Announcements // March 30 – April 5

I hope the break gave you time to rest, reorient, and take care of yourselves and your families. 

Before we launch back into the course, if you haven’t already, take a moment to read the previous announcement regarding the mid-semester updated syllabus. It includes information about our revised reading schedule, adjustments to course assignments, and other important announcements about the semester moving forward. 

And a few further updates: 

Group Discussions

Grades for the group discussion are up to date. I did not have time to give individual feedback on each student’s participation, but if you have questions about how you could improve your grade moving forward, please email me. 

Also a note on understanding the point value on discussion grades: our mid-semester feedback grade may feel low (say if you got 60/70), but points were given based on what your overall score would be. Therefore, if you’ve participated in the first three group discussions but have a bit of room for improvement, your total score would be 90/100 (30/30 for individual group discussions, 60/70 for mid-semester feedback). Again, email me directly if you need further clarification. 

Group Discussion #5 is due Sunday, April 12th and will cover the topics of Mindfulness Meditation and Ayurveda. 


Reflection Journals

Reflection Journals (for ⅔ of the semester) have been graded. Check your iCollege email for detailed feedback and tips for how to improve your grade moving forward. 

There are four more reflection journal posts due between now and the end of the semester. They will continue to be due on Sundays, but you are welcome to post your reflections in advance if you read ahead. 

If you’d like to make-up for a previously missed reflection, I encourage you to write an additional reflection about the connections you see to the COVID-19 pandemic and topics that we’ve covered in this course. A few potential reflection topics: 

    • how complementary and alternative medicine practitioners are approaching wellness during this period, 
    • the concept of “legitimacy” when it comes to CAM practices and COVID-19 (which CAM providers consider themselves “essential” medical providers, and does biomedicine / government view their role differently), 
    • people selling alternative (and questionable, if not outright morally corrupt) “cures”,
    • the role of Indigenous healers during this period,
    • connections you’ve noticed between your personal experience of the pandemic and our course themes


Choice Projects

Your first (and now only) choice project is still due on Sunday, April 5th.

I haven’t had a chance to check up on the progress you may have posted over the break, but I will be working on that this week so make sure you’ve updated your project page to your most up-to-date draft. If you need immediate feedback, email me directly (and be sure to include the link to your page where I can see your project). 

Remember that because I’ve reduced your workload to one project and extended the deadline multiple times, I expect excellent work. This is not a project that you can leave until the last minute, especially if you are integrating (new-to-you) technology.

While you’re working on your project, I suggest you take a look at the Project Progress tracking sheet and check out the work of other students tackling the same project-type. This can help you with inspiration (should you feel stuck or confused), but also gives you a community resource of people to reach out to should you run into technical difficulties. 


Course Reflection Paper

In lieu of a second project, students will write a three page (750 word) paper exploring course themes, new perspectives gleaned, and general reflections from the course experience. 

You can find details of the reflection assignment here (home page > course documents > course reflection paper). 

 The course reflection paper is due Sunday, May 3rd. 


Reading Prompts: 

Reading prompts will now be updated in advance and posted here (home page > reading schedule > reading prompts), should you choose to get ahead.


March 30 – April 5 // “Protestant” Buddhism and Mindfulness Meditation

In addition to touching on the above themes, this week’s readings focus specifically on the history of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness movements, as well as folk Buddhist healing traditions in the United States. 

The first reading, “When Mindfulness is Therapy: Ethical Qualms, Historical Perspectives” discusses the historical contexts and cultural movements that influenced the development of mindfulness practices in the United States, including Eastern religious figures (DT Suzuki, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Thich Nhat Hanh), the role of psychoanalysis and eventual medicalization of the practices (Relaxation Response and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), and the critiques that arise when religious practices become decontextualized, (over)simplified, and reappropriated for a secular marketplace. 

It is critical reading for understanding how a religious practice typically associated with non-dualist Buddhist and Hindu traditions (Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen, and Theravada Vipassana), transitioned to a therapeutic medicalized practice, and finally to a pop-culture consumer commodity that touts benefits ranging from calmer, more engaged students, more efficiency in the corporate work setting, and even better sex. 

