said.
Rich also stressed that universities are an important place to work on being contemplative.
“In higher education we have these incredible ways of thinking and doing… But it still focuses on learning new concepts and facts,” Rich said. “Contemplation offers ways of knowing and being that are important to round yourself out as an adult and as a fully realized human being.”
Contact Ada Throckmorton at adastat ‘at’ stanford.edu.