Visiting speaker discusses the power of human actions


The Appalachian Online

Nicole Caporaso

Daniel Barbezat, the co-author of “Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning” spoke to faculty, students and staff in the Parkway Ballroom Tuesday afternoon.

Barbezat is also a professor of economics at Amherst College and executive director at The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

Vachel Miller, the interim director of the doctoral program in Educational Leadership in the College of Education, said one of the most important things for educational leaders to do is “creative nothing.”

“What that means – and I think what Dan Barbezat is here to talk with us about – is an art and a science of doing nothing, but it’s not just any kind of nothing,” Miller said. “Cultivating a contemplative presence in the world is about openness and spaciousness, curiosity and affirming that kind of nothing.”

The main focus of Barbezat’s talk was how every action we, as humans, take “cultivates something.”

“Our actions, our thoughts, our interactions have profound and absolute impact on the planet, that’s a fact,” Barbezat said. “The question is, given that there is this impact, given that everything we do cultivates something, produces something, the question becomes, what are we going to cultivate?”

Barbezat noted in his speech that in 2013 there were 400 Americans that were in possession of more wealth than half the population of the United States.

“Millions, billions, several billion [people] don’t have access to clean water,” Barbezat said. “Something is amiss, something is profoundly amiss and our activity is generating this result.”

The key point of Barbezat’s solution was education.

“Higher education should be about answering this question: do we provide our students the means to create such a meaningful inquiry?” Barbezat asked of the audience. “Community can be a place where intention can interact, if we have that intention and vision and develop a way to engage with that inquiry, we can begin to see with awareness.”

Barbezat’s steps for the groundwork of change were broken down to vision and intention, awareness, discernment and focus, action and analysis.

“Practices that cultivate awareness are essential for living a life of meaning,” Barbezat said. “In order to engage in action in this wider world, we need – we absolutely need – to examine, explore and discern what is arising within us. It is the only way in fact we can meet one another, be with one another.”

Barbezat said it is possible to create the vibrant world in which we would like to manifest and the concepts he presented can not only be used in the classroom, but also in other areas.

“We can engage these practices in residential halls, in cafeterias, in the counseling center, in athletics,” Barbezat said.

Barbezat’s lecture was sponsored by Appalachian’s University College and a grant from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, according to

Story: Nicole Caporaso, News Reporter