“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter… They prepare. They adapt.
They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through…
Winter is not the death of the life cycle but its crucible.”
—Katherine May, Wintering

For many, the pandemic has felt like the longest of metaphorical winters, a true test of our ability to endure a season of isolation, hardship, and uncertainty. But winter is also a time of transformation, where there is wisdom to be found.

At Mind & Life, we’ve witnessed a profound yearning for the insights, practices, and wisdom that have been a hallmark of our work for 35 years. I’m delighted to share that in 2021 our digital offerings brought insights into the nature of the human mind to an audience of over 1.5 million people around the globe. They were called to a particular theme, an online event, a speaker, a podcast episode, an insight—and they shared their appreciation with us:

I cannot wait to continue to engage with Mind and Life because it connects
so deeply with what I want to do and how I want to show up in this world.”
—Participant, 2021 Summer Research Institute

With dozens of testimonials like these, we ended the year ever more committed to our mission to bridge science and contemplative wisdom to better understand the mind and create positive change in the world.

Looking to the year ahead, I’m excited to share that we will be celebrating Mind & Life’s 35th anniversary! It was in October 1987 that the first Mind & Life Dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama took place in Dharamsala, India with a focus on Buddhism and the Cognitive Sciences. Since then, we’ve remained steadfast in our work to better understand the mind and its role in flourishing—generating valuable insights with profound relevance to the challenges we face collectively today.

To honor this milestone, throughout the year we’ll be sharing a number of these insights and introducing some of the pioneering minds at the heart of our journey. In addition to this special anniversary content, we’ll be launching several new initiatives and presenting global experts and their perspectives on today’s challenges as part of our ongoing programming. Here’s just some of what we have planned in the months ahead:

Celebrating 35 Years!

  • Stories, Insights, Meditations, and More—Over the coming months, we’ll share stories of leading researchers in the field of contemplative science—and how their work is changing the world. We’ll also distribute key moments distilled from our video archives, including teachings from the Dalai Lama and others. In the fall, we’ll launch a new web-based platform for exploring some of the insights that have emerged from our work around interconnection, mental health, education, compassion, the human-earth connection, and more. And to help all of us navigate these challenging times, we will offer online guided meditations from contemplative teachers throughout our anniversary year. Sign up to learn more and visit our dedicated webpage.

New Initiatives

  • Grants for Young Contemplative Leaders—Toward the end of this year, we’ll launch a new contemplative action grants initiative. These micro-grants, of up to $10,000, will support young contemplative leaders who are taking action to ameliorate individual and collective suffering and promote flourishing. The program will prioritize projects in the global South where financial support for activities and scholarship grounded in contemplative practices can be scarce. Learn more.
  • Mind & Life Digital Library—This evolving project will catalogue, and curate valuable knowledge shared through dozens of convenings organized and hosted by Mind & Life since 1987. These events have brought together leading-edge thinkers—prominent scholars, scientists, contemplatives, and changemakers—to explore understanding the human mind. The library will serve as a one-of-a-kind education resource, sharing insights with profound relevance to present-day challenges—from addressing mental health concerns to repairing our relationships with one another and the Earth. Learn more.
  • Leadership and Mentorship Program—In 2022, we’ll pilot a new Global Majority Leadership and Mentorship Program as part of our efforts to conceive a new, more inclusive chapter of Mind & Life’s story. In the short term, we seek to support and grow the pool of historically underrepresented investigators in contemplative research who seek funding from Mind & Life. Through co-created mentor-mentee relationships, we seek to cultivate mentees’ capacities to lead change within their institutions, professional organizations, communities, and Mind & Life itself. Learn more.

Digital Programming Highlights

  • Mind & Life Podcast (Season 4!)—Host and Mind & Life Science Director Wendy Hasenkamp will welcome an impressive array of speakers when our next season opens on February 25. Among her guests will be Roshi Joan Halifax, Jud Brewer, Jessica Morey, Al Kaszniak, and Bob Thurman. I’m pleased to share that the podcast has been downloaded over 275,000 times, consistently ranking in the top 1% of all podcasts. I hope you will join us for more insights from the frontiers of contemplative science. Tune in to past episodes.
  • Online Course: The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis—This 10-hour course combines the latest science—on climate change, behavior change, and social change—with contemplative wisdom. You’ll learn from 20+ leading experts from around the globe, including Indigenous leaders, scientists, scholars, contemplative teachers, and activists, about the root causes of the climate crisis and strategies for healing our relationship with one another and the Earth. The majority of content is delivered through engaging video presentations excerpted from Mind & Life’s 2021 Summer Research Institute. Also included are contemplative practices, reflection questions, resources, and action steps. Learn more.

Upcoming Events

  • Summer Research Institute (online): “Othering, Belonging, and Becoming“—With humanity experiencing a crisis of disconnection and ‘othering,’ our 2022 Summer Research Institute will explore the role of our minds in creating these divisions, and how our minds can transform to create a more connected world. Faculty for this online event, June 6-10, include restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga, Indigenous scholar and activist Yuria Celidwen, social neuroscientist Lasana Harris, social psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Palestinian peace activist Sulaiman Khatib, and law professor john a. powell, among others. I hope you can join us! Learn more.
  • Joy Summit—This fall, we will present the “Joy Summit,” a free, four-day online international event based on Mission: Joy, a new documentary film about the extraordinary friendship between Mind & Life co-founder His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose passing we mourn and whose legacy we will continue to honor and celebrate. The Joy Summit will educate, inspire, and engage tens of thousands of people around the science of joy and how to incorporate the latest findings into their own lives. Presenters will include prominent neuroscientists and research psychologists as well as headline artists and beloved faith leaders. At the heart of the Summit is the question of how we can utilize these scientific findings, many of which have been long espoused by the world’s religious traditions, to rise to our better selves and contribute to human flourishing at a time when so much is at stake.

This is a challenging time. It’s also a highly generative time when how we use our minds—and the actions we take—matter more than ever. With evidence pointing to the tremendous ripple effect we can have on those around us, my hope is that you will continue to glean valuable insights through Mind & Life’s offerings and engage others in your sphere of influence as, together, we work to create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

To each of you who has walked this journey with us—whether recently or over the decades—I offer my sincere gratitude. We take our inspiration from you and look forward to connecting in the months ahead.

Susan Bauer-Wu is President of the Mind & Life Institute.