Visiting Scholars

Summer 2014

Andrew Bresnen, PhD (June 15 – August 15)
Andrew Bresnen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research Imaging Institute of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, where he is using magnetic resonance imaging to study diseases of the eye. Andrew earned a PhD in Medical Physics at the UTHSCSA in 2013, writing his thesis on the development of ultra-high field 31-phosphorus nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to study metabolism in the brain. Andrew is committed to the practice and teaching of Ashtanga yoga, including the practice of pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). He believes a regular practice that combines postures, controlled breathing, and intention can produce many physical and mental benefits, including the quieting of the mind. Andrew is interested in identifying how scientific approaches (with a focus on MRI-based neuroscience) can characterize and quantify the potential benefits of yogic and other contemplative practices.

Andrew's Research
“During my time at the Mind & Life Institute I will review the scientific knowledge of pranayama, (yogic breathing exercises) and explore the scientific basis for clinical application of trained breathing exercises as a therapy for neurological diseases. In yoga practices, pranayama is one tool used to quiet the mind. During the breathing exercises the breath is controlled by duration, volume and other aspects. The exercises alter physiology and include aspects of mindfulness. Trained breathing exercises have shown positive results in stroke recovery, improving visual reaction time and improving parasympathetic tone. In reviewing the literature, I seek to improve our understanding of the potential neurological benefits of pranayama and to identify clinically relevant biomarkers for future studies. I aim to propose future magnetic resonance imaging studies that could quantify physiological and functional changes induced by the practice of pranayama.”

Andrew Dreitcer, PhD (TBD)
Andrew Dreitcer, PhD, has been the founding director of graduate programs in contemplative practices, spiritual guidance, and spirituality. He currently serves as Professor of Spirituality, Director of Spiritual formation, and Executive co-Director of Claremont School of Theology/Claremont Lincoln University’s Center for Engaged Compassion. Dr. Dreitcer’s research interests lie in exploring the nature of contemplative practices across religious traditions, neuroscientific understandings of contemplative practices, and the ways in which contemplative practices form compassion. A Mind and Life Fellow and former Presbyterian pastor, he is involved in an ongoing inter-religious (especially Buddhist and Christian) ‘neurodharma group,’ and is working on a book about traditional compassion-formation practices in contemplative Christianity. Living in a contemplative Christian community for a year prior to his doctoral work significantly shaped his spiritual life and his perspective on the relationship between contemplative studies and practice. Andrew’s publications include the co-authored Beyond the Ordinary: Spirituality for Church Leaders.

Andrew's Research
“I will be researching and writing a book that (1) explores traditional Christian contemplative practices that highlight the formation of compassion and (2) reformulates these practices into forms that may be accessible to and useable for Christians with 21st-century sensibilities and for people beyond Christian settings. This project will also consider these Christian practices in relation to compassion-cultivation practices from other traditions.”

Matt Jankauskas (May 15 – July 15)
Matt graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 2010 with a BSc in Psychology. That year he also completed a 200-hour yoga teacher certification program under Erica Kaufman, MFA, E-RYT 500+ and subsequently taught at two local studios. In 2012, he furthered his studies with the eight-week MBSR course at Jefferson University Hospital, and in August 2013 joined Dr. Willoughby Britton’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience lab at Brown University as a research assistant. Matt has since been very involved in the “Dismantling MBCT” and “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” projects, with a personal focus on the Abrahamic Traditions section of the Varieties project. His research interests include Christian contemplative traditions and their intersection with psychology, difficulties experienced via contemplative practice (particularly the re-experiencing of traumatic memories and difficult emotions), and contemplative path trajectories across traditions. Matt currently resides at Cheetah-House, a non-profit contemplative studies house at Brown University.

Matt's Research
“During my time as a Visiting Scholar, I will be continuing a literature review on the experience of de-repression, the re-experiencing of traumatic memories and strong negative emotions within contemplative practice, from the perspectives of Christian contemplative traditions and modern psychology. I will also be bringing this literature review into conversation with interviews we have been conducting with Christian contemplative teachers in the traditions of Centering Prayer and the Ignation Tradition of Spiritual Exercises on the “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” project at Brown University. I plan to write an outline for an article intended for eventual publication in a peer-reviewed journal for the Varieties Project, as well as to work on the coding of the aforementioned interviews (n=20), using the Varieties project codebook. This research will address the most cited category of experience in our study, and challenges the common assumption that contemplative practices always necessarily lead only to increased well-being.”

Kasley Killam (May 15 – August 15)
Kasley received her B.Sc. Honors degree in Psychology from Queen’s University in Canada. There, she worked with individuals who have severe mental illnesses in the Cognitive & Psychotic Disorders Lab. Halfway through her degree, Kasley took a year off to study method acting in Paris and Buddhism in Nepal and to conduct research at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013, she participated as a research fellow in the Stanford CCARE Summer Research Institute and completed a blog project in which she learned, meditated, and did a “compassion action” each day for 108 consecutive days. Kasley serves as the student representative for the Canadian Positive Psychology Association and recently received an award at Stanford University for her social initiative, Compassion in Motion. She is passionate about helping people lead fulfilling, meaningful, compassionate lives through psychology, mental health, healthcare, technology, and social innovation, and she aspires to become a clinical psychologist.

