Mind and Life Institute
Summer 2012 Newsletter

Cover Photos: Philosopher Evan Thompson at the 2011 Summer Research Institute; His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Courtesy: James Gritz);
Richie Davidson speaking at the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies

In this edition of the Mind & Life Institute newsletter, we are pleased to provide several exciting announcements, including a $200,000 donation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a report on the phenomenally successful International Symposia for Contemplative Studies, a first-hand account of the Mind and Life XXIV meeting in Minnesota, the relocation of the Mind and Life offices to Massachusetts, and the announcement of the organization’s new strategic plan. The strategic plan calls for several bold initiatives, including a move to more applied research, a program to explore the uses of contemplative practices to address addiction, and a Visiting Scholars program. And those are just the highlights. We hope you enjoy reading this issue, and we look forward to hearing your reactions to our new programs and initiatives.

Download the Summer 2012 Newsletter as a PDF

Contents

Image by WA State Parks

1 – Dalai Lama Donates $200,000 to the Mind & Life Institute
2 – Dalai Lama Meets with Varela Award Recipients
3 – Mind and Life XXIV: An Insider View By David Vago, Ph.D.
4 – The International Symposia for Contemplative Studies
5 – Mind & Life Institute: A New Strategic Vision
6 – New Mind and Life Visiting Scholar Program Launched
7 – New Board Members
8 – Mind and Life Contemplative Studies Fellowship
9 – A New Home for Mind and Life
10 – Mind and Life Summer Research Institute and Varela Awards Receive Templeton Grant
11 – Why Give?

 


Dalai Lama Donates $200,000 to the Mind & Life Institute

Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London was packed on May 14 with news media, dignitaries, spiritual leaders, and general observers, who all came to watch the Dalai Lama become the 40th recipient of the Templeton Prize. The prize, given each year to the person who exemplifies, in the words of the prize’s founder, Sir John Templeton, “entrepreneurs of the spirit,” is the largest annual cash award given to an individual, valued at $1.7 million.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, His Holiness said that he would be giving his prize money away, and announced that $200,000 of it would go to the Mind & Life Institute. In his formal letter announcing the donation, he noted that the organization “has been at the forefront of organizing dialogue between modern science and spirituality.”

A Mind and Life Co-Founder and the Honorary Board Chair, His Holiness the Dalai Lama commented on the mutual learning between science and Buddhism. “It has been a pleasure to discover the extent to which we have been able to enrich each other’s understanding,” he said.

Mind and Life was represented at the ceremony by President Arthur Zajonc and Board members Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, all of whom received ceremonial khatas from His Holiness.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting Arthur Zajonc at the 2012 Templeton Prize ceremony (Courtesy: Karen Marshall / Templeton Prize)

“We were, of course, delighted that His Holiness’ contributions to the dialogue between science and spirituality were recognized,” Zajonc wrote in a note from London, “but what stunned all of us present was that he chose to donate $200,000 of the award to Mind and Life. I spoke with His Holiness at the reception following the formal ceremony, where he reaffirmed his commitment to Mind and Life. He said that he viewed the work we are doing as important and of real benefit to future generations. This is an extraordinary endorsement of the last 25 years of work, which was guided by Francisco Varela, Adam Engle, and the Mind and Life Board, and His Holiness’ earnest commitment to our future work mirrors our own continued resolve to further our efforts that we might enrich each other still further.”

“I join my colleagues on the board of the Mind & Life Institute,” said Board chair Thupten Jinpa, “in celebrating the joyful occasion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama receiving the 2012 Templeton Prize. We feel deeply honored by His Holiness making a gift of $200,000 from the prize money. This represents a powerful public endorsement of the Institute and its work by the Dalai Lama. The entire Board expresses its deep appreciation to His Holiness for this most generous gift and the strong encouragement it represents.”

In his acceptance speech, His Holiness explained his gift to Mind and Life by noting that the 21st century should be a century of peace and compassion. “That will not materialize through prayer and meditation,” he said, “but through education . . . [we have to] educate [young people] holistically. For many decades my special friends have been scientists, brain specialists. Many scientists find warm-heartedness really brings inner peace. This is not just words: they carry out experiments, they convince through the training of the mind, through awareness of different sorts of values. A person’s mental state changes, their blood pressure reduces, stress also reduces. We are not talking about the next life; we are not talking about heaven. We are simply talking about how to build a healthy body through a healthy mind. Scientific research is immensely helpful.”

