“What’s happening at Mind & Life is very heart-enriching: it is holding to its roots in the neuroscience conversation and more fully engaging current issues,” says Mind & Life Steering Council member Barbara (Bobbi) Patterson. “Contemplative practices, and this knowledge of neuroscience and of ancient traditions, can bring such richness to the questions of our life today on equity, justice, race, and inclusion.”
Her six-year term just ending, former Steering Council member and co-chair Elissa Epel echoes Bobbi’s sentiments: “Mind & Life has really transformed to meet the world where it’s at by focusing on social equity and aspiring to embody the values of the bodhisattva.”
In recognition of their guidance of Mind & Life and embodiment of our values of compassion, integrity, curiosity, inclusion, and excellence, Bobbi and Elissa are the recipients of the annual Mind & Life Service Award. In addition to their Steering Council roles, their service includes participation in the yearlong leadership development training Mindful of Race with Ruth King, eco-resiliency seminars with the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, and many hours spent co-chairing, planning, and presenting at our events.
Mind & Life President Susan Bauer-Wu presented the award on June 10 at the 2022 Summer Research Institute. She reflected, “Bobbi and Elissa are both bright lights who have generously served Mind & Life with their brilliance, heart, and time over the years. They have profoundly impacted our organization and those who have attended our programs.”
“Bobbi and Elissa are both bright lights who have generously served Mind & Life
with their brilliance, heart, and time over the years. They have profoundly impacted
our organization and those who have attended our programs.”
– Susan Bauer-Wu
In 2021, Bobbi and Elissa were co-chairs for the online 2021 Summer Research Institute (SRI) and Speaker Series on “The Mind, Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis,” where “they truly went above and beyond,” said Susan. Over 900 participants in more than 30 countries attended the virtual event, which is now available as an online course.
As a stress scientist who studies the role of the mind in facing the climate crisis, Elissa brought her passion and prowess to the content and design of the 2021 SRI. “She was instrumental in bringing together presenters and creating a transformative, heartfelt, and unique experience around the human-earth connection,” recalls Krista Weih, Mind & Life Director of Grants and Events.
Seeking to create space for personal connection in a large online community at the 2021 SRI, Bobbi, an interdisciplinary humanities scholar and Episcopal minister, proposed daily small group meetings for participants to share their stories around climate change. SRI program manager nischal neupane reflects: “Bobbi was the inspiration for one of our most loved online community-building components at SRI 2021 called Storysharing Pods. It was so well received that we decided to have Pods again at SRI 2022.”
Bobbi and Elissa brought the deep internal work on social equity from the Steering Council to the 2021 SRI. From the topics, to the presenters, to the spaces for participants to connect, the program reflected Mind & Life’s growth as an organization. “When we began planning SRI, Elissa and I had a stronger consciousness of diversity,” said Bobbi. “Ruth King had given us a whole toolset; we were able to build with those tools. It’s changing how Mind & Life works, what we offer, and how we support a broader diversity of people.”
Mind & Life is on a journey of the heart, in Bobbi’s words, and Elissa calls Mind & Life her “heart-based home.” What’s next on this path? Both women call on Mind & Life to continue in its evolution by cultivating inclusion and addressing contemporary challenges. “Mind & Life is fostering genuine and honest dialogues, and it’s allowing for deep and transformative collective work together,” says Elissa.
The heart—the energy, the commitment, the warmth, and the joy—that Bobbi and Elissa have brought to Mind & Life will continue to guide our work in the world. Their leadership has been essential on our journey. Says Susan Bauer-Wu: “From all of us who have been fortunate to know and work with them, we are eternally grateful.”