Meditation for Mental Health: How Does Mindfulness Compare to Other Treatments?

Claims abound about the benefits of mindfulness in promoting human health and well-being, making it hard for people to distinguish between hype and hard science. Over the last two decades, hundreds of trials have explored the impact of meditation and mindfulness on mental health in individual studies, but researchers rarely undertake the challenge of investigating what these findings reveal across the field as a whole.

One exception is Simon Goldberg. An assistant professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology at the University of Wisconsin and affiliate faculty member at the Center for Healthy Minds, Goldberg started meditating in college and later pursued a doctorate to better understand the psychotherapeutic benefits of mindfulness. His most recent research sought to identify the larger lessons hidden within mountains of data.

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Mind & Life Kyoto Conference Bridges East and West; Science and Contemplative Wisdom

What role do context and history play in influencing meditation practice and outcomes? How can the contemplative practices of one culture be effectively studied and practiced by another? More than 75 scientists, scholars, contemplatives, and artists from 11 countries recently convened in Kyoto, Japan to explore these and related questions at Mind & Life’s inaugural
International Research Institute (IRI).

Held within the serene setting of Myōshin-ji, a 14th century Zen temple complex, the five-day event was modeled on Mind & Life’s signature Summer Research Institute (SRI), now in its 15th year. The conference theme, “Contemplative Practice in Context: Culture, History, and Science,” framed presentations and discussion on topics ranging from the centrality of narrative to human experience to the historic influence of Zen on the arts in Japan. Read More

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.

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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