 


Dalai Lama Meets with Varela Award Recipients

Mind and Life XXIV, Latest Findings in Contemplative Neuroscience, which took place at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on April 24, featured a dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and six recipients of the Francisco J. Varela Research Awards (Varela Awards). The Varela Awards, for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, were established in 2004 as pilot grants to stimulate novel research in the area of Contemplative Science, and have since produced significant findings, including more than 65 studies published in peer-reviewed publications.

Richie Davidson, David Vago, Willoughby Britton, Thorsten Barnhofer, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Helen Weng, Baljinder Sahdra, and Norm Farb at Mind and Life XXIV (Photo: Jacob Malwitz)

Mind and Life XXIV was an important and notable milestone in the course of Mind and Life Dialogues, as it was the first time that the new generation of Contemplative Science researchers presented as a group to His Holiness. The presenters, Thorsten Barnhofer, Willoughby Britton, Norman Farb, Baljinder Sahdra, David Vago and Helen Weng, were all once junior researchers and long-time participants in the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute. Mind and Life is proud of the accomplishments of these excellent scientists, and we were extremely pleased to facilitate a meeting where they could engage directly with each other and with His Holiness.

The six participants selected for the dialogue were chosen from the 92 who have received Varela Awards, and represented the diversity of their fellows. They came from England, Australia, and Canada, as well as the United States, and their work encompassed compassion, consciousness, neuroimaging, depression, and nonattachment. The research conducted by Willoughby Britton, from Brown University, was unusual because she focused on the challenges of meditation rather than the benefits. As she described in her abstract, her research involved interviews with more than 60 meditation experts, exploring “meditation difficulties, the wide range of interpretations from progress to pathology, and possible risk factors which may exacerbate expected (but perhaps difficult or challenging) meditation effects into the need for additional support or psychiatric intervention.” His Holiness endorsed her work, noting that meditation is a serious undertaking requiring careful prior study and expert guidance.

The Dalai Lama took a keen interest in all the research and, as usual, posed insightful questions to everyone. At the end of the event, His Holiness gave each presenter received a khata, or scarf.

The dialogues in Rochester, which take place every other year, are hosted by the Mayo Clinic in conjunction with His Holiness’ annual wellness checkup. The clinic has a strong commitment to mindfulness, including applications for patients, staff training, and families of patients. The morning of the Mind and Life Dialogue, the Mayo Clinic held their own event, called Resilience Through Mindfulness.

 


Mind and Life XXIV: An Insider View By David Vago, Ph.D.

I woke up the morning of April 24, 2012 thinking, “There will not be many days like this in my life. I will be giving a talk to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, along with five of my Contemplative Science colleagues and friends.” My heart fills with joy and gratitude when I think about the opportunity.

The six of us represented hundreds of young investigators, like ourselves, all inspired by the Dalai Lama. The meeting was particularly significant because, after 25 years of dialogue with His Holiness, it was the first time junior-level investigators were given the opportunity to share their research with him. We represent a new generation of scientists who are willing to examine some of the more difficult and even taboo aspects of deep contemplative transformation. As such, we are right in the center of an emerging paradigm shift for science. All aspects of basic and clinical science and society are now infused with mindfulness. Mindfulness represents more than its literal definition. It represents the paradigm shift towards investigating the mind from the first-person perspective—the new introspection. It is the key to the door of consciousness for all scientists to explore and the public to embrace for mental health.

His Holiness’ Feedback

The six of us were chosen to represent the Francisco J. Varela Awards program, the primary catalyst for seeding the field with young scientists investigating contemplative practice. Each of us brought something unique to the table from all across the globe. The room was filled with board members and guests surrounding us like proud parents and transmitting their wisdom. His Holiness was very attentive and present with each one of us as we took turns presenting our most relevant research in the short amount of time allotted. Although brief, the conference was a humbling honor.

One by one, we filled our 20 minutes completely, summarizing our findings in only a few slides, and the feedback from His Holiness was invaluable. To each of us, he provided some sense of recognition and appeared to place high importance on the work we all are doing. I kept thinking that if His Holiness thought my models of Mindfulness are “quite good,” I should be able to provide my reviewers with that reference! He ended our time together with a lasting set of strongly emphasized remarks that none of us will be able to dismiss. With a firm finger he pointed to each one of us and led the charge like a football coach before the big game. He said that each one of us is responsible for reducing suffering in this world. We must continue doing rigorous research for the benefit of the world. I guess we know what we’ll be doing for the next 35 years! Truly inspiring.