The second reading, “Complementary and Alternative Medicine in America’s New Buddhisms”, echoes points similar to those raised in the readings on TCM. In highlighting the disparate Buddhist communities in America (ethnic / culture Buddhists and convert Buddhists), Numrich discusses how each community approaches Buddhist CAM practices and folk medicine, including herbalism, spiritual / ancestral healing practices, and meditation. In highlighting each communities’ approach and understanding of each Buddhist healing practice, Numrich illustrates the divergent trajectories of their use of CAM, as well points where they overlap – and why. 


“When Mindfulness is Therapy: Ethical Qualms, Historical Perspectives”, Anne Harrington and John D. Dunne, American Psychologist (iCollege)

  • What is mindfulness?
  • Who is DT Suzuki, and what was his role in bringing Buddhist meditation to the US?
  • What was Suzuki’s view on the medicalization of Zen meditation? 
  • How did Suzuki’s experience within the United States effect the language in which he presented Zen?
  • Who is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and what was his role in the development of how meditation is practiced in the 1960s? 
  • What is Transcendental Meditation? What benefits did it tout? 
  • What is the Relaxation Response? How was it discovered?
  • Who is Jon Kabat-Zinn? What was his background and why was it important in his approach to meditation in a clinical setting? 
  • What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and what Buddhist practices does it pull from? 
  • To whom did Kabat-Zinn want to tailor his clinical practices to? Why? 
  • What was the effect of Thich Nat Hanh’s endorsement of Kabat-Zinn’s book?
  • What are some of the criticisms of MBSR, reformist Zen and other non-dualist approaches to meditation?


“Complementary and Alternative Medicine in America’s New Buddhisms” (342-358), Paul David Numrich, Religion and Healing in America (iCollege)

  • What types of American Buddhists does Numrich identify? How did the various communities within this overarching framework develop historically?
  • What are some of the CAM modalities discussed in relation to American Buddhism?
  • What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of each? How does each community relate to CAM modalities?
  • How do generational dynamics and acculturation affect the use of Buddhist folk healing? 
  • How do the types of American Buddhists relate to each other? 
  • What are the communities’ trajectories overall? In relation to folk medicine / herbalism? To meditation?


  • Mindfulness
  • Zen Buddhism 
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Relaxation Response
  • MBSR
  • Non-dual Buddhism
  • Vipassana meditation
  • Mahamudra
  • Dzogchen
  • Engaged Buddhism
  • Therapeutic mindfulness
  • Culture Buddhist
  • Convert Buddhist

Week 8: The Development of Contemporary CAM

We’ve made it halfway through the semester! Keep up the good work y’all! 

Last week our readings focused again on fleshing out Baer’s theory of understanding CAM modalities as sites of resistance (to biomedicine and general counter-culture protest movements) and accommodation (through the process of licensure). 

While Baer’s chapters and articles typically focus on the majority of CAM users (white, upper-middle class women), the supplemental chapters last week explored CAM use by cultural and ethnic minorities and what potential experiences might inform these decisions. As you could tell from the slightly different conclusions from these chapters (based on different communities), there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Cultural context and nuanced understandings are always important. That said, it does raise interesting points and I’d like you to keep those findings in the back of your mind as we continue exploring contemporary CAM modalities. 

A quick caution about the reading this week: it is a bit dull (sorry!). It’s filled with acronyms for different CAM associations, institutes and universities. I’m much less concerned about the specific dates and names, and more about the general process and dynamics each healing system has with biomedicine and licensing. I’d also like you to focus on how healing is approaches by each of these systems in a modern context (ex: early Chiropractic vs contemporary manifestations), as Baer gives quick overviews of the systems that many of you will be attending in the coming weeks. 



Tuesday, March 3rd (tomorrow) is the last day to drop the course for a W (withdrawal). If you’re having issues keeping up with the course, please reach out to me tomorrow. I may be able to help you navigate the rest of the semester, but I also may suggest that you withdraw and try again next semester. 



Tomorrow I expect to spend time working through your reflection journals and commenting on your Choice Projects. Make sure you’ve included as much information as possible, including:  issues that you’ve encountered, where you are in the process, what steps you plan on taking next and potential timelines for each step completion. 

