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The contemplative life advisor, Susal Stebbins Collins, encourages, develops, and guides contemplative life at Hampshire College, and works in spiritual life to develop and implement a vision of spirituality as a multi-faceted search for meaning and purpose within, across, and outside multiple faiths, and integral to the development of a well-rounded education and well-rounded individuals and communities.
Susal has a richly braided path of teaching, activism, interculturalism, the arts, and multiple approaches to mindfulness and spirituality. She grew up Unitarian Universalist in a largely Southern Baptist community in Kentucky, learning about a multiplicity of world religions and cultures, singing and playing oboe in various ensembles and religious services, and roaming in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Susal has worked as a peace, environmental, economic justice and human rights trainer, teacher, writer/editor, advocate, organizer, and organization/ coalition builder for over 25 years, and has concluded that mindfulness is a key element in societal transformation. She studied Buddhism and Taoism as a teenager, was part of eclectic Friends (Quaker), Jewish, and Methodist communities as a college student and young adult, and began practicing mindfulness meditation seriously in the 1990s while working intensely as a lobbyist for women's rights. She has taken refuge in both the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism (Kagyu lineage) and Thich Nhat Hanh's Community of Mindfulness.
Susal worked as coordinator for Arya Tara School for Buddhist nuns when she lived in Kathmandu, Nepal (where she also was connected to Hindu communities and practices); served as co-facilitator of Joyful Refuge Sangha in Portland, Oregon; and led mindfulness meditation sessions at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she also worked as an adjunct instructor and integrated mindfulness into her classes on inter-cultural communication and social change. She earned her master's degree in intercultural service, leadership, and management from SIT.
In addition to teaching mindfulness and social change, Susal is active as a certified trainer in the Transition Town movement, serves on a Restorative Justice Community Panel in Brattleboro, and grows vegetables.