With Justice and Contemplation for All

With a focus on the latest in contemplative research from some of the field’s most noted scholars—a goal that’s informed the gathering since its 2012 inception—this year’s International Symposium for Contemplative Research (ISCR) is also moving beyond its roots and broadening its voice. 

That means lively discussions of contemplative practice in the digital age. Dialogue on mindfulness training in high-pressure environments—the military, healthcare, in emergency response—where practitioners strain against the clock. Research on mindfulness’s impact on children in a classroom, its ability to assuage pain, and be a possible salve for those struggling with addiction. And deep thinking about how, and why, social justice, historical inequities and determined inclusion must inform its progress forward.

Read More

The Geopolitics of the Other

Written in collaboration with the Garrison Institute

How do we emotionally and socially construct our notions of difference and “the other?” Are there core truths about otherness that transcend geographic or racial boundaries? In June, more than 130 scientists, scholars, students, and activists from 19 countries gathered at Mind & Life’s 15th Summer Research Institute (SRI), each held at the Garrison Institute. This year’s theme, “Engaging Cultural Difference and Human Diversity,” provided the opportunity for a deep dive into these and other questions at the heart of today’s growing divides. Read More

1,000 Years of Sacred Wisdom Preserved in One Very Special Book

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, with a draft copy of “Murals of Tibet,” Boston, 2014. Photo: Mina Magda © TASCHEN

In 1972, American photographer and writer Thomas Laird traveled overland from Europe into India on a mission to document works of art designed to transform human consciousness. Now, nearly 50 years later, his mission has been achieved in a single, monumental book: “Murals of Tibet.”

The SUMO-sized publication by TASCHEN presents—for the first time—130 of the rarest and most precious murals of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. “Murals of Tibet” is as much a definitive guide to the art of the Himalayas as it as a masterpiece in itself. In honor of this landmark in the preservation of Tibetan culture, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama personally signed and blessed all 998 copies of the Collector’s Edition. Read More

Engaging in a Socially Unjust World with Love, Compassion, and Resolve

“It requires something more than personal experience to gain a philosophy or point of view from any specific event. It is the quality of our response to the event and our capacity to enter into the lives of others that help us to make their lives and experiences our own.”
—Emma Goldman

The relationship between contemplative practice, scholarship, cultural difference, and human diversity became clear to me the first time I stepped barefoot into a meditation center to find I was the only person of color aside from the monks in their saffron robes. As a first generation Mexican-American woman growing up in Texas, the power imbalances I encountered within North American contemplative communities prompted me to step away from practicing and facilitating in community. The ‘othering’ people of color in the U.S. often experience on a daily basis now drives my research at Brown University into the intersection of contemplative science with race/ethnicity, class, and society. Read More

2018 SRI Reflections: “I judge less. I understand more.”

Nourished. Connected. Validated. Protected. Challenged. Humbled. Grateful. These were just a few of the words used by participants at Mind & Life’s 2018 Summer Research Institute (SRI) to describe their experience.

In keeping with the event’s theme, “Engaging Cultural Difference and Human Diversity,” Mind & Life’s 15th annual SRI was the most diverse ever, bringing together over 130 scientists, scholars, students, and activists from 19 countries across 6 continents. More than three quarters of attendees were women; half represented racial minorities. With generous support from the Hershey Foundation and other donors, 45 attendees received scholarships. Read More

Six Positive Steps Toward Educational Renewal

In today’s increasingly divided world, education offers one of the most potent tools we have for preparing an emerging generation of young people to become bridge-builders and global citizens committed to the common good. With more than a quarter of the world’s population under the age of 15, the stakes couldn’t be higher—or the opportunities greater. Read More

Why It’s Time: “Engaging Cultural Difference and Human Diversity”

Uncomfortable, even risky questions lie at the heart of the Mind & Life Institute’s 15th annual Summer Research Institute (SRI), which begins June 2. Given the human capacity for empathy and intrinsic interdependence with others, what is it that drives us apart?

“If we’re all so good at connectivity and inclusivity, then why are we so awful to each other?” asks Carol Worthman, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at Emory University, and co-chair, with Middlebury College professor William Waldron, Ph.D. of the event’s planning committee. “What creates division? Alienation? And if recognizing both connection and difference is intrinsic to being human, how can we grow more wise, and really seek to ameliorate human suffering?” Read More

Pain Relief without Opioids?

Two Varela Grantees find converging results about mindfulness and pain

The latest statistics about America’s opioid epidemic are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate an average of 125 deaths from opioid overdoses per day in the United States—that means each month, we’re seeing a tragedy more deadly than September 11th. Between July 2016 and September 2017, hospitalizations from opioid overdoses jumped 30 percent nationwide (70 percent in the Midwest). Data strongly suggest that the rapid rise in opioid addiction, overdose, and death in the last 20 years is largely driven by the increase in prescription of synthetic opioids for pain. As the crisis worsens, pain management options are desperately needed that don’t involve opioids. Read More

Meditation and Science: Ten Essays Worth Reading

Meditation, Buddhism, and Science
Edited by David L. McMahan and Erik Braun
Oxford University Press, 2017
272 pages; $24.95

Scientific research on meditation, and as a consequence the popular discourse on contemplative research, has to-date largely focused on the individual. As a consequence, we find few studies that seriously consider the contexts of environments, social relations, and cultures in which meditation is practiced as well as the worldviews, ethics, and metaphysics that shape an interior contemplative life.

Largely in response to this inadequacy, the new book, “Meditation, Buddhism, and Science,” calls for a critical look at the science of Buddhist-informed meditation by situating contemplative research in context. The collection of essays is an outcome of a Contemplative Studies Fellowship from the Mind & Life Institute that brought together scholars in the humanities to think critically about how the convergence of Buddhism and science can advance with a deeper understanding of context. As the editors’ remark in their introduction, the essays share a “concern that the scientific study of Buddhist and Buddhist-derived meditative practices has been too narrowly construed and often neglects essential social, cultural, and historical contexts.” Read More

Sharon Salzberg: Love is a Verb

Paying attention, asserts famed meditation teacher, best-selling author, and Mind & Life Fellow Sharon Salzberg, isn’t a skill one is simply born with. Like flexibility and physical stamina, it’s developed over time: a muscle to strengthen; a practice to nurture; a series of neural pathways to establish and expand.

But it takes very real work to move away from our very human tendencies to disconnect, assume, and judge. Salzberg shared these and other reflections on presence and connection before a capacity crowd of more than 200 listeners sitting elbow-to-elbow at a Virginia Festival of the Book event. Mind & Life President Susan Bauer-Wu interviewed the visiting author for more than an hour about meditation, love, cultural discord, and the benefits of mindfulness in the context of Salzberg’s latest book, “Real Love: The Art of Mindful ConnectionRead More