Also something to contemplate: have you thought about how you’ll schedule work on your project given that it’s due right after spring break? Would you rather get it done so you can relax over break, or do you use Spring Break as a time to catch up on all your class work? No judgement here, I just want you to be honest with yourself and how you work as a student. 



Toward an Integrative Medicine: Chapter 2: The Semi-Legitimation of Four Professional Heterodox Medical Systems (pg 25-56)

  • What does it mean to be “professional” in the context of CAM? To be “legitimate”? 
  • What does Baer mean by “semi-legitimation”? 
  • What is the stated purpose of licensure (according to biomedicine associations) and what are it’s unintended consequences?
  • Describe the differences of “mixers”, “specialists” and “drugless general practitioners” in the Chiropractic context. If you’ve seen a chiropractor for an adjustment before, which did they most resemble? How could you tell? 
  • Describe the process of emergence, decline, and rejuvenation of American naturopathy. Why was naturopathy so well suited for a revitalization starting in the late ‘70s ? 
  • Describe modern homeopathy. 


Toward an Integrative Medicine: Chapter 3: Partially Professionalized Therapeutic Systems: The Struggle for Legitimacy (pg 57-88)

  • What does Baer mean by “partially professionalized” CAM systems? By “lay heterodox”?
  • What are the general steps that each CAM system goes through in the process of professionalization? 
  • How do “Traditional Naturopaths” distinguish themselves from (and critique) other forms of naturopathic healing? 
  • Although there is little ethnographic research on herbalist healers, where do preliminary studies reveal they operate out of? (in other words: if you are going to see an herbalist, where do they work?)
  • Instead of medical jargon (such as patients, healer, treatment, etc), what kind of language do herbalists use in reference to the people they provide service to? Why is this? 
  • How is Ayurveda different from other forms of Asian medical transplants? 
  • Why is lay midwifery included in Baer’s discussion of alternative healing?



  • Semi-legitimate
  • Partially professionalized
  • Lay heterodox
  • Lay practitioner
  • Sanitaria
  • Chi / Qi
  • Midwifery
  • Hostile Licensure

I also wanted to take a moment to include the overlap that I see in my social media consumption (Instagram) and the content that we’re discussing in class. In a few sentences in this chapter, Baer briefly alludes to a dynamic (which can be applied in other instances we’ve discussed in this course) in which middle-class white women consume healing modalities as though it were either a novel and new development (or the opposite, that they’re tapping into an “ancient” universal practice”, that are common-place to peoples of color. His text reads: 

“Cobb delineates four types of birth attendants in the United States: (1) obstetricians; (2) nurse-midwives; (3) lay “granny” midwives, who historically were particularly predominate among African Americans in the South; (4) and “modern lay midwives,” who emerged out of the feminist and natural birthing movements of the late 1960s…As Cobb observes, “at precisely the time when members of low income and rural populations have been persuaded to give up home births, certain segments of white American middle-class are seeking birth at home…” (pg 78-79)

His commentary reminded me of an artist critique (and discussion by an anti-Racist activist / Public Academic) of this dynamic that came through my Instagram feed months ago. 

View this post on Instagram

This week was used widely to acknowledge black maternal health. • On medical racism: “Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel. In one year, that racial gap adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies. Education and income offer little protection. In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education. This tragedy of black infant mortality is intimately intertwined with another tragedy: a crisis of death and near death in black mothers themselves. The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality — the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year after the end of pregnancy — is now worse than it was 25 years ago.” -via: @nytimes • On breastfeeding: “Black women were once considered property, very valuable property during chattel slavery. Not only were black women ripped apart from their families and sold on auction blocks, they were systematically “broken in” by their new slave owners by being raped, then forced to nurse the young babies of the master. They often watched their babies suffer and die of malnourishment as they generously fed the slave master’s babies. Black women were known to be exceptional feeders and breeders. There was an entire market created for “black milk” which sustained this nation. No one can imagine the trauma of what our ancestors must have experienced at the hands of slave masters. But what we do know is that post traumatic slave syndrome is real, and that our collective maternal line has gaping holes that need healing and reintegration when it comes to our bodies.The descendants of these ancestors who endured so much are now ready to heal.” – @glowmaven • First slide art by: @andrearoussos Second slide art by: @chelslarss

A post shared by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (@rachel.cargle) on

While this post (and the subsequent commentary) isn’t directly related to our course topics, it’s still related to our broader conversations of healing, alternative medicine, and healthcare in America. Taking posts like this as jumping off point, or exploring the connection you see, is an excellent way to reflect on the course material. 

