Mind & Life periodically invites guest writers to contribute their perspectives and experiences on the blog as a way of deepening dialogue and understanding around key themes related to our mission.
Thirty years ago, people who studied contemplative practices were often marginalized in their own academic departments. Informally, they sought out colleagues at other institutions. Relationships were kindled, but it was hard to know who was doing what and to what end.
A lot has changed since then. The new field of contemplative science is growing globally, and with it the need to support the collaborative work of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and practitioners engaged in the rigorous investigation of traditional and modern forms of contemplative and other mind-body practices. This is the work of the International Society for Contemplative Research (ISCR).
In just five months—on February 2-5, 2023—ISCR will hold its inaugural conference at the University of California San Diego. Our intention with this gathering is to be interdisciplinary, collaborative, supportive, exciting, and fun, all while sharing the most cutting-edge ideas, methods, and results in contemplative research. At the same time, we recognize we’re traveling a well-worn path forged by the Mind & Life Institute, which has played a leading role in seeding the field for over two decades.
“Our intention with this gathering is to be interdisciplinary,
collaborative, supportive, exciting, and fun…”
Building a Field
It was in 2004 that Mind & Life held its first Summer Research Institute (SRI), convening early stage researchers for the purpose of learning, networking, and cultivating a new field of inquiry at the intersection of science, the humanities, and contemplative traditions. Over the years, many would refer to SRI, now poised to celebrate its 20th anniversary, as their professional ‘home.’ To complement the fertile idea-sharing that took place at SRI, Mind & Life launched the Francisco J. Varela Grants, fully supported by the Hershey Family Foundation since their inception, enabling researchers to take their work to the next level.
In 2012, the fruits of this path-breaking work would be on display through a global forum: the International Symposia for Contemplative Studies (ISCS). Launched by Mind & Life, the first ISCS opened in Denver, Colorado to a sold-out audience. Subsequent events of a similar nature were held in Boston (2014), San Diego (2016) and Phoenix (2018, when the name was changed to the International Symposium of Contemplative Research).
By the end of 2018, the symposium had become the flagship international academic conference on the scientific and humanistic study of mindfulness, meditation, and other contemplative practices. But things were beginning to change. Given the challenges posed by the global pandemic, the conference pivoted to a virtual format. The newly branded 2020 Contemplative Research Conference brought together 600+ scientists, scholars, and contemplatives to share leading-edge insights.
A New Society Takes Shape
By this time, a robust community of researchers and scholars of contemplative studies was well established, and Mind & Life decided to “pass the baton” to a new academic society that would be formed out of this growing community.
In the spring of 2020, Mind & Life reached out to a group of scientists and humanists who had long been involved in the Mind & Life community, and who were the leaders of previous symposia, and suggested that they apply for a Mind & Life Think Tank grant to move this vision forward, which was awarded. Forty-two participants met over two days, with 500+ scientists and scholars from the extended community completing a short survey to provide insight into the potential audience, their interests, and the perceived value in starting a multidisciplinary society. The results were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Think Tank meetings in January and March of 2021 established the basic mission and vision for the new academic association. Following, an executive committee was formed and this new association was officially named the International Society for Contemplative Research (ISCR). This new organization would not only host conferences, but provide further opportunities for interdisciplinary field-building.
We now welcome you to join our energetic young society. There are a variety of opportunities to add your voice to the conversation and help shape the society as we grow the exciting field of contemplative research.
More on Our Inaugural Conference
We look forward with great anticipation to the inaugural ISCR 2023 Conference at the University of California San Diego, from February 2-5, 2023. The Call for Abstracts is now open, with submissions due by September 26, 2022. Submissions can be in the format of oral papers/presentations, discussion/roundtable sessions, symposia/panels, workshops, or poster/flash presentations.
Our goal is to create an environment conducive to building new relationships and strengthening existing ones, and give you that rare glimpse into other areas of contemplative research that may enrich your own thinking, research, and practice.
Our confirmed keynote speakers exemplify these aspirations:
- Professor Kakali Bhattacharya, School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, College of Education, University of Florida
- B. Alan Wallace, Founder and President Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, and Centers for Contemplative Research
- Professor Anil Seth, Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience & Co-Director, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at University of Sussex; Co-Director, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness
- Professor Michael Yellow Bird, Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, founder, director, and principal investigator of The Centre for Mindful Decolonization and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba
In addition, we will be adding cross-cutting panels on the themes of Compassion & Justice, Self, and Modes of Contemplative Investigation, as well as an opening session held on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, plenty of time for networking and connection, opportunities for contemplative practice, and more! For additional information and to register, visit the conference website.
Erin McCarthy is Professor Emerita at St. Lawrence at St. Lawrence University and serves on the Executive Committee of the International Society for Contemplative Research.