Reason in the Service of the Heart: The Impacts of Contemplative Practices on Critical Thinking


  • David Sable Saint Mary's University


mindfulness, contemplation, contemplative interaction, reflective awareness, affective dispositions, critical thinking, connectedness, empathy, felt sense, dialogue


The primary objective of this research was to determine if a specific set of contemplative practices enhance the underlying dispositions for critical thinking. The set of contemplative practices included mindfulness practice extended into journal writing, listening, inquiry, and dialogue. Taken together, this set of practices became contemplative interaction. Qualitative results showed increased self-confidence, engagement with multiple points of view, and an unexpected sense of connectedness that was stronger between students who disagreed with each other than between students who found easy agreement in their interaction. Quantitative results showed statistically significant gains in the average number of indicators for critical thinking dispositions appearing in student journals. Students’ sense of connectedness was based on taking an uncertain journey together and risking the suspension of beliefs long enough to be challenged. Connectedness supports critical thinking that is more focused on deeper and broader understanding than winning an argument. It opens the door to respect, empathy, and compassion: reason in service of the heart.

Author Biography

David Sable, Saint Mary's University

DAVID SABLE, PhD, began teaching at Saint Mary’s University in Canada in 2000, bringing with him fifteen years of professional experience in the non-profit sector as a training and education consultant. In 2012, David held a sessional appointment as Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department with an equal focus on teaching and research. In the same year, David completed the Interdisciplinary PhD program at Dalhousie University in Halifax. His thesis, “The Impact of Reflective Practices on the Dispositions for Critical Thinking in Undergraduate Courses,” was nominated for Best Thesis in the Social Sciences and his work noted in The National Teaching and Learning Forum 2012 21(4). He continues to teach part-time at Saint Mary’s University and Mount Saint Vincent University and is working on a book for educators documenting the diverse impacts of reflective practices on learning.

David has been studying and practicing meditation and Buddhism in the Shambhala tradition since 1971 and continues to teach at meditation programs throughout North America. He was trained and authorized as a meditation teacher by the renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chögyam Trungpa, and continues to teach in Shambhala Centers throughout North America. David is a founding member of the Authentic Leadership in Action Institute (ALIA) and a faculty member of the Atlantic Contemplative Centre.


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