Kasley's Research
“Compassion in Motion is a public outreach campaign aimed at disseminating techniques for human flourishing in a fun, engaging, memorable way and conducting non-laboratory research on an international scale. I have the opportunity to promote the mental and behavioral qualities of compassion, kindness, empathy, social connectedness, altruism, and well-being by using touch-screen technology in Canada, the United States, and China to reach 102 million people per month. Some of the content on the touch-screens will be informative, communicating research findings in a way that is interesting and engaging. Other content will be interactive, offering brief activities adapted from evidence-based interventions to foster prosocial qualities. This initiative won an award at the recent Compassion & Technology Conference at Stanford University. As a Mind & Life visiting scholar, I will develop Compassion in Motion more rigorously and launch the initiative.”

Golnoosh Mahdavi (June 9 – August 25)
Golnoosh Mahdavi is an undergraduate student at Brown University, class of 2014.5. She is pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience with a focus on the neural correlates of consciousness. Supplementary to her studies, Golnoosh serves as the Lab Manager of Dr. Willoughby Britton’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, where she has conducted a number of various projects in the past. A more recent presentation entitled, “Mindfulness in Medicine,” analyzed the effects of an eight-week mindfulness-based clinical intervention on medical students and professionals experiencing severe burnout and fatigue. As a veteran member of the Britton Lab, Golnoosh’s main intention is to understand, foster, and partake in the cultivation of self-compassion and empathy within a community of young, rigorous researchers. Apart from this daily practice, her current work focuses on the neural and physiological correlates of early adverse and traumatic experiences in depressed populations.

Golnoosh's Research
“As a Visiting Scholar, I plan to look at the different types of trauma (early vs. adult) in depressed/non-depressed populations, and in particular, the assessment of trauma as an effect modifier for treatment. In the past, my findings have shown that early instances of trauma predict the magnitude of response to treatment, and that individuals with higher rates of childhood trauma do not benefit from clinical Mindfulness-Based Clinical Treatment Trials; they are more likely to drop out of treatment altogether. At Mind and Life, I thus hope to find a biomarker of trauma that may predict treatment response and attrition rates within clinical treatment trials for depression. My findings will lead to a better understanding of the physiological & neurological makers of trauma in future clinical treatment trials, and to a more coherent “map” of the effects of contemplative practice on such adverse experiences and behaviors.”

Andrea Poile (June 15 – August 15)
Andrea Poile hails from Toronto, Ontario and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include contemplative pedagogy, the neuroscience of meditation, and adolescent development. Right now she is working on a research project with high school teachers, studying the relationship between student socioemotional well-being and mastery-oriented learning goals. Prior to attending graduate school, Andrea worked as a research assistant in Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl’s lab at the University of British Columbia, working on a large scale RCT evaluation of the MindUP and SMART curriculums. She left the lab (and switched coasts) to intern at the Garrison Institute’s Contemplative Teaching and Learning Initiative. Ever since her first mindfulness in education event (the Dalai Lama Center’s Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009) she has been fascinated by contemplative science and education. She attends conferences and retreats whenever she can and maintains a personal practice of her own.

Andrea's Research
“I plan to investigate the ways in which self-compassion supports the development of “growth mindset” characteristics (i.e. mindfulness, resilience, intrinsic motivation, etc.) in K-12 classrooms. A key component of my investigation is researching the neuroscience of self-compassion, and particularly the role of the default mode network. Recent studies of the neural correlates of meditation (many of which have been authored by Mind & Life Research Fellows) have implicated the DMN in metacognition and socioemotional competence. If self-compassion can be viewed as an effective emotion regulation strategy, then evidence linking self-compassion to specific neural activity in the DMN — in other words, demonstrating an empirical “how” of the self-compassion’s benefits — could bolster support for bringing compassion interventions into K-12 schools. Potential outcomes from this independent study program could be creating a literature review or meta-analysis of existing research. A more ambitious project could be designing assessment methods that support self-compassion and thus mastery-oriented growth mindsets.”

Emiliana Rodriguez (June 15 – August 15)
Emiliana Rodriguez is a co-founder and Research Director at AtentaMente- an organization dedicated to the development and implementation of contemplative-based social and emotional learning curricula for teachers and children in Mexico. She has a bachelor’s degree in Physics and a master’s in Mind, Brain, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. For more than 12 years she has studied and practiced Buddhism under the guidance of Alan Wallace, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Marco Antonio Karam. Her interest in bridging scientific research, contemplative practices, and education led her to contribute in research projects at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the University of Wisconsin, and the Research Schools Initiative at Harvard University. Her current projects include a research initiative to understand the learning pathways of compassion in children, the creation of a Mind Exploratorium, and the development of the Contemplative Curriculum of Casa Tibet México.