Mind and Life XXIV presenters:

Thorsten Barnhofer, Ph.D., Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London (on effect of mind training on depression);
thorsten.barnhofer@psych.ox.ac.uk

Willoughby Britton, Ph.D., Brown University Medical School (on the nature and phenomenology of meditation-related difficulties);
willoughby_britton@brown.edu

Norman Farb, Ph.D., Rothman Research Institute, Philodelphia (on distinct brain systems supporting conscious experience);
norman@aclab.ca

Baljinder Sahdra, Ph.D., University of Western Sydney, Australia (on effect of nonattachment);
b.sahdra@uws.edu.au

David Vago, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School/Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Process models for specific meditative practices that cultivate mindfulness);
dvago@partners.org

Helen Weng, M.S., University of Wisconsin, Madison (on the effects of compassion meditation on the brain and altruistic behavior);
hweng@wisc.edu

 


The International Symposia for Contemplative Studies: A Gathering of Minds to Investigate the Mind

Audience at the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies; Photo: Dave Womack

In April this year, the inaugural International Symposia for Contemplative Studies established itself as the pivotal meeting in the fields of Contemplative Science and Contemplative Studies. Organized and facilitated by Mind and Life on behalf of 25 cosponsoring organizations, the Symposia brought together renowned scientists, academics, contemplatives, and contemplative scholars for keynote addresses, concurrent master lectures, panels, workshops, and poster presentations.

Founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, Jon Kabat-Zinn, opened the conference by leading the attendees in a mindfulness exercise and a discussion of the meaning and importance of mindfulness. Former Wellesley College president Diana Chapman Walsh addressed mindfulness in leadership; Marsha Linehan, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, discussed the contribution of contemplative practices, dialectical behavioral therapy, and other treatments for severe psychological disorders.

Saturday night’s keynote featured neuroscientist Wolf Singer, philosopher Evan Thompson, and prominent Buddhist monk, author, and cellular geneticist Matthieu Ricard engaged in a potent exploration of what scientists call “the hard question”: What is the nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain?

Notable keynotes included Congressman Tim Ryan’s (D-OH) call for fundamental and transformational change in our country that will not come by funding more programs, but by bringing mindfulness to healthcare, education, the deficit, the military, and other critical social and governmental issues. Congressman Ryan is the first government official of note to build a public platform on the ideas and values rooted in mindfulness and contemplative practices, and has outlined his vision in his recent book, A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit (Hay House, March, 2012).

In addition to the six brilliant and moving keynotes, the Symposia featured 27 master lectures, 122 poster presentations, and 137 research paper presentations.

“The International Symposia was a landmark meeting for Mind and Life,” said Mind and Life president Arthur Zajonc. “Beyond the superb science and contemplative scholarship, the conference brought together our whole community in a way that celebrated each person and their work. The conference demonstrated the power of the vision of Mind and Life to animate the imagination of scientists, contemplatives, and scholars alike in a common enterprise. The energy and excitement was palpable, and at its conclusion, many expressed to me their gratitude for the gathering and their impatience for the next one.”

The continuing vision of the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies is to bring together academics, contemplatives, and other interested attendees for presentation, discussion, and collaborative networking in the fields of contemplative basic science, contemplative clinical science, philosophy and humanities, contemplative education, and those domains of contemplative practice that relate to and interact with these fields of research and scholarship. These distinct, though overlapping, fields of contemplative study focus on advancing our understanding of the human mind and how training the mind through the use of contemplative practices can lead to a reduction in suffering, enhanced health and cognitive/emotional functioning, greater happiness, and increased social harmony. Plans are underway to hold the next Symposia in 2014.

For the Symposia schedule, a list of co-sponsors and speaker bios, as well as videos of the keynotes, please visit www.contemplativeresearch.org.

 


Mind & Life Institute: A New Strategic Vision

Edinger-Westphal Neurons by thelunch_box on flickr

This year marks Mind and Life’s 25th anniversary and is itself marked by several substantial developments in the organization that reflect new goals and new capabilities. Mind and Life’s new five-year strategic plan calls for two new core projects, one concerned with the relief of suffering exeplified by addiction, and a second concerned with human flourishing, called Becoming More Fully Human. Both of these will build on fundamental research that seeks to Map the Mind using Buddhist psychology, neuroscience, contemplative studies, Western psychology, and philosophy. We are also establishing a new Visiting Scholars Program (see the story in this newsletter), while inviting the global Mind and Life community to become engaged and collaborate with us more actively, both in basic research and especially in research that has special relevance to real-world applications designed to relieve suffering and promote human flourishing.

