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Contemplative Studies

Overview   |   Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Related Departments


Contemplative inquiry asks not just what we think, but what thinking itself is: how we come to think, as biological, aesthetic and social beings. It is concerned with conditions and strategies for thinking differently, combining rigorous introspection with rigorous critical investigation of the world as we know it, for the sake of the world we seek. Contemplative Studies necessarily integrates perspectives from a variety of disciplines including neuroscience, religion, music, psychology, theater, visual art, language and philosophy.

In learning about and practicing contemplative inquiry, students can:

  • improve their ability to observe and shape their own learning (metacognition),
  • grow in their respect for self and others,
  • entertain worldviews other than their own, and
  • increase their curiosity about the world.

In addition, recent studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness practices can alter brain structure, improve attention and focus, enhance athletic and artistic performance, decrease anxiety and depression, and strengthen self-regulation and resiliency.


Elizabeth Angowski
Assistant Professor of Religion

Beth Mechlin
Associate Professor of Psychology

Forrest Tobey
Professor of Music
Plan of Study


A total of five courses, including following course:

  • AWPE 215  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

One of the following courses from Visual and Performing Arts:

  • NOTE: In order for any of the Visual and Performing Arts courses listed below to count toward the IP, students must have first taken AWPE: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Students will apply their training in MBSR towards their artistic activity and engage in guided journaling activity that will help them reflect on their approach to art, music or theatre arts.
  • ART 200/300 Ceramics I or II
  • ART 235/335 Photography I or II
  • ART 205/305 Drawing I or II
  • ART 210 History of Craft
  • ART 211 20th Century Art
  • MUS 121 Hand Drum Ensemble
  • MUS 124 Batá Drumming
  • MUS 127 Javanese Gamelan Ensemble
  • MUS 220 Orchestra
  • MUS 230 Women’s Chorus
  • MUS 233 Concert Choir
  • THEA 130 Applied Theatre: Acting
  • THEA 230 Applied Theatre: Acting
  • THEA 260 Foundations of Acting
  • THEA 261 Movements for the Stage
  • THEA 360 Acting Styles
  • THEA 386 Devised Theatre

One of the following courses from in Psychology or Neuroscience:

  • PSYC 353 Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PSYC 362 Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • PSYC 373 Moral Education
  • PSYC 376 Health Psychology
  • PSYC 377 Positive Psychology

One of the following courses in Religion:

  • REL 230 History of African American Religious Experiences
  • REL 299 Religion and Culture of Hip-Hop
  • REL 325 Religion and Psychology: Mapping Selves
  • REL 380 Religions of East Asia: Zen


Co-curricular Activity

Students shall complete one of the following co-curricular activities:

  • Mindfulness retreat (either 3, 5 or 10 days)
  • Student-faculty Research in Neuroscience
  • Tibetan Studies off-campus program
  • El Camino May Term
  • Presentation of research at the International Conference on Contemplative Studies


Culminating Experience

Students shall complete one of the following:

  • Paper presentation
  • Artistic project
  • Creative writing project
Related Departments

For more information, complete an Interest Form or contact Professor of Music Forrest Tobey.

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.