Emiliana's Research
“The effects of contemplative practices have been studied in various contexts in North America and Europe, however there are almost no research initiatives in Latin America on this subject. This situation limits the potential benefit of contemplative based curriculums that are already being implemented in Latin America since it is crucial to test them so that they are valid, educationally relevant, and effective in diverse contexts. Therefore, I’ll analyze the particular needs and mechanisms of the educational system in Mexico to develop strategies and communicate effectively the necessity, validity and potential of conducting scientific research on contemplative practices in education in Latin America.”

Spring 2014

Nathan Fisher (January 1 – May 1)
Nathan graduated from the honors program in Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University in 2011, writing his thesis on the emerging fields of Contemplative Studies and Contemplative Science. He is currently managing the “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” project at The Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University under Dr. Willoughby Britton. He is also currently working on a sociological study at Indiana University-Bloomington investigating the diffusion of meditative practices into the domains of education, business, and neuroscience. His research interests include contemplative practices and trajectories in Abrahamic traditions, the adaptation of contemplative practices for use in the workplaces, neurophenomenology as a scientific method, and the use of mindfulness in sports. He has been studying Torah and Chassidut for 13 years and practicing Chen style Taijiquan for 7.

Nathan's Research
“At Mind and Life I hope to complete drafts of two articles to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals by the Spring of 2014. The first will be a write-up of our pilot data from “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience” Project (Brown University) which we have presented at various conferences – including to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Mind and Life Dialogue XXIV – but has yet to be published. I will also be working on an article based on the data from a sociological study (Indiana University) I am working on investigating the diffusion of contemplative practices into the workplace and corporate cultures. The article will problematize some widespread assumptions related to how contemplative practices are thought to enhance productivity and profitability and the theoretical considerations of Chogyam Trungpa (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism) and Richard Kind (Selling Spirituality) will be brought to bear on the data.”

Peter Grossenbacher, PhD (February 08 – May 2)
Peter is Associate Professor in Contemplative Psychology and Contemplative Education at Naropa University. After training in mathematics and cognitive science at U.C. Berkeley, his experimental psychology doctorate at the University of Oregon focused on electrophysiology and attention to vision and touch. After researching multisensory attention and synesthesia at the University of Cambridge and NIMH, he joined the Naropa faculty in 2000. His book, Finding Consciousness in the Brain: A Neurocognitive Approach, offers insights into the brain’s involvement in conscious experience. His scholarship and research focus on neural function and information processing during meditation, and the instruction of contemplative practice. In curricula that meld scientific and contemplative modes of inquiry, Peter teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in mindful teaching, the neuroscience of meditation, Buddhist psychology, mindfulness meditation, perception, cognitive psychology, research methods, and research practica. A meditator since 1980, he teaches meditation and trains teachers in a variety of settings.

Peter's Research
“In order to more deeply understand meditation, I aim to review available findings regarding brain function during meditation, with analysis expected to lead to innovation of new constructs suited for describing meditative configurations of dynamic neurocognitive processes. In addition to the instructed meditation technique, the information processing and neural events observed during meditation can help to delineate meditation techniques as they are performed. Observations of brain function during meditation may help to identify neurobiological patterns conducive to successful meditation. To provide practitioners with efficient training, in consultation with neuroscientists and meditation teachers, new techniques geared for effectively eliciting those patterns of brain activity will be devised and piloted. The ensuing program of research will allow for testing new methods for combining first-, second- and third-person perspectives in a line of inquiry that ultimately concerns the interaction between meditation instructors and students, which highlights developmental aspects of the instructor.”

Chris Kaplan, MA (January 1 – May 15)
Chris Kaplan holds a B.A. in Anthropology and in 2011 received a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where he specialized in Buddhist Modernism and global social movements. He is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab, directed by Dr. Willoughby Britton at Brown University. In collaboration with Dr. Britton and Nathan Fisher, B.A., he is co-investigator and co-manager of the “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” project, part of the larger Contemplative Development Mapping Project (CDMP) that he co-founded, which is an interdisciplinary “think tank” of scholars and scientists aiming to enrich our understanding of the varieties of contemplative practices and contemplative experiences. For the last several years, he has studied and trained in numerous Buddhist schools as well as other contemplative traditions and the Chinese Internal Arts (Chen-style Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and “Water Method” qiqong), attending multiple retreats for intensive personal practice.

