The Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (SRI), founded in 2004, is a weeklong immersive program typically held at the Garrison Institute in New York. Unlike traditional academic conferences, the program provides opportunities for deep dialogue across disciplines as well as inquiry through first-person reflection and contemplative practice. It moves away from hierarchies of knowledge to foster an integrative, richer, and fuller understanding of the mind and society, focusing on current issues and positive actions that lead to real-world outcomes.
Participants refer to SRI as a “unique place,” where it’s possible to “participate without feeling judged, and where every opinion is held and considered.” Many speak to the event as a “life changing experience,” where they feel supported by like-minded peers in a nurturing environment and where lifelong connections, collaborations, and friendships are formed.
Through a process of inquiry and dialogue, the SRI is designed to foster collaborative research that encourages inclusivity and targeted action among diverse participants who have a stake in societal flourishing: scientists, humanities scholars, contemplative practitioners, social activists, and applied professionals.
The long-term objective is to advance the training of interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners interested in exploring the influence of contemplative practice on mind and behavior, brain function, and health, including the potential role of contemplative methods in shaping and enriching human experience and society.
The program incorporates plenary lectures, panel discussions, breakout groups, poster presentations, networking opportunities, and daily contemplative time (meditation, yoga, tai chi, walking in nature, contemplative arts, and silent periods including two half-day “retreat” periods). Also featured are daily affinity and interest groups where participants come together in a safe space to discuss and find support around topics related to specific research interests and/or identity.With engaging faculty, and a rich and varied format, SRI sparks not only new ideas and collaborations, it fosters intellectual humility, a professional commitment to research aimed at a higher good, and a personal commitment to reflection and inquiry. Participants who attend the SRI as New Investigators become eligible to apply for the Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grants.
Mind & Life’s Summer Research Institute is made possible in part by the Hershey Family Foundation, which has provided generous program support since SRI’s inception in 2004.
Mind & Life is committed to exploring and facilitating in depth and honest discussion around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion during the SRI. It is expected that there may be instances when issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion may arise. We know that these are hard topics and encourage the community to use skills honed during our contemplative practices, meditation, mindfulness trainings to engage in this hard and likely messy work together.