Mindfulness and Meditation at University
10 Years of the Munich Model
»The main reason for implementing this program was to offer students the opportunity to get more in touch with themselves and thus more in touch with their own source of inspiration and creativity. I myself have experienced inner peace and an increased ability to focus on whatever I do through my personal meditation practice. It has also helped me to find my path in life and to muster the strength and energy necessary to achieve it. Enabling students to discover their own inner compass was important and meaningful to me.«Andreas de Bruin
»I wonder if this will appeal to the students in the teaching program?« I asked myself out of both interest and curiosity as I added the course »Meditation« to the summer semester 2010 curriculum for the Social Work degree program at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. In implementing the course, I was motivated to offer students an opportunity to get more in touch with themselves and thus more in touch with their very own source of inspiration and creativity. My own personal meditation practice has given me an experience of inner peace and enabled a greater focus in all the things I do. It has also helped me to find my path in life and to muster the strength and energy needed for it. Providing such an inner compass to students was, in my opinion, important and meaningful. In class, it was also interesting to shed light on the state of research into mindfulness and meditation, since many of its positive effects – for example on psycho-hygiene, attention and concentration, and emotion regulation – have been scientifically proven in international studies. And last but not least, I also wanted to show how mindfulness and meditation can find their way into students‘ later professional fields. As the vice dean of the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences at the time, I was responsible for planning 35 courses a year in the field of aesthetic media, so I was in a good position to give the project a shot. At worst, if only a few students enrolled, it would be canceled and for the time being would not be included in the curriculum. But things turned out differently… The number of applicants was enormous: there were 65 applicants for the 15 places available!
Due to the strong demand, I continuously expanded the course offerings in subsequent semesters. In addition to the courses offered at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, I was also able to implement courses and training workshops at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich. Numerous faculties and degree programs are now represented in the Munich Model, and student interest continues to be immense. This is seen in particular at the Faculty of General and Interdisciplinary Studies in the »Personal Competence« focus area. For the course »Stress Management and Meditation« offered here, about 700 students apply for the 15 available places per semester!
Mindfulness and Meditation at University. 10 Years of the Munich Model describes the development of the first ten years of the Munich Model: from its initial beginnings with 15 students meditating in a cool gymnasium to an extensive range of programs at various university locations in Munich – where each semester 150 students from 24 degree programs participate in mindfulness and meditation courses. Additional supplemental offerings, as part of the Munich Model for (former) students, faculty, and university staff have developed over time. The book examines the implementation, structure, and teaching content, including exercise instructions in detail. Also explored in depth are the acquisition of competencies as well as assessment and performance criteria, which are of particular relevance to the regular courses.
At the beginning of the book, detailed reasons are given as to why mindfulness and meditation practices have found their way into the educational discourse, pointing to a possible upcoming paradigm shift at universities and in the educational system in general.
Last but not least, important sections include a summary of the current state of mindfulness and meditation research as well as an overview of possible risks that may arise if mindfulness and meditation practices are not applied correctly or are used by those with mental health issues. Overall, it presents a successful field-tested model that exemplifies how the implementation of mindfulness and meditation can be achieved in the context of higher education.
What do I think makes this book particularly compelling to read? There are a number of features worth citing. Most importantly, the students contribute their own testimonies. The book features numerous excerpts from students’ meditation journals which express the experiences of the students who thus far have participated in the courses on »Mindfulness and Meditation«. These very authentic and practical observations accompany the descriptions of the respective exercises. The book also contains journal notes on the effects of mindfulness and meditation on learning and passing exams, as well as detailed reflections expressing the significant impact the courses have had on students‘ personal development.
In addition, the book clearly differentiates terms such as awareness, mindfulness, meditation, insight meditation, as well as metta meditation and illustrates how they relate to each other. It makes clear that mindfulness is much more than just being present in the moment. The term meditation is itself examined in more detail. Meditation can be focused in mental, emotional or physical processes and their mutual influence in order to gain more insight, but it can just as well aim at complete inner stillness and the associated connection with one‘ s own inner core.
The book argues for a consideration and recognition of this inner core – often called the soul or the self in the literature – in the context of education. Also highlighted in the book is how mindfulness and meditation practices help us to reconnect with this inner core.
This brings us to the next interesting aspect of the book: it emphasizes the need to promote intuition, as an expanded approach to knowledge acquisition in universities. It discusses the fact that at universities, the intellect has so far been promoted almost exclusively, while intuition has been given little, if any, consideration. The fact that intuition functions in a completely different way, on the basis of deep introspection, and that mindfulness and meditation can make an important contribution here, is well substantiated in the book.
It is also worth mentioning that the book highlights teachings of numerous spiritual teachers from different cultures. Great past personalities such as Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Muktananda, Sri Chinmoy, Nisargadatta, John Main, Willigis Jäger are some of them. But so are currently living persons who have a clear influence in our society with their ideas, views and wisdom, such as the 14th Dalai Lama, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Mother Meera, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and David Steindl-Rast, just to name a few.
Last but not least, the book is no ordinary book. In addition to the journal notes, there are also numerous photos and drawings as well as sketches of ideas that were created during the first ten years of the Munich Model. This variety lends a lively quality to the book.
Looking back on the first ten years of the Munich Model, I can say that something of beauty and of value has been established. It gives me great pleasure to know that, thanks to this book, all the experience gained thus far can now be shared with so many other interested parties. This of course can also be said of the students, who for this very reason generously provided excerpts from their very personal meditation journals. In doing so, they hope for a more widespread implementation of mindfulness and meditation courses in the context of university education, which would enable students at other universities to also take advantage of such offerings. This book aims to contribute to that endeavor.