People, Place and Practice: Putting Contemplative Studies into Context

June 11-17, 2016
Garrison Institute, Garrison, New York
Application period: January 4–January 29, 2016


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The 2016 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) will be devoted to the theme of context, and its relevance for basic mental processes as well as effects of contemplative practices. Findings from the cognitive and social sciences, humanities, and philosophy increasingly suggest that context shapes mind in fundamental ways. And as we are well aware, practices that were once embedded within traditional religious cultures are now being widely disseminated across a variety of globalized, largely secular settings. Contextual factors impact the very course and outcome of these practices, and if not carefully considered, even well-intended efforts can lead to unsatisfactory or incomplete results. However, incorporating contextual factors into scientific research remains methodologically and logistically challenging. Effectively measuring the impact of variables such as social, cultural, emotional, neurophysiological, and physical contexts continues to raise many practical and philosophical questions with no easy answers.

While these issues are now largely acknowledged across disciplines within contemplative studies, more work needs to be done to advance true contextualized inquiry. This year’s MLSRI presents a unique opportunity to collectively enhance the quality of these investigations by keenly highlighting the practical—and also ethical—impact of integrating contextual factors and related theoretical insights into scientific research, clinical interventions, and educational programs.


DSC_5844The 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 ScheduleSRI_venue


The 2016 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 11, and continue for 6 days, ending on the morning of Friday, June 17, 2016.


  • Al Kaszniak, PhD
  • Catherine Kerr, PhD
  • Laurence J. Kirmayer, MD
  • Brooke D. Lavelle, PhD
  • Rhonda V. Magee, JD
  • David McMahan, PhD
  • Andreas Roepstorff, PhD
  • Sharon Salzberg
  • Catherine Shaddix, PhD
  • Martijn van Beek, PhD
  • Peter Wayne, PhD
  • Helen Weng, PhD
  • Carol Worthman, 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.” The registration fee for accepted Research Fellows is $475.
  • 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. The registration fee for accepted Senior Investigators is $675.



Application and Registration Schedule

  • January 4 – Online application opens
  • January 29 – Application closes and materials due
  • April 12 – Notification of applicants (via email), registration opens
  • May 5 – Registration closes
  • June 11 – Opening Session and Orientation

There is a non-refundable application fee of $45.

The registration fee to attend the MLSRI is $475 for Research Fellows and $675 for Senior Investigators. (Partial travel scholarships will be available.)

The registration 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 Apply

The online application was available from January 4, 2016 through January 29, 2016; the window to apply has now closed.

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 announcements about the MLSRI. Click here for more general information about the MLSRI. For specific questions not answered on these pages, you may contact