This ethnographic research will investigate contextual factors associated with contemplative practices in the nation of Bhutan. The motivation driving this research is twofold: firstly, the impact of contextual factors in the experience of contemplative practice has not been adequately studied; and secondly, Bhutan is experiencing an increase in the rate of suicide. Although the Bhutanese Ministry of Health instituted a Suicide Prevention Plan in 2015, suicides around the country continue to increase, which I believe is due to adopting international behavioral health treatment models without reference to Bhutanese cultural context, values, or contemplative practices. The proposed research project in Bhutan offers an opportunity to investigate the impact of contextual factors associated with contemplative practices in a living Buddhist society, as well as to analyze how local contextual factors might be reframed to clinically support resilience and the effectiveness of contemplative practices in Bhutan’s rapidly changing society. To determine which contemplative practices Bhutanese people have traditionally engaged in, and to gain clarity about the contexts in which they operate successfully in Bhutan, I will spend four months in rural and urban sites (one month at four different sites), conducting participant observation and 80 interviews (20 at each location) with Bhutanese Buddhists.

Michelle Walsh

University of Virginia


I am a doctoral student in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, specializing in Vajrayana Buddhist practice and contemplative studies. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor integrating clinical psychology … MORE