Awakening Compassion in Times of Division: Breaking and Coming Together

June 2 – 8, 2024

We’ve never been more connected and yet so divided. Just as technology brings us closer together, we are increasingly polarized, finding affirmation in online echo chambers rather than seeking common ground. Loneliness and isolation are fueling a global mental health crisis just as climate emergencies hasten hunger and the mass displacement of people. And if this weren’t enough, violence, extremism, and armed conflict are on the rise, resulting in untold suffering and loss of life. The 2024 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (SRI) will shine a light on compassion through convening researchers and humanists, nonprofit professionals, monastics and contemplative practitioners, activists, and concerned citizens interested in this topic. 

 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.

The Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (SRI), is a weeklong immersive program. 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 inquiry that encourages inclusivity and targeted action among diverse participants who have a stake or deep interest in individual, societal, and planetary flourishing.

The program incorporates plenary lectures, panel discussions, breakout groups, spaces for relationship building, poster presentations, networking opportunities, and daily contemplative time (meditation, yoga, QiGong, walking in nature, contemplative arts, and silent periods including two half-day retreat periods). Also featured are intentional spaces where participants come together in a safe space to discuss and find support around topics related to specific research interests and/or identities. 

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 Emerging Researchers become eligible to apply for the Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grants. Emerging changemaker participants will be eligible for our new Contemplative Changemaking Grants. Other participants may be eligible for other Mind & Life grants.

The goals of the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute are:

  1. To spark new research ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations that explore the mind from an integrative perspective (including first-, second-, and third-person approaches); examine the effects of contemplative practices on mind, behavior, brain, and health; and translate this wisdom into action on behalf of the greater good.
  2. To create a space for dialogue that a) embodies a contemplative orientation, b) fosters deep relationship building among a diverse array of participants, and c) creates a safe and welcoming environment for meaningful connections and group cohesiveness.
  3. To foster a new generation of nascent scientists and scholars (undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs), contemplative practitioners, and changemakers interested in innovative and interdisciplinary collaborative research and action to address contemporary challenges.
  4. To catalyze the fields of contemplative research and contemplative action (e.g., through exploring how contextual factors shape the mind, how contemplative practices engender effects on brain, mind, and behavior; and how these effects can support both individual and societal flourishing).
  5. To train participants in emerging methods and best practices, examine future opportunities and challenges within contemplative science, and explore their application to improving social institutions and policies.

Mind & Life is committed to exploring and facilitating in depth and honest discussion around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion during the SRI. We know that these are hard topics and encourage the community to use skills honed during our contemplative practices to engage in this critical work together. 

A synergistic gathering for conversations on bridging divides. Join us for a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and immersive event that brings together researchers, contemplatives, changemakers, and anyone passionate about the transformative power of compassion.

Previous Summer Research Institutes