To date, the traditions and techniques that have been most substantively researched in the field of contemplative science have largely derived from Buddhism and Buddhist-inspired movements. While there have been tremendous advances and developments due to this collaboration—indeed there would be no field without it—a natural consequence of this specific alliance is that insights from other traditions have not yet been fully investigated and integrated into the field. This Mind & Life Think Tank was therefore dedicated to exploring such potential contributions of the contemplative streams found within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (collectively called the “Abrahamic” traditions) toward the dual aims of alleviating suffering and promoting human flourishing in accord with the Mind & Life Institute’s primary mission.
The Think Tank took the form of a workshop occurring over two days in late April 2015 at Mind & Life’s former event house in Amherst, Massachusetts. It featured two representatives from each of these Abrahamic contemplative streams: one a scholar-practitioner, the other a scholarly minded teacher of meditative practices indigenous to the tradition. Participants (see list below) hailed from as far as Jerusalem and Scotland and as close as Providence, Rhode Island and Hadley, Massachusetts. In addition, our group included a neuroscientist, a scholar of religion, and several Mind & Life staff members. Due to this structure, we were able to explore our questions and thematic concerns with scholarly rigor and sophistication while also including the full richness of first-, second-, and third-person perspectives. The first day was devoted to exploring the practices and traditions themselves, while the second day was devoted to identifying potentially fruitful basic and applied research opportunities.