All of the new projects and activities, along with Mind and Life’s robust set of established programs—including Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, public conferences, the Summer Research Institute, and Varela Awards—require a comprehensive understanding of the human being, which is precisely the goal of the Mapping the Mind Initiative. This initiative will include significant involvement of the humanities and social sciences, in addition to basic and clinical sciences and the insights of contemplative traditions.

The boldest part of the new strategic vision is Mind and Life’s new Addiction Initiative. The goal here is to move from integrated basic science to constructive applications and to work with an exemplar that can illustrate how this process might work. Addiction is a natural candidate for that exemplar. Both everyday and severely pathological addictions have grown to epidemic proportions in the modern world, resulting in enormous human suffering and economic costs. The neuroscience of addiction is reasonably well developed with an extensive literature base. Buddhism and other contemplative traditions offer valuable insights into attachment and craving, as well as practices meant to relieve those cravings. The origins of addictions are, on the other hand, complex, possibly including contextual and genetic elements. Therefore, addressing addiction demands an integrated approach that examines the full spectrum of human nature and developmental possibilities, understood in proper social context. This is exactly the method advocated by Mind and Life.

In addition to addressing the relief of human suffering, Mind and Life aims to promote human flourishing, the goal of our Becoming More Fully Human initiative. The research here will include cultivating positive qualities, such as ethical conduct, kindness, equanimity, creativity, contemplative knowing, and compassion. It will also involve practical educational initiatives in schools, universities, adult education settings, and workplaces.

 


New Mind and Life Visiting Scholar Program Launched

Mind and Life is pleased to announce our new Visiting Scholars Program at Amherst College. These programs will offer members of the Mind and Life global community an opportunity to pursue contemplative scholarship and research, or to organize or participate in Mind and Life research meetings, in a collegial learning environment.

The program will be based in a gracious residence on the nearby Amherst College campus newly refurbished with offices able to accommodate seven Mind and Life Visiting Scholars. We will solicit applications and make our selections based in part on prospective scholars’ capacities and eagerness to contribute to activities within the scope of Mind and Life’s mission, including our new Addiction, Becoming More Fully Human, and Mapping the Mind initiatives.

Visiting scholars will generally be in residence for anywhere from a few weeks to an academic semester. Visiting scholars will have access to the resources of the Five Colleges in the area (Amherst College, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts). They will also participate in a Mind and Life-organized Contemplative Studies Seminar that will be open to interested members of the Five College community. In this way, Mind and Life will use the Visiting Scholars Program to develop a vibrant local collegial community to which visiting scholars and Mind and Life staff can turn for assistance and advice as we expand our existing projects and develop new ones.

Throughout the year, we will also use the house to host Residential Research Workshops, ranging from two days to two weeks in duration. The Visiting Scholars Program and accompanying Residential Research Workshops will allow Mind and Life headquarters to grow into a vibrant, learning content node within the global Mind and Life community, complementing our headquarters’ ongoing role in organizational administration. Building and maintaining that content capacity will strengthen the organization’s ability to develop, inspire, and refine ongoing programs throughout the Mind and Life global network.

The building that will house the scholars has its own important scientific history, as it was the home of Edward Hitchcock, a former geology professor and president of Amherst College. In 1835, Hitchcock became the first person to discover dinosaur tracks, which he found in abundance in the sedimentary rocks that line the Connecticut River. Over the course of two decades he collected a huge number of tracks and named hundreds of species. His ichnology collection at the Amherst College Natural History Museum remains one of the largest and most important assemblages of fossilized tracks in the world. His discoveries and the potential evolutionary implications of them forced him to find new ways to integrate his religious and scientific frameworks.

Mind and Life is now actively soliciting applications for the Visiting Scholars program. Please visit the Research Initiatives section of www.mindandlife.org to learn more.

 


New Board Members

The Mind & Life Institute is pleased to announce the addition of four eminent members to the board of directors.