Chris' Research
“During my time as a Visiting Scholar, I will mainly focus on two personal projects:
1) A book manuscript, which examines how parallel developments in global forms of spirituality and activism are redirecting currently destructive trends in globalization toward more democratic, humane, and sustainable ends. It will employ an interdisciplinary, holistic framework that examines the origins, underpinnings, and implications of interrelated global phenomena – from the proliferation of meditation in modern contexts to the explosion of internationally-coordinate grassroots social movements to dramatic shifts in philosophical and scientific understandings of “interconnectedness”, spanning multiple disciplines ranging from consciousness studies to biologically-based perspectives on social organization.
2) A unique cross-traditional contemplative methodology and pedagogy, based on overlapping understandings of contemplative development and “subtle physiology”. I will also collaborate with “Varieties” co-manager Nathan Fisher on a third project, an introductory overview article of our “Varieties” project pilot data (n=30) intended for publication in a high impact peer-reviewed journal.”

Poppy Schoenberg, PhD (February 28 – May 15)
Poppy Schoenberg conducts translational research examining the neurophysiological working mechanisms of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the treatment of adult Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), in collaboration with the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands. Parallel to this, in collaboration with the Department of Science, her additional research examines modulatory dynamics of mindfulness training upon various stages of cognitive and affective processing in non-clinical populations. She completed her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London in the UK, which focused on the further understanding and potential innovative intervention, of an under-researched and relatively obscure dissociative condition, Depersonalization Disorder.

Poppy's Research
“The principal purpose alludes to producing two interconnected manuscripts; a) examining electro-cortical (EEG/ERP) dynamics of perceptual (dis)organization alongside self-less/full experiences in healthy populations undergoing intensive mindfulness training; b) re-interpreting the aforementioned empirical findings from a phenomenological perspective within the wider conception of compassion. Three overarching questions will be examined: 1) does selfless experience during intensive mindfulness (e.g. the ‘void’) and the pathological ‘loss of self’ in germane psychiatric disorders, share a unified mechanism? 2) is the process of selflessness a prerequisite for compassion, and can such abstractions be illuminated at the neural level? 3) what is the (micro-individual and macro-societal) ‘worth’ of the concept of compassion and its cultivation towards humanistic progress? These explorations aim to contribute to the neurophysiological-phenomenological debate, parallel to the potential scope towards pragmatic insights that may foster the development of more fruitful interventions for psychiatric conditions centrally characterised by disrupted self-concept and dissociation.”

Terje Sparby, PhD (January 6 – May 15)
Terje earned a PhD in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, in 2012, with a thesis on the determinate negation in Hegel’s philosophy. Since then he has been a post doc at the Humboldt University in Berlin, working on a project on higher knowledge and the notion of the “supersensible” in classical German philosophy. He has published books on Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, focusing in particular on the idea of “spiritual science” and the relationship of anthroposophy to philosophy. Recently Terje has turned attention to the meditative investigation of consciousness, working on disembodied states such as sleep paralysis. His overall research interest for the future is the relationship between contemplative practice and the scientific investigation of reality, combining phenomenological, philosophical, historical and meditative approaches

Terje's Research
“During my stay at the Mind and Life Institute I will be developing a research proposal dealing with fundamental ontological, epistemological and methodical issues concerning the interconnection of philosophy and meditative research. Some initial ideas for this project were outlined at the Mind and Life Symposium in Europe, October 2013. Additionally, I will finish working on an article focused around the following question: How can the de-emphasis of self-centered consciousness lead to deeper insights into the nature of consciousness, the self and objects in the world? I also intend to write a new article that centers on the issue of how deep, meditative insight can be communicable and have an impact on the discursive mind.”

Fall 2013

John Whalen-Bridge, PhD (August 1 – December 15)
John Whalen-Bridge is an Associate Professor of English at the National University of Singapore. Author of Political Fiction and the American Self (1998), he has co-edited (with Gary Storhoff) the SUNY series, “Buddhism and American Culture.” The series includes Emergence of Buddhist American Literature (2009), American Buddhism as a Way of Life (2010), and Writing as Enlightenment (2010). A fourth volume, under review, is titled Moving Pictures: Buddhism and American Cinema. His article “Multiple Modernities and the Tibetan Diaspora” has appeared in South Asian Diaspora, and he is writing a book for Palgrave’s “Pivot” series on Tibetan self-immolation. While in Amherst, he will be completing a study of Engaged Buddhism and countercultural writing in postwar America, focusing on Gary Snyder, Charles Johnson, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

John's Research
“While at the Mind & Life Institute, I will be working on a book entitled Dharma Bums Progress: Engaged Aesthetics in the Work of Buddhist American Writers “Engaged Aesthetics” might be considered the aesthetic wing of Engaged Buddhism. The work of writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Charles Johnson, and Maxine Hong Kingston is approached in terms of youthful rebellion or ethnic resentment, but my research focuses on their later work and on the theme of maturity – gray counterculture. Rather than seeing Buddhism as something that is always new, young, and alien to mainstream American life, Dharma Bums Progress will explore the ways in which Buddhism – a mode of life that accommodates not only spiritual development but also artistic maturation and political activism – adapts over time in America. At what point does it stop being exotic or strange? Whether regarded as a philosophy or as a religion, Buddhism has punched above its weight in terms of its contribution to American culture, and I will be exploring the ways in which the cultural/religious activity is also a response to political conditions. Perhaps Buddhist notions of nonduality, as a way of thinking (if not as a way of life), became highly attractive precisely because of the painful polarities of Cold War America. These divisions were seen by the writers as wounds that needed healing, and Buddhist art has been their medicine of choice.”