So I’ll also ask you: what kind of media are you consuming outside of institutional education? Is social media simply a platform for sharing beautiful pictures, funny memes and entertainment? Or have you curated a platform that encourages you to dig a little deeper? 


Assignment: Adjusting Your EduBlog

On Tuesday I was able to check the status of your EduBlogs, give a bit of feedback on your of your posts, and to reflect on the themes you discussed as a group. 

Today, I’d like to alert you to changes to you blogs moving forward — remember, learning this platform is a slow process, so every week I’ll likely have you add a few small adjustments I expect you to master. 

I expect these changes to be made by Sunday, Feb 9th, if not earlier.  

On your reflections: 

Reminders of the Post Requirements

    • At least one (1) post per week
    • At least two (2) comments on other student journal posts per week 
    • Respond to comments on your own posts

What to write about: 

    • Write in relation to what we’re studying together
    • Write and comment substantially

Add paragraph spacing

A single block of text is really difficult to read. Break out your thoughts into new paragraphs.

This might mean that some of your paragraphs are only 2-3 sentences long (some should be longer to show you’re developing ideas), but it’s much easier to process if you have disparate thoughts than cramming them into one, long “paragraph” 


On commenting: 

These should also be substantial! Poke around the various peer blog options until a post really resonates with you, and comment there — rather than just picking the first you come across. 

Responding: “Hi! I like you reflection and agree with you!” is definitely not substantial. 


On EduBlog Settings

Start to tinker around with the settings on your blog. 

Customize your blog (through themes and appearance) 

At this point, about half- to two-thirds of the blogs are still in the GSU default theme. Start playing around with different themes to find one that appeals to you. 

This is not just a skill you’re gaining (adjusting settings on wordpress), but also gives each blog a custom feel and makes it easier for me to distinguish and identify you as student authors.

Clear out the “noise”

Many of the blogs still have the example widgets, posts, and comments that were pre-loaded on the blogs.

Within the appearance settings, you should be able to delete and rearrange any widgets that you aren’t using. 

Also, go into posts and delete the first example post and comments, unless you’ve already written over them. 

Add a picture / avatar

Cvanholm1 AvatarCvanholm1 picture

I’d like to see your face (or a representation of you) when you post and comment

You can either upload an image of yourself, or create an avatar (ala Bitmoji, avatar maker, etc) 

Adjust your comments settings

Make sure you’ve adjusted the settings moving forward so that comments are automatically approved and posted. 

Adjust your timestamp to EST time

Commenting on Peer EduBlogs

First of all, take a deep breath…

It’s Sunday evening, so that mean’s we’ve made it through the first parts of two assignments: the group discussions and the reflection post. I got a number of panicky emails, but y’all are doing great, I promise!  

That being said, we’re clearly working through a few kinks. Thank you for your patience as we work through this together, as a community. 

First, it looks like the EduBlogs automatically set comments to require manual approval. Make sure you go back into Settings > Discussion and adjust that setting. Here are step-by-step guides on how to adjust comments settings for past comments and overall

Also, I think a number of you waited until Sunday evening to post your reflections, so a lot of comments happened at the last minute as well.

How do you suggest we move forward in the scheduling of posts? Should posts be due by Friday, and then comments by Sunday? Or do you think in the coming weeks posts will naturally be more spread out throughout the week. Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below; your insight is valued! 

Tomorrow I’ll post the weekly announcement and by the end of the week will provide details ont the Choice Projects. Keep an eye out for those and check your EduBlogs occasionally (or set up email notifications for comments) as I’ll be posting on your first reflections with individual feedback soon. 

EduBlog Resources

I posted this information in the Week 2 Announcement, but also wanted to re-post it along with resources for technical help while you create your Reflection Journals on the EduBlog platform. 

For a basic introduction to EduBlogs / WordPress: 

For various EduBlog User Guides: 

For technical support:

For help navigating EduBlogs


If you find any other resources that you’ve found helpful, please comment with the links below!



