The beginning of a new year evokes a fresh start. The phrase “turning over a new leaf” dates back to the 16th century when the pages of books were called leaves. To turn over a new leaf was to turn to a new page. Collectively, I’d like to think of all of us as turning over a new page and embracing a new story.
Crises—such as the global pandemic and the catastrophic consequences of climate change—are turning points as psychologist Molly Crockett reminded us at a recent Mind & Life Conversation with the Dalai Lama. We’re compelled to think and act in new ways. Throughout the event, the Dalai Lama urged participants to see beyond the confines of our separateness and embrace the fundamental interconnection that binds us all to one another and the natural world.
Over the coming year, we’ll continue to explore what contemplative science reveals about interconnection. One subtle but important shift will be in the presentation of our monthly e-newsletter, which will feature updates about current Mind & Life offerings, along with rich content from our archives. This includes reflections from leading researchers, contemplatives, and changemakers with profound relevance for today. Every month we’ll examine a new theme, including mental training, embodiment, stress, trauma, compassion, and the human-earth connection—all with a focus on better understanding the mind and our fundamental interconnection.
Looking to the year ahead, I’m excited to share these other highlights with you.
SRI Turns 20!
2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Mind & Life’s Summer Research Institute (SRI)! After hosting the event online during the pandemic, we’re thrilled to be meeting in-person once again at the Garrison Institute in New York from June 4-10. Over six days, we’ll explore leading-edge science, scholarship, personal narratives, and interventions related to the experience and healing of trauma on an individual, collective, and ecological level. Faculty include ethnographer of religion Natalie Avalos; restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga; meditation leader Jon Kabat-Zinn; and child development researcher Ann S. Masten. Contemplative practice sessions will be led by Lama Willa Baker, Kritee Kanko, kelley nicole palmer, and Peter Wayne. We look forward to celebrating SRI’s rich legacy and unique contributions to the field of contemplative science with newcomers and SRI alumni alike.
New Book: A Future We Can Love
In 2020, more than a million people globally tuned-in online to a Mind & Life Conversation that brought together the Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg—along with climate scientists—for the first time to discuss the crisis of climate feedback loops. I’m thrilled to have authored a new book, A Future We Can Love, that expands on this historic meeting, interweaving wisdom and guidance from leading scientists, spiritual teachers, and climate activists. The book explains the science behind climate change, examines the heartbreak of climate devastation and the wonderment of hope, and provides actionable steps to effect positive change. A Future We Can Love is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 13. Stay tuned for an announcement of our online launch party, and other events!
Engaging Young Adults
Today’s younger generations face unprecedented challenges in our world and are being called to lead deep-level change. To support and strengthen their role, we’ll be piloting a new young adult engagement strategy, based on research and consultations carried out in 2022. In the months ahead, we’ll be engaging young adult voices more actively in our work, particularly through the creation of a new Young Adult Advisory Council, and tailoring our programs to better address young adult needs and champion their role as emerging leaders.
We continue to explore innovative ways of sharing vital knowledge and insights at the heart of our work. A key milestone will be the launch in March of the Mind & Life Digital Dialogue Library. This evolving project will curate valuable knowledge shared through dozens of convenings organized and hosted by Mind & Life since 1987. The Library will serve as a one-of-a-kind education resource on the interchange between modern science and Buddhist wisdom with relevance to present-day challenges.
We’ll also be inaugurating a new online series, Mind & Life Connect, where we’ll engage in conversation with researchers, contemplatives, and changemakers, allowing participants to pose questions, share reflections, and build community. The new series will launch in March.
And we continue to elevate leading voices in the field of contemplative science. In late February, the 6th season of the Mind & Life podcast will kick-off with guests such as health psychologist Elissa Epel, neuroscientist David Creswell, biological anthropologist Jennifer Mascaro, and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. Throughout the year, new contributors to our Insights website will also share their journeys and how their research is addressing urgent challenges in our world.
Funding Research and Changemaking Grants
Increasingly, Mind & Life’s grantmaking seeks to bridge contemplation, research, and action to cultivate inner knowing and strengthen awareness of interconnection. In 2022, we made research grants totalling $710,000 (through our Varela and PEACE grants) in support of projects led by emerging and established scientists and scholars. Funded projects include studies of compassion, intergroup relations, and the use of contemplative practices to support the critical needs of college students and young adults. In May, we look forward to announcing the recipients of our new Contemplative Changemaking Grants. The grants, of up to $10,000, will support grassroots changemakers in using contemplative approaches to address urgent community needs. Priority will be given to projects led by emerging leaders (ages 18-30), and those belonging to marginalized groups.
As we welcome a new year, I feel a strong dose of optimism—largely fueled by you as members of Mind & Life’s growing global community. We welcome your participation in our programs and offerings and value your feedback and ideas. As one Mind & Life podcast listener recently shared:
“I think what’s really special about the work of the Mind & Life Institute…is
how it is stimulating on an intellectual level while touching the heart at the same time.
There’s a deep sense of meaning to the knowledge you present and how it is framed.”
Indeed, many of today’s challenges lie in a deeper search for meaning—and connection in life. We are honored to be in an ongoing conversation with you to better understand the human mind and nurture a world that embraces a new story rooted in our shared humanity.
Susan Bauer-Wu is President of the Mind & Life Institute.