Heather Buttle, PhD (September 1 – September 15)
Heather is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Psychology at Massey University, New Zealand. She obtained her PhD, in attention research, under the supervision of Jane Raymond at Bangor University. Her research interest is in cognitive processes, including attention, memory, emotion, and face recognition. Her research has been published in journals, including Mind & Behavior, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Psychophysics, Perception, Cognitive Technology, and the New Zealand Journal of Psychology. Since 2005, she has developed an interest in mindfulness and meditation practice. Over these years, Heather has been a contributor to the Buddhist journal Thar Lam (a journal of Palpung Sherabling seat), where she has conducted a series of interviews with teachers of the Tibetan Kagyu tradition. These experiences have helped inform her interest in the cognitive processes underlying mindfulness practice, and her current research is focused on investigating Mindfulness, Morality, and Meta-awareness.

Heather's Research
“As a Visiting Scholar of the Mind & Life Institute this fall, I intend to spend my fortnight fine tuning my research proposal on Mindfulness, Morality, and Meta-awareness”. This project aims to consider how mindfulness practice affects moral decision-making and meta-awareness (e.g. being aware of our feelings and emotions). A set of morality vignettes will be created as stimuli for mindfulness practitioners and non-practitioners to base decisions on. A number of variables will be measured: decision choice, reaction time, facial EMG (to detect subtle changes in emotional expression over time), and psychophysiological measures of the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems. Other factors to be considered will include whether decisions made under time pressure differ to non-time pressured responses, and whether the decision context (e.g. eudiamonic versus hedonic contexts) alters response measures. Fine-tuning of the research design will allow me to begin data collection when I return to New Zealand.”

Dana C. Jack, EdD (October 15 – November 17)
Dana is a psychologist and Professor at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Washington University. She formulated the Silencing the Self theory (1991) and the Silencing the Self Scale, now used in 21 countries to explore the relationship of self-silencing to depression, gender, and social context. She is the author of four books and numerous other publications. In 2001, as a Fulbright Scholar to Nepal, she taught in Tribhuvan University’s graduate women’s studies program, and completed research on gender and depression in government outpatient clinics in Kathmandu. In 2012, she received the Ursula Gielen Book Award from the International Division of the American Psychological Association for Silencing the Self Across Cultures: Depression and Gender in the Social World (co-editor, Alisha Ali). Dana began meditation practice in 2001 and has delighted in participating in Mind and Life events.

Dana's Research
“From a Buddhist perspective, selflessness (anatta) is realized through meditation, insight, and ethics; it provides an essential core of the Buddha’s teaching on liberation from suffering. From a Western psychological perspective, selflessness, as measured by the Silencing of the Self Scale in numerous publications over 20 years, is associated with women’s depression across many countries. When women, especially, strive to be ‘good’ and loving, they often follow a flawed understanding of selflessness that leads them to silence their voices in close relationships and experience a ‘loss of self’ and despair. At Amherst, through intensive dialogue with others and research with experienced meditators and non-meditators, I will deepend the comparison of these two versions of self(lessness) and articulate assumptions underlying Buddhist and Western psychological perspectives on self-sacrifice. Drawing from Buddhist teachings and practice, the aim is to articulate how a focus on selflessness may be transformed from promoting depression to fostering flourishing and social and relational change.”

Paivi Ahonen, MEd (September 5 – October 5)
Paivi Ahonen earned a Master of Education in pedagogy, sociology, and psychology from the University of Oulu, Finland. She has 23 years of experience in the field of education and has worked with the educational systems of various countries, including Ethiopia, Bhutan, Nepal, Serbia & Montenegro, Vietnam, Mongolia, Palestine, Zambia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Emirates. These education projects have been funded by the development coordination budgets of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MfA), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Union. Paivi has also lectured in various multicultural masters programs, and in international conferences at the Universities of Oulu, Helsinki, and Jyvaskyla, on the education systems of the aforementioned countries. In addition, she has published several articles related to development issues in these countries.

Paivi's Research
“My research aims at analyzing the strategies of the Kingdom of Bhutan in developing education policies along with the national development strategy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The GNH was developed in Bhutan in the 1970s as an attempt to define an indicator to measure quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms, as opposed to the purely economic indicator of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During the last ten to twenty years, GNH principles have been implemented in national development strategies of different sectors of society in Bhutan. The key research problem is: how is Bhutan managing in combining the national sustainable GNH-based development strategies in the education sector? Bhutan’s national education policies, strategies, and practices will be analyzed in the context of the goals and principles of the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014, and the EU’s conclusions on Education for Sustainable Development (2010). The ultimate aim of my research is to understand and support the global efforts to increase education for sustainable development. The research asks: what could the international community learn from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness policy and its implementation in the education sector?”

