During my first few months as president of the Mind & Life Institute, I have spoken with many members of our community. I am inspired to see how you care about Mind and Life and want to be involved in our ongoing efforts to foster individual and societal flourishing through thoughtful interdisciplinary conversations, research, and real-world engagement that integrates the sciences, humanities, and contemplative wisdom traditions. I have keenly listened to you and have reflected on my earlier experiences as a member of the Mind and Life community, while also quietly touching on personal values that have guided me throughout my life. Through this process, my vision for this next chapter for Mind and Life has begun to crystallize.
My vision for Mind and Life going forward will be for our organization to serve as a catalyst, convener, and community builder for the field of contemplative sciences. To most effectively advance the field and create significant impact, I envision that MLI can best serve when we endeavor to remove silos—institutional, disciplinary, methodological, and geographic—and close the academic-applied chasm. With a spirit of genuinely coming together and collaboratively digging deeper, I believe that we can better understand the mind and human behavior, and identify meaningful solutions to complex issues that matter in the world.
With this as a frame, Mind and Life will:
- Foster rigorous science, scholarship and evidence-based applications in new focus areas of human flourishing, resilience, and wholesome mental qualities. Particular emphasis will be on developing and refining measures, and understanding the role of various contemplative practices in different contextual settings. Most prominently, these will be related to Prosociality, Empathy, Altruism, Compassion, and Ethics (PEACE).
- Engage and nurture a community of scientists and scholars who are deeply committed to our mission.
- Involve members of our expanding community by inviting them to serve on MLI peer review grant committees, program planning committees, and the new Mind and Life Steering Council.
- Re-envision the Mind and Life Fellows program to foster networking, collaborations and mentoring opportunities.
- Increase diversity of underrepresented groups and international scientists and scholars in contemplative sciences through scholarships, grants and mentoring programs.
- Bolster MLI research grants and training programs through partnerships with other like-minded organizations to provide larger funding for more impactful projects such as multi-site, interdisciplinary studies.
- Promote research and dialogue that incorporate systems perspectives (cellular, biological, socio-cultural and ecological systems) and different epistemologies and research methodologies (first-, second- and third-person approaches).
- Strengthen MLI’s global reach through more international dialogues and other educational and research offerings on different continents (in addition to fostering development of international scientists and scholars).
- Bridge the gap between academia and real-world applications by encouraging active collaborations between scientists, scholars, applied professionals, policymakers, and contemplative practitioners. One example is a new MLI offering, the Mind and Life Think Tanks.
- Enhance communications to the wider public through open access multi-media platforms and live-streaming of MLI Dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other MLI programs.
I am also committed to leading a professionally run organization with high individual and organizational efficiency and effectiveness that is guided by ethical principles of integrity and right action, embracing inclusivity, collaboration, and transparency. My sincere intention is that all members of the MLI team “walk the talk” and embody the prosocial qualities that are foundational to our work. We are now gearing up for the re-location of MLI’s headquarters to Charlottesville, Virginia in early June. We will retain some of our excellent veteran team while also hiring new staff.
I look forward to partnering with you in our collective good work and hope to see you at the International Symposium for Contemplative Studies in San Diego in November, if not before!
Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD