Engaging Cultural Difference and Human Diversity

Garrison, New York

Application period: December 6, 2017 – January 21, 2018
Summer Research Institute: June 2 – 8, 2018

Program Overview

The 2018 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute extends the arc from the 2016 and 2017 programs that addressed themes of context, social connectivity, and intersubjectivity by engaging critical topics relevant to cultural difference and human diversity. The weeklong immersive program will examine social and psychological patterns, both implicit and explicit, to discuss how difference is constructed at personal, interpersonal, and socio-structural levels. Scientific, humanistic, and first-person contemplative perspectives will give attention to processes of othering and how we can overcome conflict by embracing difference.

Plenary faculty presentations from neuroscientists and psychologists will describe basic mechanisms of distinguishing self and other as well as cultural and developmental factors providing our sense of security and provoking our common fears. Discussions from the social sciences will explore cultural, historical, and structural factors that complexify conditions for disparity and inequity across social groups and communities, often contributing to conflict and dissonance. Philosophical presentations will discuss worldviews through which the other is interconnected to one’s self, how difference is a source of power, and the process of perspective-taking through dialogue. A training workshop and small group breakout sessions will explore practical applications for reflecting on biases and engaging difference. Through first-person practice, we will query contemplative traditions as a resource for compassion and redressing injustice.

Who Should Attend

The Mind & Life Institute is committed to building a rigorous community of interdisciplinary contemplatives, scholars, and scientists that integrates diverse perspectives and experiences. We welcome candidates of all races, classes, genders, ages, religions, physical abilities, and sexual orientations.

The Summer Research Institute is restricted to 150 participants who are selected through a competitive peer-review process. With a limited number of committed participants, the gathering fosters the potential for innovative and interdisciplinary dialogue as well as potential collaborations and the emergence of new research projects. We welcome your application!

  • New Investigator: Graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows conducting research in basic and applied sciences as well as the arts and humanities. Early-career researchers and contemplative scholars who work in the interdisciplinary field of contemplative sciences and scholarship are also encouraged to apply in this category.
  • Senior Investigators: Established academic researchers, contemplative scholars and educators who hold university or college faculty appointments (full-time, clinical or adjunct). Other professionals (including therapists, teachers, clinicians, thought leaders, etc.) who are independent practitioners or affiliated with non-academic institutions are also encouraged to apply in this category.


Mind & Life is committed to building a rigorous community of interdisciplinary contemplatives, scholars and scientists that integrates diverse perspectives and experiences. We aim to maximize the benefits of diversity and to use diversity as a tool for enriching the field of contemplative research. We welcome candidates of all races, classes, genders, ages, religions, physical abilities, and sexual orientations. With the support of a generous donor, funding is available for emerging scholars who might otherwise be unable to attend SRI.

International scholars and those who identify as underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply. Scholarship applications are submitted as part of the FluidReview online application form.


The 2017 Summer Research Institute will be held at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York, 50 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley. Please see the Garrison Institute website for more details.


The Summer Research Institute faculty includes scientists, clinical researchers, contemplative practitioners, scholars and teachers from a variety of disciplines.

Plenary Faculty

  • Polly Young Eisendrath, Ph.D., is clinical associate professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, Director of the Institute for Dialogue Therapy, and has an independent clinical practice in Central Vermont.
  • Michael Onyebuchi Eze, Ph.D., teaches African political theory at the University of Amsterdam and is a fellow at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge.
  • Marisela Gomez, M.D., Ph.D., is a community activist, author, public health professional, and physician.
  • Lasana Harris, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at University College London
  • Bruce Knauft, Ph.D., is the Samuel C. Dobbs professor of Anthropology at Emory University.
  • Batja Gomes de Mesquita, Ph.D., is Director of the Leuven Culture and Emotion Lab at KU Leuven.
  • Robert Roeser, Ph.D., is Bennett Pierce professor of Caring and Compassion and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.
  • Helen Y. Weng, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and is a core faculty member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center.
  • Jan Willis, Ph.D., is Professor of Religion, Emerita, Wesleyan University and

    Adjunct Professor of Religion at Agnes Scott College.

  • Additional plenary faculty to be announced.

Contemplative Faculty

  • Louis Komjathy, Ph.D., is associate professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the
    University of San Diego.
  • Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel is an author and Buddhist teacher.
  • Laura Schmalzl, Ph.D., RYT, is associate professor at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
  • Larry Yang is on the Teachers’ Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and is one of the founding teachers of both East Bay Meditation Center (Oakland) and Insight Community of the Desert (Palm Springs).


  • Daniel J. Siegel, Ph.D.

Council for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Members of the Mind & Life Council for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion will serve as facilitators and discussants throughout the program

  • Nilanjana Dasgupta, Ph.D.
  • Martin Davidson, Ph.D.
  • Chris Kaplan, M.A.
  • Rhonda Magee, J.D., M.A.
  • Juan Santoyo
  • Helen Weng, Ph.D.

