Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UN556801 Mindful Storytelling

capstone program

Paula Mathieu

Associate Professor, English

Email: mathiepa@bc.edu

The Brazilian radical educator Paulo Freire wrote the following:

To exist, humanly, is to the name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. Human beings are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection.

This Capstone course will invite students to reflect on their humanity by exploring the relationships between word, work and action-reflection via two key terms: storytelling and mindfulness. By storytelling, I mean rhetoric—the use of language and symbols in order to manage meaning. The concept of mindfulness is broad and draws on a wide range of spiritual and psychological traditions, so for simplicity sake, when I refer to mindfulness I mean a practice of nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment while observing one’s thoughts, emotions and reactions.

Required Books

Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. NY: Penguin, 2005.
Katie, Byron. Katie, Byron. Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life. New York: Three Rivers P, 2002. Print.

Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.
NY: Picador, 1998.

The following essays will be included as well, and will be available on the course Canvas site:

Bliss, Eula “The Pain Scale”
Van Meter, Ryan “If You Knew Then What I Knew Now”
Kincaid, Jamaica “A Small Place”
Foster Wallace, David “Consider the Lobster”
Newman, Leslea, “A Letter to Harvey Milk”
Collins, Lauren. Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation

Required Work

Weekly Reading Responses 25%
Leading Class (as part of a group) at least Once 5%
Drafts of Narrative, Interview, Cultural Story and Revised Story 40%
One (of the previous essays) thoroughly revised and edited 40%

Course Schedule

This course will be organized around the following questions:

What are our stories?
In this unit, we will explore some of the personal, historical, economic and institutional stories that shape each one of us, and think about how our perceptions change as we tell stories differently. How do the stories we tell help shape who we are? How can sharing stories help us become more present and empathetic people and members of a community?

What are your stories?
In this unit, I will ask each student to interview an elder in order to discover something previously unknown that they find valuable or fascinating and record it in some way (via writing, digital or video). This project is aimed to help us practice skills of curiosity, listening, and honoring the ethics of another’s story, while also trying to gain practical advice for living through conversation and listening.

What are their stories?
In this unit, we will explore the line between information and misinformation, to question the stories told by our consumer culture, by people with political axes to grind, and by the endless drumbeat of digital media. How can critical questioning the stories we hear (about climate change, vaccinations, what counts as beauty, etc.) help us live fuller or more human lives?

How can we change our stories?
We can rewrite essays but we can also rewrite our “indoor voices,” the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Via a focus on mindfulness and some exercises by Byron Katie called “The Work” we will explore some aspect of our own internal storytelling in hopes of changing (for the better) some story we have been telling ourselves about ourselves or the world that might in fact be holding us back.

(And a more detailed reading list and schedule will be given on the first day of class.)

Week One Course Introduction

We will discuss the course questions and how they will each address issues of in relationships, in society, in academics, in spirituality, in career, and in personal skills.

Week Two, Three and Four: What are our stories?

In this unit, we will explore some of the personal, historical, economic and institutional stories that shape each one of us, and think about how our perceptions change as we tell stories differently. How do the stories we tell help shape who we are? How can sharing stories help us become more present and empathetic people and members of a community?

Reading: Tolle Chapters 1-3
Bliss, Eula “The Pain Scale”
Van Meter, Ryan “If You Knew Then What I Knew Now”

Weeks Five, Six and Seven: What are your stories?

In this unit, I will ask each student to interview an elder in order to discover something previously unknown that they find valuable or fascinating and record it in some way (via writing, digital or video). This project is aimed to help us practice skills of curiosity, listening, and honoring the ethics of another’s story, while also trying to gain practical advice for living through conversation and listening.

Reading: Tolle Chapters 4-6
Newman, Leslea, “A Letter to Harvey Milk”

Weeks Eight, Nine and Ten: What are their stories?

In this unit, we will explore the line between information and misinformation, to question the stories told by our consumer culture, by people with political axes to grind, and by the endless drumbeat of digital media. How can critical questioning the stories we hear (about climate change, vaccinations, what counts as beauty, etc.) help us live fuller or more human lives?

Reading: Tolle Chapters 7-9
Collins, Lauren. Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation

Weeks Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen: How can we change our stories?

We can rewrite essays but we can also rewrite our “indoor voices,” the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Via a focus on mindfulness and some exercises by Byron Katie called “The Work” we will explore some aspect of our own internal storytelling in hopes of changing (for the better) some story we have been telling ourselves about ourselves or the world that might in fact be holding us back.

Reading: Tolle, Chapter 10
Katie, all

Week Fourteen: Sharing Our Revised Stories.

This week, we will each share a story that has been troubling us, that we have revised through the course of mindful meditation, reflection, writing, and revision.