Final Project – Creative Project Option
In daily life, we are bombarded with external stimuli that seem to demand our constant attention. We rush from place to place, multi-task obsessively, absorb invisible toxins and pollutants from our environment that affect our health and well-being, experience unprecedented amounts of visual and electronic stimuli, and react to situations with long-standing patterns of behavior that are deeply based in aversive fear or grasping desire for things to be different than they are.
Mindfulness training reduces reactivity and promotes a deeper state of calm and inner awareness. When one offers non-judgmental attention to internal states of being, one is able to decrease reactivity to internal and external distractions and to touch a deeper sense of consciousness, wholeness and pure being. In a quieter state of mind, a listening and opened presence awakens. In silence, there is space, and where there is space, there is room for creativity to arise. In the words of the accomplished composer and violinist Daniel Kobialka as he offers an interpretation of his compositions, particularly “Moon Gazing on the Interlunar Sea” (Pathless Journey, ©2004):
At the moment of silence between two notes, creativity leaves all the limitations of thought to open a window for true creation’s visitation…That unfathomed silence can only come to you; you cannot reach for it…How can anything be transformed unless it looks at itself like ‘the moon gazes on the interlunar sea?’
The final project for this course involves deepening and expressing the creativity that arises from this place of inter-spective ‘gazing’. The assignment, then, is to produce a unique expression in any form that is inspired by “true creation’s visitation.” Here are some guidelines:
- The form of the project will be up to you. You have the power and the freedom to create from your own interests and strengths. You may choose to write a play or a poem or a series of haikus. Or, you may choose to compose and perform a song or produce a documentary. Or you may choose to create a sculpture or a series of paintings or another form of visual art. You may wish to design clothing or a Zen garden or artisan-style crafts while practicing mindfulness.
- This project need not be masterful (it is not being evaluated as if it were for an art class!) but should be highly evolved, well thought-out, and worked on over time. It is a good opportunity to try out a medium or skill that is new to you or that stretches beyond your current expertise.
- The making of your poject should be rooted in mindfulness. We recommend meditating before and after each working session and journaling on what manifested during each creative session
- Along with the project, you will offer a short (4 – 6 pg.) but refined reflective piece in writing about your project, explaining how your idea for the project came about and evolved through contemplative practice. Draw from your journal – your archive of creative sessions. What does your work communicate? How did mindfulness training serve the process of creation? What challenges did you encounter in the process and how did you draw upon previously unidentified resources (internal and external) to overcome them? Did any of the readings over the course of the semester offer insight that inspired your creative process? If so, how?
- During the scheduled final exam period, you will present your project to the rest of the course-community so that we can all share in the enjoyment of your creativity; each presenter will have about 5 minutes.
- This project, together with the reflective writing piece, will take the place of a final exam.
Requirements for completing your creative project:
1) Proposal and timeline – due at the end of week five. The proposal should describe your project, the steps to completing it, how and why you selected it, and include a tentative timeline indicating how you envision distributing the work on your project throughout the semester.
2) Final timeline – due with the reflection paper on the final day of class. Each time you work on your project throughout the semester, record a) date, b) time spent, and c) what was done. Remember that your creative project will not be judged as if it were in an art competition – the goal is to explore the creative process and the role mindfulness can play in the creative process. To do this effectively, it is expected that the project be developed over time (not just in a day or two at the end of the semester), and that it involve sufficient effort to develop creative engagement and reflection, at least 24 hours total.
3) Reflection paper – due on the final day of class. This should describe the execution of your project, your experience in developing it, and how you see mindfulness involved in it.
4) Final project and presentation – In lieu of a final exam, give a presentation of no more than 10 minutes summarizing your creative project experience, your inspiration and process, the relation of mindfulness practices to your project, and what you learned from the experience. Your presentation will take place at the regularly scheduled exam time for the course.
Final Project – Compassionate Creative Community Engagement Option
Over the course of the semester, we will be cultivating the practice of Metta, “loving-friendliness meditation,” or meditation on compassion. This final project option allows you to expand your practice of metta beyond the cushion to the community.The project involves a process of working collaboratively with and through a campus or community organization that addresses any issue affecting the well-being of people, animals, and/or the environment. You may choose (or create) any organization that is meaningful to you, with the proviso that the organization and your efforts in it conform to the following:
- compassionate community engagement with and/or for groups of people, animals, and/or the environment that you do not often focus on.
- work for the benefit, good, and welfare of others
- engage in no harm, intended harm, or intentional divisiveness toward specific groups of people, animals, and/or the environment
- welcome diversity in background, experience, race, gender, religion, and identity, and respect the dignity, independence, and right to accessibility of people with disabilities
This project option involves the following:
1) Choosing (or creating) an organization for compassionate community engagement
2) Spending a minimum of 24 hours over the course of the semester participating in the activities and/or mission related work of that organization. Again, it is expected that you work on this project throughout the semester, rather than putting in lots of hours in a short time.
3) Keeping a journal with brief entries providing relevant information about each hour of engagement. Your should include organization name, date, time start and end, location, and work done for that organization. You will turn this journal in along with your project reflection paper
4) Writing a reflection paper (4 – 6 pgs) providing a first person analysis of your engagement. The paper should be turned in along with your project journal. Here are a few questions you might address in that reflection:
- How do you define compassionate community engagement and how did your efforts align with or depart from such engagement?
- Discuss the practical and experiential relationships between mindfulness, meditation, and compassionate community engagement. How did meditation and mindfulness practices enrich your work? How did your volunteer work affect your meditation?
- What are the costs and benefits of engaging with the community compassionately?
- What did you learn from the recipients of your compassionate community engagement?
5) In lieu of a final exam, give a presentation of no more than 10 minutes summarizing your compassionate community engagement experience, what you and your group accomplished, and what you learned from the experience. Your presentation will take place at the regularly scheduled exam time for the course.