A few thoughts about the EduBlog platform…

I’ve had a few students email me questions about why I’m using the EduBlogs platform — and I get it — having four or five classes, each using a different platform (iCollege, WordPress, etc), can be really tedious. On top of learning the course materials, you’re also supposed to learn to navigate different websites. It can add up to a lot of unexpected work. 

So I wanted to take a moment and explain a little bit more about my general reasoning for using EduBlogs as the course platform and the motivation behind the “Learning Journal” assignment. I promise I’ve been thoughtful in choosing this platform, and I’m not just trying to make your student life more difficult. 


Technology and “Applied Religious Studies”

In the Religious Studies department, we’ve moving towards what has been called “Applied Religious Studies”, and there have been a lot of conversations about what that actually means. 

To me, not only are we exploring course topics that can apply to student’s later careers outside of academia (non-profit sector, medicine, education, etc), my work in the department has always played with digital pedagogy — the idea of using technology and digital resources to enhance one’s education.

So for me, learning the in’s-and-outs of a new digital platform is actually part of the work of being a modern student. If you get nothing else out of this course, my hope is that you’ll be able to put a valuable new skill set on your resume — that you have a working knowledge of WordPress systems. 

And on a personal note, some of my favorite classes I took as a graduate student incorporated different types of digital projects. I came out of the Religious Studies department creating wikipedia-esque sources on Weebly and Wix, building out a website for a study abroad trip to Turkey, coaching students in how to  “write for podcasts”, among others… Check these out if you have a chance…


Discussion Boards and Reflection Journals

Another line of reasoning I’ve played through is that, while I’ve spent the last few years becoming proficient in iCollege, the platform itself isn’t suited to what I’m trying to create in terms of reflection journals. 

Thankfully during my university career I only had one course that used “Discussion Boards”. I absolutely hated them, and thought they were a complete waste of my time. But when I started teaching online and looked into “Best Practices,” a lot of the content I came across used a model something along the lines of: assign readings, record lectures over powerpoint slides, exams / papers, and discussion boards. And honestly, from my perspective at least, that’s just not how people learn. Even if they do, it’s not a style that’s actually conducive to higher order thinking — I’ll come back to that later…

That’s all to say, iCollege is a great platform for Discussion Posts. It’s streamline and it’s very easy to grade on the professor’s end. It makes life easier for the professor / instructor.

But in my view, it’s also busy work. Students throw together word minimums of non-sense, or feel restricted in what to write about. It’s just another assignment to check off every week. 

My hope is that, through the Reflection Journal (blogs), each student will have their own space to think and process in a loosely structured way, hopefully aided by the less “academic” and sterile digital environment. You’ll have a little corner of the internet all to yourself, to process your thoughts on the course material, to get your toes wet in what it’s like to be a producer in the digital world, and to hopefully participate in an online community (though for the moment it will just be your course peers). It’s a fluid space where you can integrate content you’re consuming other places, like social media, and make connections that might otherwise be stifled in a typical online classroom model. 


Creative Expression and Higher Order Thinking

And finally, one of the biggest reasons for my switch over to EduBlogs has to do with the the “Choice Board” assignments. While I’m finalizing the details on that end and will explore it more with you next week, I’m hoping EduBlogs will encourage students to not just learn a new digital media, but also to present the course content you’ve learned in a creative way (ala Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning). 

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning - Vanderbilt

from Vanderbilt University Center for Learning

I’ve found that the best courses (or at least the one’s where I retained knowledge learned much longer), were classes in which I wasn’t simply reading and recalling what we’d covered in class (through tests or papers), but instead taking that material and presenting in a completely new, innovative way. 

So while iCollege is an excellent platform for organizing course content, I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate innovative or interesting projects into its design. If you’ve got ideas from other courses you’ve taken, please let me know!

And all that being said, this is also an experiment. I hope it’s successful, but there is a chance that it will fail. But if you show up, and are a little bit flexible with the course, the learning curve on EduBlogs, and trust that I’m going to do my best to trouble-shoot it on my end too, then I think it’ll turn out just fine. 

So tell me, what kind of online courses have you taken in the past? Have any of your courses integrated novel projects that really engaged you, or are you used to tests and papers? Tell me about your experience in higher education — what you love, what you hate, what you wish was different, and what you’d like to see more of…