Chris Kaplan, MA (August 31 – December 15)
Chris Kaplan holds a B.A. in Anthropology and in 2011 received a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where he specialized in Buddhist Modernism and global social movements. He is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab, directed by Dr. Willoughby Britton at Brown University. In collaboration with Dr. Britton and Nathan Fisher, B.A., he is co-investigator and co-manager of the “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” project, part of the larger Contemplative Development Mapping Project (CDMP) that he co-founded, which is an interdisciplinary “think tank” of scholars and scientists aiming to enrich our understanding of the varieties of contemplative practices and contemplative experiences. For the last several years, he has studied and trained in numerous Buddhist schools as well as other contemplative traditions and the Chinese Internal Arts (Chen-style Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and “Water Method” qiqong), attending multiple retreats for intensive personal practice.

Chris' Research
“During my time as a Visiting Scholar, I will mainly focus on two personal projects:
1) A book manuscript, which examines how parallel developments in global forms of spirituality and activism are redirecting currently destructive trends in globalization toward more democratic, humane, and sustainable ends. It will employ an interdisciplinary, holistic framework that examines the origins, underpinnings, and implications of interrelated global phenomena – from the proliferation of meditation in modern contexts to the explosion of internationally-coordinate grassroots social movements to dramatic shifts in philosophical and scientific understandings of “interconnectedness”, spanning multiple disciplines ranging from consciousness studies to biologically-based perspectives on social organization.
2) A unique cross-traditional contemplative methodology and pedagogy, based on overlapping understandings of contemplative development and “subtle physiology”. I will also collaborate with “Varieties” co-manager Nathan Fisher on a third project, an introductory overview article of our “Varieties” project pilot data (n=30) intended for publication in a high impact peer-reviewed journal.”

Nathan Fisher (October 1 – October 30)
Nathan graduated from the honors program in Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University in 2011, writing his thesis on the emerging fields of Contemplative Studies and Contemplative Science. He is currently managing the “Varieties of Contemplative Experience” project at The Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University under Dr. Willoughby Britton. He is also currently working on a sociological study at Indiana University-Bloomington investigating the diffusion of meditative practices into the domains of education, business, and neuroscience. His research interests include contemplative practices and trajectories in Abrahamic traditions, the adaptation of contemplative practices for use in the workplaces, neurophenomenology as a scientific method, and the use of mindfulness in sports. He has been studying Torah and Chassidut for 13 years and practicing Chen style Taijiquan for 7.

Nathan's Research
“At Mind and Life I hope to complete drafts of two articles to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals by the Spring of 2014. The first will be a write-up of our pilot data from “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience” Project (Brown University) which we have presented at various conferences – including to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Mind and Life Dialogue XXIV – but has yet to be published. I will also be working on an article based on the data from a sociological study (Indiana University) I am working on investigating the diffusion of contemplative practices into the workplace and corporate cultures. The article will problematize some widespread assumptions related to how contemplative practices are thought to enhance productivity and profitability and the theoretical considerations of Chogyam Trungpa (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism) and Richard Kind (Selling Spirituality) will be brought to bear on the data.”

Summer 2013

Rajesh Kasturirangan, PhD (May 15 – August 15)
Rajesh Kasturirangan, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore and the Anchor of the Cognition Programme. Rajesh holds two PhDs, one in Cognitive Science from MIT and another in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. From 2005 to 2006 he was a research scientist for the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science at MIT. He is an editorial columnist for India Together magazine and the author of numerous published articles and technical reports. He is particularly interested in understanding how organisms are embedded in the world, i.e., how they grasp regularities, extract energy and information, respond appropriately to environmental stimuli and further their well-being, and he brings a cross-disciplinary approach to these questions that combines Indian and Western philosophy, cognitive science, mathematical modeling and the study of several non-human species.

Rajesh's Research
“My main goal during this period is to continue my work on eudaimonics, the interdisciplinary study of wellbeing. I plan to use cognition, especially embodied cognition as a crucial bridge between the many levels at which wellbeing operates. In that sense, the study of human well-being should be the prototypical human science, incorporating the latest research in affective neuroscience into a classical humanistic framework informed by contemplative inquiry, philosophy and psychology.”

Sara McClintock, PhD (June 24 – July 11)
Sara McClintock is Associate Professor of Religion at Emory University, where she teaches courses in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and interpretation theory in the study of religion. She obtained her bachelor degree in fine arts from Bryn Mawr College (1983), her masters degree in world religions from Harvard Divinity School (1989), and her doctorate in religion from Harvard University (2002). Her interests include narrative and philosophy, with particular focus on issues of rationality, rhetoric, reading, embodiment, emptiness, and ethics. She is author of Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla on Rationality, Argumentation, and Religious Authority (2010) and co-editor with Georges Dreyfus of The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make? (2003). Recent writings include “Compassionate Trickster: The Buddha as a Literary Character in the Narratives of Early Indian Buddhism” (2011) and a forthcoming article on the status of phenomenal content (ākāra) in cognition.

