Summer Research Institute, Part 4

The heat and humidity didn’t slow down the proceedings today, and we had some fascinating presentations. The morning started with Ann Klein giving us a comprehensive tour of the concept of prana, energy flows that permeate the body and support the mind. She explained the varieties and implications of these energy flows from the Buddhist perspective and ended her talk with some suggestions of how these ideas might be applied to new types of experimental inquiry for neuroscientists. Victor Hori, who had been scheduled to speak on Zen, was unable to get to Garrison, so Rebecca Todd of the University of Toronto stepped in  to pinch hit. She delivered an amazingly coherent, lively, and stimulating talk on affect-based attention: how we tend to pay more attention to or react more strongly to stimuli that have an emotional meaning for us, and how these affect biases play an important role in emotional regulation.

A conversation at the morning presentations

After a fine vegetarian lunch, we reconvened in the Meditation Hall to hear Ezequiel de Paolo talk about the enactive mind–a radical (but from a mindfulness perspective logical) view that contrasts sharply with the idea of mind as disembodied information processor. And Catherine Kerr discussed her research in Tai Chi as a tool for sculpting mind-body webs. Her talk featured some audience participation that was especially effective.

Rebecca Todd giving her impromptu talk

Tonight was the second wave of poster presentations, preceded by a half-hour data blitz, in which each of the poster presenters gave a two-minute preview of their work, to help attendees choose which posters to see first. As on Monday night, the poster session was extremely popular and lively. Unlike many poster sessions, this one is in a large enough space to allow plenty of room between poster aisles, which in turn allowed for more people to see and hear–and participate–at each panel. The mostly young poster presenters are doing some fascinating and advanced work that bodes well for the future of contemplative studies.

One of the poster presenters (right) at the morning presentations

Tonight should be challenging for sleep, as the heat and humidity are lingering, and tomorrow promises more of the same. Happily, the Meditation Hall is air conditioned.

Here are some more photos of the past few days. Again, click on an image to see it full size.

Breakfast conversation

The poster presentation room

Left to right: Catherine Kerr, Ezequiel di Paolo, and Evan Thompson

Anne Klein giving her talk on prana.

Answering questions during a panel discussion

One of the panel discussions during question and answer period

The audience during one of the presentations

The view from the speakers’ gallery

A lunch time conversation

More meal talk

Still more meal-time conversation

One of the poster presenters

Reading before the morning presentations


—Mark Cherrington, Mind and Life communications and event coordination