You are to complete five 1 – 2 page reflection papers over the course of the semester. Each reflection paper should respond to some specific aspect of one of the readings or other assignments. You will, of course, also be thinking about and reflecting upon readings by yourself, in conversations, and, we hope, continually sharing reflections on the course blog as well. You should aim to make your reflection papers, while short, still something more and different than these other spontaneous reflections. Take time with your papers, think them over carefully. For each of your five reflection papers, you should, before submitting it: 1) read 2) reflect 3) compose and write a draft 4) set the draft aside for a day 5) return to your draft and rewrite it.
Suggested prompts for reflections papers will be appearing here; you need choose only one for each work (or write your own):
If you could somehow maintain perfect mindful awareness, focused on the present at all times, could you ever plan for the future, strategize, evaluation options, look forward?
Spend several days engaging in one of the many “Practices” recommended throughout the book. Cite which practice you chose (page numbers) and provide a detailed discussion of your experiences engaging in that practice. Did your experience change or shift over time?
Create a “Peace Treaty” (as described on p. 76-9) with someone important in your life. Practice it for one week at least. Describe your experience in practicing the “Peace Treaty”. What resulted from it?
Why are human beings so biologically determined to experience fear ? How does biochemistry shape our physical and emotional responses to external stimuli?
According to modern research in neuroscience, how and why is it possible to shift the biochemistry of our bodies and brains to create greater emotional balance? Does this speak in any way to your own experience?
How does meditation change our biochemistry? Is this reflected in any way in your own practice?
Thoughts without a Thinker
Compare the psychoanalytic conception of self with the Buddhist conception.
Heart of Understanding
Think of the most stable, fixed, permanent entity you can imagine and use it as a model to explain the connection between the concepts “emptiness” and “impermanence.”
What is “wisdom”?
The Gateless Gate
What is a koan? And what is the point? After reflecting on the nature of the koan, compose your own koan and comment on it.
Tao Te Ching
Select a few passages or kathas from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Happiness, illustrate each with a verse from the Tao Te Ching, and a comment.
What is the “Tao” and how can one experience it? Select one or two poems and discuss its/their relationship to these questions.
What is contemplation or reflection? Aristotle does not give a formal definition of contemplation (or reflection, theoria). From a careful reading, can you say something about what it means, what it involves, and how it might overlap with or differ from contemplation as understood in a Buddhist context?
Ode to Man: What are the sources of human art and invention?
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
In the first book, Marcus Aurelius lists people in his life who have been his teachers and what he has learnt from them. After reading his reflections, put together your own list, following his model.