Diana C. Walsh

Diana Chapman Walsh was the twelfth president of Wellesley College, from 1993 to 2007. Her tenure was marked by educational innovation, including a revision of the curriculum and expanded programs in global education, internships and service learning, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

In 1998, Wellesley’s Program in Religious and Spiritual Life helped catalyze a national movement by hosting “Education as Transformation,” a gathering of more than 800 participants from more than 250 institutions. President Walsh evolved a distinctive style of self-aware leadership rooted in a network of resilient partnerships and anchored in the belief that trustworthy leadership starts from within.

Currently, she chairs the inaugural board of the Broad Institute, and serves on the boards of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. She was a director of the State Street Corporation (1999-2007) and a trustee of Amherst College (1998-2010).

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she writes, speaks, and consults on higher education and leadership. Before assuming the Wellesley presidency, Dr. Walsh was professor and chair of Health and Social Behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Don Morrison

Don Morrison recently retired from Research in Motion (RIM), a Canadian wireless communications company best known for the Blackberry. During his 10 years as chief operating officer for Blackberry, he took the company from a presence in 2 countries and 4 carriers to 175 countries and 550 carriers, and he saw the company’s revenue increase an order of magnitude, from $200 million to $20 billion.

Morrison’s work with RIM was built on his earlier experience building international telecommunications networks for ATT. He worked with ATT during a period of significant international change, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall—situations in which he was heavily involved, creating networks that opened communications across Eastern Europe, all 15 former Soviet republics, North Africa, and the Middle East. “I spent my life connecting people,” he says. “The connection of people in the Baltic states after the collapse of the Soviet Union, going in to Poland and connecting people back to their families, getting behind the wall in Berlin and connecting people there. Indelibly marked in my mind is the memory of families being able to talk to the folks in Kuwait after they had been invaded and literally hanging telephones off these satellite earth stations 36 hours after the allied troops liberated them.”

Immediately before joining RIM, Morrison worked in his native Canada to set up digital communications in the rural north of Ontario and Quebec, giving people access to the Internet for the first time. Since his retirement from RIM, he has become involved with the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT; the Mastercard Foundation, which focuses on microfinance and education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; a Canadian organization called Free the Children; and a project called the Armageddon Letters, which is addressing the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis by compiling correspondence between Nikita Krushchev, John F. Kennedy, and Fidel Castro. He has also started his own Compassion Project, which is designed to develop the rudiments of a passive inner transformation in a Christian orientation.

Morrison’s interest in contemplative practice began in high school, and has only grown since then, with a particular interest in contemplative science. He says he was eager to join Mind and Life’s board because “Mind and Life is the single most intentionally impactful ecosystem to transform the world from the inside out.”

Carolyn Jacobs

Carolyn Jacobs is Dean and Elizabeth Marting Treuhaft Professor and Director of the Contemplative Clinical Practice Advanced Certificate Program at Smith College School for Social Work. She was also the chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and a member of the Boards of Trustees of Our Lady of the Elms College, Fetzer Institute Health Advisory Council, and Naropa University, where she is the first African American woman on the board.

Dr. Jacobs’ areas of teaching and professional interest include research, religion and spirituality in social work, clinical practice, and organizational behavior. She has written and presented extensively on the topic of spirituality in social work. Recently she was guest editor of Smith College Studies in Social Work’s “Special Issue: Spirituality and Clinical Social Work Practice.” In 2001, she was elected to the National Academies of Practice as a distinguished social work practitioner. She participated as a panel member in the Hospice Foundation of America’s 18th Annual Living with Grief Program, Spirituality, and End-of-Life Care.

Dr. Jacobs received her B.A. from Sacramento State University, her M.S.W. from San Diego State University, her doctorate from the Heller School of Brandeis University, and her training as a spiritual director from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. She maintains a spiritual direction practice.

Tania Singer

Tania Singer is the director of the Department for Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. Dr. Singer received her Ph.D. in psychology from the Freie Universität Berlin in 2000, where her dissertation was awarded the prestigious Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, until 2002. She became a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, London, supported by a Leopoldina stipend. She was also a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, London, in 2006. Then, she accepted a position as assistant professor (2006-2008) at the University of Zurich and later as Inaugural Chair of Social Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics and Co-Director of the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research. In 2010 she took her current position as director of the Department for Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. In 2011, she was awarded honorary professorship at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and at Humboldt University, Berlin, and is an honorary research fellow at the University of Zurich.