Sara's Research
“My short time at the Mind and Life Institute in Amherst this summer will be devoted to research and writing on the topic of the ethics of reading in a Buddhist context. Integrating theoretical tools from reader response theory and semiotics, I intend to investigate the mechanisms by which reading Buddhist narratives may provoke particular kinds of ethical transformations. My interests include both the ways in which traditional Buddhist narratives may have been read and received in the distant past, and the ways in which such narratives may impact readers today. Areas of particular interest include how Buddhist narratives may give rise to certain aesthetic experiences conducive to Buddhist practice, as well as the ways they may provoke a reexamination of a reader’s understanding of his or her relationship to self and others.”

Marieke van Vugt, PhD (June 8 – July 29)
Marieke van Vugt is an assistant professor at the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). She obtained her PhD in Neuroscience with Michael Kahana at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by postdoctoral research with Jonathan Cohen at Princeton University. Her main research interest is how memories affect our decisions, how this manifests itself in brain oscillations and how our decisional habits are modified by meditation. To study these questions, she uses a unique multidisciplinary approach in which she combines cognitive modeling with neuroimaging and electrophysiology. She pioneered the model-based approach to the study of how meditation affects cognition (memory and decision making; van Vugt & Jha, 2011). She has been a regular participant in the Mind & Life Summer Research Institutes.

Marieke's Research
“Developing a computational model of meditation that can be simulated to make detailed predictions about the cognitive (and possibly emotional) effects of meditation practice. Apart from clarifying our theories of what meditation really is, this work will allow for more informed research into the effects of meditation on cognition, because the model can be used to explain transfer to hitherto uninvestigated tasks.”

Jennifer K. Lynne, PhD candidate (July 1 – August 15)
Jennifer is the founder and director of thecontactproject, an organization utilizing contemplative practices, neuroscientific research, culturally sensitive methodologies, and the science of complex systems to assist individuals, communities, and organizations in cultivating the capacities for listening, patience, and respect. She developed The Engaged Identity theory while studying Buddhist Psychology and Peace at Naropa University. Jennifer received her masters degree in Conflict Transformation at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, with a specialization in Identity and Trauma, and is currently a PhD candidate in Peace Studies at the University of New England, Australia. Her dissertation explores the efficacy of The Engaged Identity theory and the development of listening, patience, and respect in multiple cultural and conflictual contexts as the foundation for conflict transformation and peace-building.

Jennifer's Research
“The Engaged Identity theory examines the roles of listening, patience and respect, as three precepts or “pre-coming together” capacities that enable an individual to cultivate greater equanimity in conflict situations. My research explores identity not as a collective definition of experience and time, but as an emergent maturation of the way we view and value life. The purpose of my residency is to further investigate neuro-scientific research to be included in the development of The Engaged Identity theory and practice curriculum, the creation of contemplative applications for audiences that acknowledge cultural and conflictual contexts, and to contribute to MLI’s ongoing work in Human Flourishing.”

Gilda H. Darlas, PhD candidate (June 1 – August 31)
Gilda Darlas is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Lancaster University, England. As an Artificial Intelligence Engineer, she has become interested in the area of “discernment development.” In searching for a pedagogical program that combined the moral psychology of compassion articulated through the phenomenology of personhood, she came across Buddhist theory. Based on those findings, Gilda decided to study comparative religion and philosophy at Lancaster University. After a period of study at Hong Kong University, where she focused on Buddhist moral psychology, she developed the Universal Education Program for Ethical Development (UNEED), a moral psychological program created with the specific goal of integrating the virtue of compassion in children’s character formation. UNEED has demonstrated significant changes in children’s interactions and ethical decision-making, as well as increases in academic testing. Due to its impact and innovation, UNEED has won recognition and a number of international rewards.

Darla's Research
“UNEED presents two main challenges; to sustain its Buddhist principles with a solid and well sound philosophical argument from academic viewpoint and a way to expand by making a solid contribution to the Philosophy of Education. Both challenges call for an interdisciplinary academic research between contemplative science and social science since UNEED plants itself squarely in the middle of both. I am currently doing the research in contemplative science at Lancaster University, seeking to provide the details of a moral psychology for the gradual cultivation of compassion, by examining in detail and re-interpreting the guidance offered in a core Therāvāda text, Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga. I intend to examine and write two chapters of my research by reading the Vissudhimagga with Professor Maria Heim here at the Institute. At the same time my intention is to share the program with people at the institute while getting some feedback from them.”

