2020 President’s Letter
I’m looking out the picture window, taking in the remarkable aliveness of trees and wildlife that is present here, even in winter. I feel a connection to the land, to the people who’ve come before, and to those who will come after. I am reflecting on our connections to one another and on the connections that have been lost. I’m also thinking of the challenges we face in the world, and the responsibilities we hold to be good stewards of the Earth and each other. It is within these reflections that I hold Mind & Life’s future. And I’m convinced more than ever of the unique value and relevance of our work.
2019 was a momentous year for the Mind & Life Institute as we took stock of our role and our unique contributions to foster both individual and collective flourishing. Looking at the horizon of the 2020s, it’s clear that significant changes in the world will affect each of us in ways we can barely imagine. It is our view that efforts to address mounting global challenges must take into account our inner lives.
We know, for example, that when individuals are healthy and whole, they are more present, kind, and cooperative, and the foundation is created for a more peaceful and compassionate society. These qualities speak to an essential element of life, our sense of interconnection––a theme that will have growing importance for Mind & Life.
Building on a 30-year legacy
Mind & Life has come a long way since His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama joined with Francisco Varela and Adam Engle to start our organization and spark a new field of contemplative science. For three decades, Mind & Life has played a pivotal role in the mindfulness meditation movement while supporting foundational research and education on compassion and ethics.
We now build on this rich history as we enter a new phase in Mind & Life’s work to address contemporary concerns. What we see at the heart of today’s challenges—from growing anxiety and loneliness to deep social divides—is a profound crisis of disconnection. This crisis is causing tremendous suffering for people and for the planet. Understanding the role of the human mind in creating these problems and its potential to help solve them, through insights from science and contemplative wisdom, is key to Mind & Life’s work in addressing today’s challenges. We seek nothing less than individual and societal transformation toward a world that embraces our shared humanity.
In pursuit of our expanded mission, all of our work is rooted in fundamental values: compassion, integrity, curiosity, inclusion, and excellence. We are guided by both humility and courage in exploring the unknown and being open to what emerges. Across our efforts, we are deepening our commitment to seek out diverse perspectives and backgrounds that enrich our knowledge and expand our community.
A New Vision for Change
An essential element of Mind & Life’s evolved work is through our transformative and innovative learning exchanges. These unique cross-disciplinary, cross-generational convenings incorporate contemplative practices and arts, and diverse perspectives, to inspire our community to transcend boundaries while maintaining a strong scientific grounding. In the months ahead, we will modify our convenings, grantmaking, and communications to spark new insights and inspire action to address pressing contemporary issues related to disconnection.
These elements of our work will evolve to align with our expanded mission:
- Our convenings and grantmaking will be updated to include an emphasis on bridging contemplation, research, and action to cultivate inner knowing that strengthens awareness of interconnection. Dedicated grants will focus on research-practice partnerships and ways to enrich our shared knowledge and its application to real-world challenges.
- We will intentionally expand our community, becoming more inclusive of diverse perspectives, areas of expertise, contemplative traditions, and lived experience.
- Through implementing targeted communications strategies—and elevating the voices and networks of leaders within our community—we will disseminate vital knowledge that can inform the efforts of practitioners, educators, grassroots activists, policymakers, and others to address urgent challenges. As an example, we look forward to launching the new Mind & Life Podcast this spring.
- Recognizing that we cannot achieve our vision alone, we will look to form new partnerships. We realize that we have much to offer, and much to gain, when working in partnership with people and organizations that share our values and align with our mission and goals.
- Mental well-being and education of youth are critical issues in our work. One example of a current project in this area is our latest Digital Dialogue—“Education of the Heart” to be launched this spring. This multi-media site highlights important work shared at our 2018 Dialogue in Dharamsala with a focus on expanding Social Emotional Learning to include compassion, ethics, and attention training—insights for parents, students, and teachers.
Evidence of our emerging strategy can also be seen in our recent Mind & Life Conversations between the Dalai Lama and prominent thought leaders on the theme of “Compassion, Interconnection, and Transformation.” The event was broadcast via livestream to hundreds of thousands of viewers in 65+ countries and continues to engage and inspire visitors through our website. Similarly, recent Mind & Life PEACE grant recipients are exploring the effects of mindfulness in post-conflict settings and the impact of loving-kindness meditation on political tolerance.
As we begin a new chapter, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to our Board of Directors, Steering Council, Founding Stewards, donors, staff, and other members of the Mind & Life community for their support and input on our strategic direction and vision for the future.
As we embark on this expansion, we look forward to being in dialogue with you in weeks ahead. We recognize that Mind & Life is part of a growing global movement for social change. In this spirit, we welcome new partners—as together—we strive to create a world that truly embraces our shared humanity.
Mind & Life Institute