Dr. Singer has published multiple papers on the social brain in high-impact journals such as Science and Nature, and is currently an Advisory Board Member of the Society for Neuroeconomics. She investigates the foundations of human social behavior and, more specifically, the developmental, neural, and hormonal mechanisms underlying social cognition; social moral emotions such as empathy, compassion, envy, and fairness; and emotion-regulation capacities and their role in social decision making and cooperation. To achieve these goals, she uses a multimethod approach, in which she combines theories, paradigms, and techniques from disciplines as varied as neuroscience, developmental and social psychology, psychobiology, and economics.

 


Mind and Life Contemplative Studies Fellowship: Bringing Humanities to the Investigation of the Mind

“Book” by Kamil Porembinski on flickr

Most of the research to date in the field of Contemplative Science has been through a method that emphasized the neuroscience of meditation or psychology. Although it has yielded impressive results, this approach is incomplete without contributions from the humanities and social sciences. The humanities and social sciences bring ways of understanding and analyzing contemplative practices and human development contextually, from the level of individual embodied experience to social and historical settings.

With support from the John Templeton Foundation, in late 2011, Mind and Life announced the Mind and Life Contemplative Studies Fellowship (MLCSF). This new award program will catalyze novel research in the humanities and social sciences on contemplative experience and contemplative practices. Research supported by this fellowship will include cross-disciplinary collaborations with the emerging fields of contemplative neuroscience and contemplative clinical science, but it will be spearheaded by scholars in the humanities and social sciences investigating contemplative practices in their full context, from the multiple perspectives of religious studies, philosophy, theology, history, sociology, and anthropology.

While Mind and Life has always included philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and contemplative scholars at the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute and in our conferences and publications, the MLCSF is now emphasizing the central role that contemplative scholars must play as research collaborators in the scientific investigation of contemplative practices. The humanities and social sciences not only bring methods and perspectives to the investigation that will deepen scientific research, but they themselves will be enriched through their collaboration with science.

Following a competitive application and review process, in April, 2012, the first Mind and Life Contemplative Studies Fellowships were awarded to the following recipients:

1. Franco Fabbro (PI), Professor, Developmental Neuropsychiatry, Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Italy
“Philosophical and historical accounts for the neuroscientific investigation of human Spirituality”
Collaborators:
Salvatore M. Aglioti, Department of Psychology, University of Rome, La Sapienza, Italy
Cosimo Urgesi, Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, Italy
Gabriele De Anna, Department of Legal Sciences, University of Udine, Italy

2. David L. McMahan, Professor, Religious Studies, Franklin & Marshall College
“Meditation in Context”

3. Julie Poehlmann, Professor, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Fieldwork on Contemplative Practices with High Risk Preschoolers: Children’s Empathic, Compassionate, and Self-Regulatory Behaviors”

4. Harold Roth (PI), Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Brown University
“Where’s the Breath? An Interdisciplinary Investigation of Breath Awareness Placement”
Collaborators:
Catherine Kerr, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Brown University; Director, Translational Neuroscience Research, Contemplative Studies
Willoughby Britton, Assistant Professor (Research), Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Public Health Program, Brown University Medical School

5. Baljinder K. Sahdra, Lecturer in Psychology (Equivalent to North American Assistant Professor), School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
“Nonattachment and Intergroup Harmony”

Congratulations to the first Fellows!

To find out more about the MLCSF, please visit www.mindandlife.org or email mlcsf@mindandlife.org.

 


A New Home for Mind and Life

After 25 years in Boulder, Colorado, the Mind & Life Institute has moved its offices to Hadley, in Western Massachusetts. Since the beginning of April, the organization has been maintaining staff in both offices, but as of June 30, the Boulder office will be closed, and all operations will be in the Hadley office. The new office address is:

4 Bay Road
Hadley, MA 01035
(413) 387-0710

We look forward to welcoming many of you to our new home.

The new East Coast location offers easy access to major metropolitan areas, proximity to key colleges and universities, and a close association with Amherst College, which is offering space for Mind and Life’s new Visiting Scholars Program. Unfortunately, we leave behind several dedicated and talented staff members who could not make the move. Mind and Life is deeply indebted to them for their vision and service. All of the organization’s future work will be built on the foundations they laid. Thank you for your commitment all these years.

 


Mind and Life Summer Research Institute and Varela Awards Receive Templeton Grant

We are pleased and grateful to announce that the John Templeton Foundation will continue its support for the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) and accompanying Varela Awards. The John Templeton Foundation has been a supporter of these foundational Mind and Life programs since their inception in 2004. Without the John Templeton Foundation, much of the important education, collaboration, and research that has been stimulated at the MLSRI and through the Varela Awards would not be have been possible.

Since 2004, more than 1,000 students, faculty, contemplatives, scholars, and guests have attended the MLSRI, and by all accounts, MLSRI is one of the seminal scientific retreats for young researchers wishing to establish themselves in the field of Contemplative Science. Similarly, since 2004, the Mind & Life Institute has disbursed more than $1.3 million to 92 Varela Awardees in the form of small, $10,000-to-$15,000 pilot grants, which, to date, has resulted in more than 65 publications in peer-reviewed journals, more than 125 poster presentations and over $15 million in follow-on funding for the researchers and research projects.

This year’s MLSRI will again be held at the Garrison Institute, and will be built around the theme The Situated and Embodied Mind. For more information, visit www.mindandlife.org.

The Varela Awards solicit research grant proposals that stimulate basic and translational research that evaluates both state and trait effects of contemplative practice and incorporates first-person contemplative methods into cognitive/affective neuroscience research. The awards emphasize empirical examinations of contemplative techniques that can provide greater insight into the mechanisms of contemplative practice and its benefits for reducing human suffering.

Congratulations to this year’s Varela Awardees, each of whom received a $15,000 grant:

1. Kate Brennan, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
“Investigating the Efects of Loving Kindness Meditation on Interpersonal Stress Generation in Chronically Depressed Patients”

2. Paul Condon, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
“Compassion- and Mindfulness-Based Meditation: Nurturing Pro-social Behavior and Social Networks”

3. Jessica Creery, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
“Can Supercharged Memory Consolidation During Sleep Boost Compassion and Pro-sociality?”

4. Julia Ann Keller, University of New Mexico
“An Investigation of the Impact of Mindfulness Training on the Development of Attention and Working Memory in Children”

5. Michael Lifshitz, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec
“Effects of Open Monitoring on Visual Search: Evidence from Eye-tracking, Electrophysiology and Phenomenology”

6. Jenny Liu, University of Wisconsin – Madison
“Differential Effects of Empathy and Compassion on Emotional and Behavioral Processes”

7. Fadel Zeidan, Wake Forest School of Medicine
“Brain Mechanisms Distinguishing Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief from Placebo Analgesia”

8. Kristin Zernicke, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
“Breath Counting: Developing a Behavioral Measure of Mindfulness”

 


Why Give?

2011 Summer Research Institute

The work of Mind and Life is supported almost entirely by contributions from individuals and family foundations. The major work of Mind and Life depends essentially upon the kindness and generosity of people like you who support our vision and mission.

We recognize that the health, well-being, and happiness of individuals, societies, and our planet are primarily dependent on our individual and collective thoughts, emotions, and decisions. Over the years, we have seen how an understanding of the mind derived from contemplative practices and applied to life can have incredibly positive effects. We have seen studies showing relief from depression and addiction, reduced violence, and greater generosity, altruism, compassion and love, to name a few results. Recently, our Dharamsala meeting addressed issues of ecology and environment, exploring causes and solutions for our worldwide environmental crisis. We continue to be amazed and inspired by the possibilities uncovered through a scientific investigation of the mind, and we are proud to partner with you in this important exploration.

Over the past 25 years, with the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other key contemplatives, and world-renowned scientists and scholars, Mind and Life has been a leader in the emerging field of Contemplative Science. Our ability to continue to lead this critical investigation depends upon your kindness and generosity. We have the knowledge, experience, and management to carry on our important work and, as our work grows, we need financial partners to join us.

We invite you to join with us as we grow our collaborative community. Together, we can build on our vision for understanding, awareness, and a better world. Your support is paramount in ensuring that the important work we do with scientists and contemplatives around the world continues. Please consider making a donation to Mind and Life.

We are deeply grateful to all of our supporters who have shared our vision and entrusted us with this important mission thus far, and we are excited to welcome new friends joining us in the vital work we do.

Thank you from all of us at Mind and Life.

To discuss a significant or multi-year gift, please contact Jacqui DeFelice, Director of Operations and Advancement at jacqui@mindandlife.org or (417) 387-0710, extension 102.

P.S. Please share this newsletter with your friends and family.

The Mind & Life Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are fully tax-deductible.

Download the Summer 2012 Newsletter as a PDF