The 2016 Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) will be devoted to the theme of context, and its relevance for basic mental processes as well as effects of contemplative practices. Findings from the cognitive and social sciences, humanities, and philosophy increasingly suggest that context shapes mind in fundamental ways. With regard to contemplative studies, practices that were once embedded within traditional religious cultures are now being widely disseminated across a variety of globalized, largely secular settings. Contextual factors impact the very course and outcome of these practices, and if not carefully considered, even well-intended efforts can lead to unsatisfactory or incomplete results. However, incorporating contextual factors into scientific research remains methodologically and logistically challenging. Effectively measuring the impact of variables such as social, cultural, environmental, emotional, and physiological contexts continues to raise practical and philosophical questions with no easy answers. While these issues are now largely acknowledged across disciplines within contemplative studies, more work needs to be done to advance true contextualized inquiry. This year’s MLSRI presents a unique opportunity to collectively enhance the quality of these investigations by keenly highlighting the practical—and also ethical—impact of integrating contextual factors and related theoretical insights into scientific research, clinical interventions, and educational programs.

Program Sessions

2016 Summer Research Institute Session

Contemplative Life: An Anthropological Perspective

Martijn van Beek

Topics: Contemplative Wisdom | Interconnection

2016 Summer Research Institute Session

Interdisciplinary Panel & Small Groups

Panel: Andreas Roepstorff, Catherine Kerr, Laurence J. Kirmayer, David McMahan, Martijn van Beek, Carol Worthman

Topics: Interconnection | Self & Other

2016 Summer Research Institute Session

You Are Always on My Mind

Andreas Roepstorff

Topics: Brain & Cognitive Science | Interconnection | Self & Other

2016 Summer Research Institute Session

Panel Discussion: Movement-Based Contemplative Practices

Panel: Catherine Kerr, Catherine Shaddix, Peter Wayne

Topics: Body-based Practices | Contemplative Wisdom

2016 Summer Research Institute Session

Compassion in Context

Brooke D. Lavelle

Topics: Compassion & Empathy | Contemplative Wisdom

Plenary Faculty

Plenary faculty deliver lectures and are available to answer attendee questions throughout the week, often leading breakout sessions and participating in panel discussions. Their lectures expand on the week’s theme, deepening and broadening our shared knowledge from a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and disciplines.

Catherine Kerr, PhD

Brown University

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee

Catherine Kerr, PhD was director of translational neuroscience at the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University. Her neuroscience research focused on neural dynamics underlying embodied attention and the sense of … MORE

Laurence J. Kirmayer, MD, FRCPC, FCAHS, FRSC

McGill University

Laurence J. Kirmayer, MD, FRCPC, FCAHS, FRSC is James McGill Professor and Director, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University. He is Editor-in-Chief of Transcultural Psychiatry, … MORE

Brooke D. Lavelle, PhD

Courage of Care Coalition

Convening Faculty, Grantee, Reviewer

Brooke D. Lavelle, PhD, is the Co-Founder and President of the Courage of Care Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating the co-creation of a more just, compassionate world. Together with her … MORE

Rhonda Magee, JD

University of San Francisco

Mentor, Steering Council Member

An internationally-sought-after mindfulness teacher and keynote speaker, and a thought and practice innovator of mindfulness-based social justice principles, concepts and practices, Rhonda V. Magee, M.A., J.D., is Professor of Law … MORE

David McMahan, PhD

Franklin & Marshall College

David McMahan, PhD is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in religious studies from the University of … MORE

Andreas Roepstorff, PhD

Aarhus University

Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer

Andreas Roepstorff, Ph.D. is Professor, Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience and Department of Social Anthropology, Aarhus University / Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark. As an anthropologist in neuroscience, Andreas tries to … MORE

Martijn van Beek, PhD

Aarhus University, Denmark


Martijn van Beek, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and based at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University in Denmark. He lived and worked among … MORE

Helen Weng, PhD

University of California, San Francisco

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer

Helen Y. Weng, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, and her research focuses on the neural mechanisms of how meditation practices may improve social behavior and mental health. Her … MORE

Carol Worthman, PhD

Emory University


Carol Worthman is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology at Emory University (Atlanta), where she also directs the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology. After taking a dual undergraduate degree … MORE

Contemplative Faculty

Contemplative faculty guide participants through practices that integrate their first-person knowledge with themes being explored, interspersing contemplative practice sessions with free time for personal reflection. In addition to daily practice, the contemplative faculty lead the retreat time.

Alfred Kaszniak, PhD

The University of Arizona


Alfred Kaszniak, PhD received his doctorate in clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Illinois in 1976, and completed an internship and postdoctoral training in clinical neuropsychology at Rush … MORE

Sharon Salzberg

Insight Meditation Society

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation pioneer and industry leader, a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. As one of the first to bring meditation and mindfulness into mainstream American culture over … MORE

Catherine Shaddix, PhD

Catherine Shaddix, PhD began her training in Buddhist meditation and hatha yoga in 1991. She is greatly fortunate to have studied under Tsoknyi Rinpoche for the past 12 years, as … MORE

Peter Wayne, PhD

Harvard Medical School

Convening Faculty, Fellow

Peter Wayne, PhD, is a researcher and practitioner in the field of mind-body and integrative medicine.  Dr. Wayne is the Bernard Osher Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School … MORE

Special Guests

James Austin, MD

University of Colorado Medical School (emeritus)

Sona Dimidjian, PhD

Renée Crown Wellness Institute

Board Member

Harold Roth, PhD

Brown University

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee, Planning Committee Member

Clifford Saron, PhD

University of California, Davis

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Planning Committee Member

Jonathan Schooler, PhD

University of California–Santa Barbara

Program Planning Committee

The Program Planning Committee (PPC) is a committee of invited specialists from diverse disciplines and perspectives who bring their expertise to curate and produce the content for the Summer Research Institute. In addition to developing the overall theme and narrative arc of the program, the PPC actively participate in SRI and serve as leader for small group discussions.

Susan Bauer-Wu

Mind & Life Institute

Wendy Hasenkamp, PhD

Science Director, Mind & Life Institute

Planning Committee Member, Reviewer

Chris Kaplan, M.A.

Canticle Farm

Carol Worthman, PhD

Emory University


About the Summer Research Institute

The purpose of the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute is to advance collaborative research among scientists, contemplative scholars, other humanities scholars, and contemplative practitioners, based on a process of inquiry and dialogue. With this unique program, we are not only nurturing a new generation of scientists interested in exploring the influence of contemplative practice and meditation on mind, behavior, brain function and health, but are also fostering the development of nascent research fields collectively referred to as “contemplative studies” (including contemplative neuroscience, contemplative clinical science, contemplative education, and contemplative scholarship).