Fear and Trust in Self and Society

June 13-19, 2015
Garrison Institute, Garrison, New York


Application period: January 20-February 18, 2015


The 2015 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) will be devoted to examining fear, trust, and social relationships. Fear can motivate our thoughts and actions even outside of conscious awareness. In some cases, responding appropriately to the arising of fear may be the difference between life and death. However, fear, when left unchecked, can result in chronic stress, ill health, and mental illness. Fear can also erode social connections and tear the fabric of society—leading to everything from broken homes to war.

On the other hand, trust and security can be viewed as antidotes to fear. Many contemplative traditions speak directly to the experience of fear, and have also developed specific frameworks and practices for building trust. However, this material has not yet been well integrated into the growing field of contemplative science. Trust is increasingly understood to be a cornerstone to health, well-being, connection, social cooperation, learning, and social-emotional regulation. As trust is inherently interpersonal, its cultivation and study will require shifting our focus away from individual experience to a broader perspective that respects and includes the social landscape.

Presentations and discussions this year will draw on research in both the sciences and the humanities, including neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, religion, and contemplative studies. Over the week, we will explore biological and experiential aspects of fear, its influence on our cognition and emotion, and its expression in both healthy states and clinical disorders. Critically, we’ll also be examining the role of trust and interpersonal connection as a counterpoint to fear, so we will also address the protective functions of secure attachment and compassion. Finally, we will ask how contemplative practices might be used to help us work with fear and cultivate social bonds.


The MLSRI is a week-long conference and quasi-retreat that incorporates academic presentations, informal breakout groups, poster sessions, and periods of meditation each day, as well as a one-day silent retreat.  This unique format offers opportunities for deep dialogue across disciplines, as well as inquiry through first-person meditation practice. Formal meditation and yoga practice, with appropriate instruction and periods of silence, are an integral part of the program, allowing all concerned to have an extended first-hand experience of contemplative practice. This contemplative context also underscores the challenges of honoring and learning from first-person experience. In addition to daily meditation sessions that will take place morning and evening, there will also be a silent, day-long “mini-retreat” led by the contemplative faculty to extend and deepen the experience, understanding, and challenges of meditation practice. The natural beauty and cloistered atmosphere of the Garrison Institute, coupled with the informal and collegial nature of the gathering, all contribute to a relaxed but vigorous community of intention and mutual respect.


The faculty include basic scientists, clinical researchers, and contemplative practitioners, scholars, and teachers. The MLSRI will be restricted to 150 participants, as innovative and interdisciplinary scientific conversations and potential collaborations and new projects are more likely to develop successfully with a limited number of committed participants. Attendees are chosen through a competitive review process.

Venue and Schedule


The 2015 MLSRI will be held at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, 50 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley. Please see the Garrison Institute website for more details.

The event will begin mid-afternoon on Saturday, June 13, and continue for 6 days, ending on the morning of Friday, June 19, 2015.





  • Willoughby Britton, PhD
  • Jim Coan, PhD
  • Richard Davisdon, PhD
  • Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, MA
  • Wendy Farley, PhD
  • Bronwyn Finnigan, PhD
  • David Fresco, PhD
  • Jared Lindahl, PhD
  • Al Kaszniak, PhD
  • Cade McCall, PhD
  • Lama Willa Miller, PhD
  • Martin Paulus, MD
  • Sharon Salzberg
  • Catherine Shaddix, MA
  • Phil Shaver, PhD
  • Peter Wayne, PhD

Who Should Attend

  • Research Fellows: Trainees, including undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows conducting research in neuroscience, biological and medical sciences, cognitive, affective, and other psychological sciences, clinical sciences, and humanities disciplines, will be considered “Research Fellows”. Dharma students or other students at the undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral level studying contemplative traditions, philosophy, or humanities will also be considered “Research Fellows.”
  • Senior Investigators: Established academic researchers in these same areas who hold university or college faculty appointments (full-time, clinical or adjunct) at the level of Assistant Professor or above, as well as contemplative scholars, teachers or researchers within these same disciplines who hold a faculty or comparable position will be considered “Senior Investigators”. Other professionals (e.g., educators, clinicians, therapists) who are independent practitioners or affiliated with non-academic institutions will also fall into this category.


Application and Registration Schedule

  • January 20 – Online application opens
  • February 18 – Application closes and materials due
  • April 10 – Notification of applicants (via email), registration opens
  • May 1 – Registration closes
  • June 13 – Opening Session and Orientation

There is a non-refundable application fee of $45. The registration fee for Research Fellows is $525; for Senior Investigators, $775. This fee covers room and board for the program. In addition, each participant will be expected to cover his/her own travel expenses. Registration fee should be paid by accepted applicants at the time of registration. NOTE: Your application does not ensure acceptance, as participation is limited by facility size, program guidelines, committee review of your application information and your letters of recommendation.

How To Applymorning

Online application was available from January 20, 2015 through February 18, 2015.

Required applications materials included:

  • one-page personal statement, describing your interest in this SRI and its relevance to your career goals
  • your current CV (NIH biosketch style preferred)
  • for Research Fellows (i.e., graduate students and postdocs) only: one letter of recommendation from a mentor or advisor

For More Information

Please sign up for the Mind & Life email list to receive our eNews, which includes information regarding the MLSRI application process. Click here for more general information about the MLSRI. For specific questions not answered on these pages, you may contact sophia@mindandlife.org.