Silke Rupprecht, PhD candidate (June 5 – August 31)
Silke Rupprecht is a PhD candidate in Psychology at the Center for Applied Sciences of Health at Leuphana University Lueneburg (LUL), Germany. She has been an Assistant Researcher and Project Manager of a pilot contemplative education project at LUL titled “Developing Health in Schools”. Silke is also a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) trainer and has held a Visiting Assistant Researcher position in the Department of Psychology at Boston University. Her doctoral research focuses on an evaluation of the impact of an MBSR intervention on the well-being and flourishing of teachers as well as on the quality of their teaching – in the longitudinal, quasi-experimental study, 31 teachers were recruited at a teacher training institution in Hamburg, Germany, assigned to either a treatment or waiting group, and were asked to fill out questionnaires before and after training, and at a three-month follow-up. Teachers’ students were asked to give feedback relating to classroom management, teaching and instructional quality, and relationship with the teacher. The questionnaire for teachers covered areas such as demographic information, professional motivation, health status, self-regulation strategies, prevalent emotions and emotional competence, mindfulness, and overall teaching quality.

Silke's Research
“The Visiting Scholars program offers a unique opportunity to retreat from my work at the university for some time and devote my time fully to the completion of the thesis. The goal of my Ph.D. project is to evaluate the impact of a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction- intervention (MBSR) on the well-being and flourishing of teachers as well as on their interaction with the students and instructional quality. In the multi-level longitudinal trial I am including the views of the students. Besides working on the data analysis, I am looking forward to exchanging ideas with fellow visiting researchers. I hope to be taking an active part in the university life and will be happy to share my work and its findings with students and researchers.”

Juan Santoyo (May 29 – August 28)
Juan is 3rd year Brown University undergraduate concentrating in Neuroscience and Contemplative Cognition. He is an assistant in Dr. Britton’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab, currently involved in a study comparing various elements of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on clinical efficacy for depression, and several domains of PFC function. He has been personally involved in work investigating the role of mindfulness practices in the medical sphere, a study on gender differences in response to meditation, and the earlier stages of a study investigating qualitative elements of different stages of contemplative experience, “The Varieties of Contemplative Experiences Project.” Juan has co-led an independent study on the role and development of compassion in Brown University students taking classes with meditation labs. The study found that the self-reported development of compassion and self-compassion in these courses is fully mediating students’ improvements in scores for well-being and depression. Juan is also the lead assistant on a project with Dr. Catherine Kerr and Dr. Harold Roth investigating the differential effects of breath awareness and stomach awareness in meditation.

Juan's Research
“The lack of sufficiently rigorous methods through which to explore ‘first-person’ data in correlation with standard ‘third-person’ measurements has impacted the ability to translate research and data from the cognitive neurosciences into clinical models that explicitly recognize the embodiment of mental experience. By expanding on theoretical and methodological questions posed in a project investigating the phenomenological correlates of specific activation in the posterior cingulate cortex, this project proposes a methodological review of integrated ‘first-person’- ‘third-person’ methods. Specifically, this review will address how adopting the systematic approach found in Grounded Theory Methodology, a validated method of qualitative inquiry, may address epistemological and methodological issues in current neurophenomenology, resulting in a clinically relevant method.”

Spring 2013

Andrew Olendzki, PhD (January 24 – May 8)
Andrew Olendzki is the Senior Scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, an institution dedicated to the integration of academic understanding and meditative insight. Trained in Buddhist Studies at Lancaster University (UK), the University of Sri Lanka (Perediniya), and Harvard University, he works with Pali and Sanskrit materials. He has taught at various New England colleges (including Harvard, Brandeis, Smith, Amherst, and Lesley), was the executive director of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and has been a longstanding member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. He is the author of Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism, has contributed many chapters to collaborative volumes and periodical, and writes a regular column, Thus Have I heard, in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.

Andrew's Research
“As a Visiting Scholar at the Mind & Life Institute this spring semester, my goal is to make some modest contribution to the dialogue between Buddhist scholarship and the work of contemplative neuroscientists. I am extracting and translating from early Buddhist Pali texts those passages that give first-person descriptions of mental events, especially those which are transformative, with the intention of inviting neuroscientists to map out the third-person neural correlates that might be involved with each set of events. A very simple example is the well-known Buddhist parsing of consciousness into sex different modes: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. Which regions of the brain are involved with each of these processes, how do they differ from one another, and yet how are they also to be considered modalities of the same phenomenon? The five aggregate model promises to be an even more rich scaffolding for the contemporary understanding of mind. How exactly are we to distinguish between material components of the brain, feeling tones, perceptions, consciousness itself, and emotional responses, all of which are co-mingled in experience? Another example might be the model of moments of consciousness arising and passing away one after another in linear progression. Although we known the brain is capable of massive parallel processing, first-hand experience reveals that full conscious awareness can take up only one object at a time. Given how the brain operates, what does this tell us about the Buddhist definition of mindfulness in light of contemporary models of consciousness? The confluence of ideas becomes more interesting as we drill down into more obscure corners of the texts, particularly those dealing with the conditions under which suffering arises and ceases. I look forward to bringing some of the most intriguing of these passages to the table for examination and discussion by colleagues in other fields.”