Departing Reflections from Mind & Life President Susan Bauer-Wu
It has truly been a privilege to lead Mind & Life during one of the most consequential—and disruptive—periods in modern history, a time when we are called to reimagine how we live and interact with each other and our earthly home. With so much at stake, Mind & Life is uniquely positioned to advance dialogue and foster insights that can help illuminate the path forward.
I am gratified by all we have done—and how we have done it—to nurture our shared humanity while expanding research and communications in contemplative science. Now, after eight years at the helm of Mind & Life, it’s time for me personally to embrace change. On November 30th, I will step down from my role to begin a new chapter and create space for a new leader. (To learn about the search for my successor, see the message below from Mind & Life Board Chair Thupten Jinpa.)
Transitions are a time for reflection and taking stock. In that spirit, here are some highlights from a meaning-filled journey with remarkable and dedicated colleagues.
- An expanding community—When I attended my first Mind & Life Summer Research Institute as a clinical scientist 16 years ago, I knew I had tapped into a unique community ofcontemplatives and scholars from various disciplines. In recent years, we’ve expanded and diversified this extraordinary community, extending our reach around the globe, and inviting new voices from diverse backgrounds who are engaged in different methods of inquiry. Our programs feature more disciplines—and more ways of knowing—as reflected in our Mind & Life Dialogue in Africa on the philosophy of ubuntu. Through this expanding community, we have become more representative and inclusive, while recognizing this work has just begun. And in understanding how essential it is to support and engage the next generation of contemplative scholars and leaders, we developed a young adult engagement strategy that resulted in a new Mind & Life Young Adult Advisory Council.
- A focus on real-world challenges—Increasingly, our work has sought to bridge scientific and scholarly research with the enormous challenges we collectively face. Guiding these efforts has been our re-envisioned strategy (launched in early 2020) with a focus on nurturing personal well-being, building compassionate communities, and strengthening the human-earth connection. I’m especially pleased with our stepped up efforts related to the existential threat of climate change, including a Conversation with the Dalai Lama, Greta Thunberg, and climate scientists that inspired me to write a new Mind & Life book, A Future We Can Love. Our expanding community now includes more researchers and changemakers working to have real world impact evident in projects funded through Mind & Life’s Varela Grants (now in their 19th year), PEACE Grants (implemented in 2016), and our new Contemplative Changemaking Grants.
- A growing digital presence—Embedded in our new strategic plan was the development of our digital work, so we could pivot quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and host robust virtual gatherings that served record numbers of participants. For example, in 2021, we reached a global audience of over 1.5 million people. The exponential growth in our digital presence is also reflected in the launch of the Mind & Life podcast; a new website, Insights: Journey into the Heart of Contemplative Science; an online climate course; and the new Mind & Life Digital Library housing a growing archive of thirty-six years of Mind & Life Dialogues with the Dalai Lama and dozens of other event recordings.
- A more inclusive organizational culture—A priority for me when I joined in 2015 was to create a diverse and welcoming culture—in our programs and day-to-day operations. During this period I’ve learned a lot and have grown as we’ve intentionally engaged in anti-racist practices, while recognizing this work is never-ending. The principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are now reflected in how we show up and carry out our work and in our institutional norms, and inform the advisory bodies we create, the speakers we select, the content we deliver, and the grants we make. A cornerstone of these efforts is the Global Majority Leadership and Mentorship Program with its goal to support and grow the pool of BIPOC investigators engaged in contemplative research.
None of this work would be possible without the generosity of Mind & Life supporters, the leadership of our Board of Directors, the guidance and efforts of many wise advisors on the Steering Council and Planning Committees, the active engagement of our expanding community, and the creativity and drive of our talented staff team. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has been a part of this journey with me.
I have never been more committed to the values and mission we share and look forward to continuing to serve Mind & Life fully through November—and in new ways—in the years to come.
Message from Board Chair Thupten Jinpa on Mind & Life’s Leadership Transition
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I take this opportunity to honor the invaluable contributions of Mind & Life President Susan Bauer-Wu over the past eight years. We are profoundly grateful to Susan for her visionary, values-driven leadership, her warmth and professionalism, and her dedication to excellence.
We are fortunate to have benefited from Susan’s commitment to community building; to advancing the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work; and expanding Mind & Life’s reach globally. In the face of unprecedented challenges in our world, Susan has led a dedicated team in pursuing program innovations while grounded in Mind & Life’s core principles and founding vision. No doubt we will continue to reflect on Susan’s legacy in the months ahead, and she will be deeply missed after she steps down from her role as president. As the Chair of Mind and Life it has been a real honor to work with Susan as a close colleague, and I wish her every success ahead.
Leadership transitions are important turning points in the life of any organization. To ensure a rigorous search process guided by a strategic framework, the Board has appointed OE Consulting. Information about the search and a position description is available on their website. Together, the board, staff, and search firm will be working over the months to come to ensure a healthy transition.
We look forward to Mind & Life’s next leadership chapter and continuing our work to generate insights into the nature of the human mind in service of creating a more compassionate and equitable world.