Program Planning Committee

  • Nilanjana Dasgupta, Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, Mind & Life Institute
  • Rhonda Magee, J.D., M.A.
    University of San Francisco
    Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, Steering Council, Mind & Life Institute
  • Robert Roeser, Ph.D.
    The Pennsylvania State University
  • William Waldron, Ph.D. (co-chair)
    Middlebury College
  • Carol Worthman, Ph.D. (co-chair)
    Emory University
    Steering Council, Mind & Life Institute
  • Eboni Bugg, L.C.S.W. (ex officio)
    Sr. Manager for Diversity, Inclusion & Global Outreach, Mind & Life Institute
  • Michael Sheehy, Ph.D. (ex officio)
    Director of Programs, Mind & Life Institute

How to Apply

The application period is closed.
Deadline: January 21, 2018

Required application materials include:

  • A 500-word personal statement describing your interest in the 2018 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute and its relevance to your career goals
  • Your current CV
  • New Investigators: In addition to the personal statement and CV, please acquire one letter of recommendation from a mentor or advisor

Application Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  1. Relevance: Application describes the relevance of the Summer Research Institute and the 2018 theme to the investigator’s research, professional work, and/or broader society
  2. Professional and Academic Development: Application shows how participation in the 2018 Summer Research Institute will foster the investigator’s research and/or career goals
  3. Impact: Application demonstrates the investigator’s potential to contribute to the advancement of contemplative research and its component fields of study
  4. Rigor: Application explains how participation will enhance the investigator’s level of scholarship, including ethical integrity and research quality, in their respective field

Please note:

  • Having an active contemplative practice is not considered a requirement for acceptance to the Summer Research Institute.
  • Participants are expected to stay the entire duration of the Summer Research Institute.


Application and Registration Schedule
  • December 6   Online application opens
  • January 21  Application closes and materials due
  • March 5     Notification of applicants via email and registration opens
  • March 30    Registration closes
  • May 14      Cancellation deadline (for 90% refund)
  • June 2      Opening session and orientation

The Summer Research Institute begins mid-afternoon on Saturday, June 2, 2018, and continues for six days, ending on the morning of Friday, June 8, 2018.



The registration fee is paid by successful applicants at the time of registration. The fee covers all programs, room and board, as well as three vegetarian meals per day. Each participant is expected to cover his/her own travel expenses. Partial travel scholarships will be announced at a later date.

Non-refundable application fee: $45

Registration fee:

  • $495 for New Investigators
  • $695 for Senior Investigators


If you have any questions, please email

For More Information

Please sign up to receive email notifications from Mind & Life, which include announcements about the Summer Research Institute. For specific questions, please contact

  1. After clicking the link below, you will be directed to the login page for the Mind & Life Online Applications Portal.
  2. If you have not already applied for a Mind & Life Institute Grant or Program in the last year, please create a new login under the “Need an Account?” section. If you have applied for a Mind & Life Institute Grant or Program in the past year using this application portal, please use your current login (Note to administrators and assistants: Please fill out the information of the person you are registering).
    NOTE: If you are accepted to the program, the account you create will be used to populate the registration form for the Summer Research Institute event, so please make sure your information is accurate. A separate registration link will be sent out in March 2018 to finalize your registration for SRI 2018. (Submitting a SRI application does not constitute registration for the event, nor a commitment to attend).

Once you have created or logged into your account, you will be directed to the Mind & Life Institute Online Applications Portal which lists all open applications. Please click on the “Create Submission” button in-line with “Summer Research Institute” to begin your application.

Begin the Application Process
Each June, Mind & Life hosts the Summer Research Institute at the Garrison Institute in New York. SRI is an immersive educational program and mini-retreat that incorporates academic presentations, training workshops, informal breakout groups, posters, and regular contemplative sessions including a full-day silent retreat. This week-long intensive event gathers senior faculty from the Mind & Life community to mentor and support the next generation of interdisciplinary scholars and scientists who are establishing the field of contemplative sciences.

The unique program format of SRI offers opportunities for deep dialogue across disciplines as well as inquiry through first-person meditation practice. Formal meditation, Tai Chi and yoga practice are integral to the program, providing an extended and personal contemplative-practice experience.

This contemplative context also underscores the challenges of honoring and learning from first-person experience. In addition to the morning and evening meditation sessions each day, there is a silent day-long retreat led by the contemplative faculty to extend and deepen the experience as well as the challenges and understanding of meditation practice. The silent retreat day includes sitting and walking meditation practices as well as time for personal reflection. The natural beauty and secluded atmosphere of the Garrison Institute, coupled with the informal and collegial gathering, all contribute to a relaxed but rigorous community of shared intention and mutual respect.