Filmed during Mind & Life Institute’s “Mind & Life XXVI: Mind, Brain and Matter” on January 21, 2013.

Day Five: Applications of Contemplative Practice

Contemplative Practice in the World
SPEAKERS: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sona Dimidjian, PhD, Arthur Zajonc, PhD, Geshe Ngawang Samten

As we have seen, scientists are actively studying contemplative practices to understand how they can affect the brain and body. However, these practices are also being used in diverse applied contexts to increase well-being, most commonly in health care and educational settings. Sona Dimidjian has studied both traditional and contemplative based therapies for promoting wellness and alleviating problems such as depression throughout the United States and in India. Her current work focuses on the use of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy to help women prevent depression during the transition to parenthood. Dimidjian will discuss the efficacy of contemplative interventions in clinical contexts, theories and data about how such interventions work, and recent efforts to extend their reach to new settings and populations. Outside the clinic, contemplative exercise as mental training is being increasingly appreciated and applied in classrooms from kindergarten through universities and professional schools. Arthur Zajonc will discuss efforts at developing a “contemplative pedagogy,” as a means of cultivating attention, establishing emotional balance, and supporting deeper learning, creativity, as well as social and emotional learning in students. Zajonc will also describe Mind and Life’s new initiative on education and “secular ethics,” which was initiated in response to His Holiness’s strong desire to ground ethics in our shared humanity and not in religion or ideology. Finally, Gehse Ngawang Samten will reflect on the value of incorporating inner values, ethics of compassion and the understanding of interdependence in educational settings in India. 

MODERATOR: Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD

INTERPRETER: Thupten Jinpa, PhD

Promoting Human Development
SPEAKERS: Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, James R. Doty, MD, Aaron Stern

This session presented a number of training programs that have been developed using contemplative practices in educational and applied settings to encourage human flourishing at its highest level. Geshe Lobsang Negi discussed his work developing and teaching Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), a secular program that seeks to enhance prosocial skills, build character, and enhance basic human capacities for compassion, connection, and forgiveness. Geshe Lobsang shared positive findings from research on the effects of CBCT on biological, psychological and behavioral processes, and will discuss implications for such trainings on individual and social levels. Dr. James Doty spoke on CCT (Compassion Cultivation Training), a standardized compassion training program developed at Stanford University, and research findings so far on its effects. Situating this initiative at Stanford University within its larger context, Jim also spoke on the implications of the current scientific research in compassion and altruism for our understanding of human behavior, education and clinical therapeutic applications. Finally, Aaron Stern presented about his work with The Academy for the Love of Learning, which promotes a model for transformative learning that facilitates the emergence of a natural, shared, secular-based moral and ethical framework for learning and human engagement. Stern discussed the Academy’s core program, Leading by Being, which is the fullest expression of this model.

MODERATOR: Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD

Michel Bitbol
Khen Rinpoche Jangchup Choeden
Richard Davidson
John Durant
Anne Harrington
Wendy Hasenkamp
Bryce Johnson
Geshe Lhakdor
Rajesh Kasturirangan
Christof Koch
Geshe Dadul Namgyal
Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath
Matthieu Ricard
Tania Singer
Carol Worthman


Sona Dimidjian, PhD

Renée Crown Wellness Institute

Board Member

Arthur Zajonc, PhD

Mind & Life Institute

Thupten Jinpa, PhD

Compassion Institute

Board Chair

Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD

Emory University & Drepung Loseling Monastery


Aaron Stern

Academy for the Love of Learning

Board Member

Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD

Wellesley College

Mind & Life Connections