Over the past decade, the field of the contemplative sciences has grown remarkably, while new subfields continue to emerge. Recognizing the need for small groups of specialists to convene in dialogue about a specific issue or set of concerns with the capacity to deepen their collective insight and make significant impacts, we are pleased to offer the Mind & Life Think Tanks.

Mind & Life Think Tanks are intimate, two- to three-day, self-organized collaborative gatherings designed to incubate or advance a particular project area or advance a specific problem within the broad field of the contemplative sciences. Grants support the travel, accommodations and general organization of Think Tanks to convene small groups of collaborators including scientists, scholars, humanitarian leaders and changemakers, contemplative practitioners, educators and applied professionals to workshop a coherent topic with well-defined outcomes and potentially high impact.


2017 Think Tank Grant Recipients

“Core Measures for Mindfulness Studies”

Organizer: Rick Hecht
Date: February 2018
Location: San Francisco, California

We aim to develop a set of recommended “core measures” for mindfulness-based intervention research that can strengthen individual studies and facilitate pooled data analyses and meta-analyses. While most studies require study specific outcome measures, there are domains that are appropriate to measure across studies.  These includes self-report measures of important common outcomes (e.g. stress and mood) and functions specifically targeted by mindfulness training (e.g. behavioral, or cognitive responses to standardized tasks or naturalistic daily stimuli).  Domains we anticipate covering include intervention effects on affect dynamics, attentional processes, and pro-social behavior. We will carefully assess the pros and cons of available measures, their appropriateness for mindfulness research, and develop a menu of recommended measures. We will bring together a diverse group of researchers from several disciplines, including mindfulness teachers. To disseminate findings, we aim to publish a joint paper, and the UCSF Osher Center will host a website summarizing recommendations.

 

“Designing and implementing a contemplative practice-based program for ex-combatants in Colombia’s peacebuilding process”

Organizer: Juan Santoyo
Date: November 2017
Location: Medellin, Colombia

This think tank will develop a meditation-based curriculum for peacebuilding along with guidelines for its implementation as a component of Colombia’s ongoing peacebuilding process. We will draw on Mind and Life’s model to bring together scholars, scientists, and contemplatives across institutional and geographical boundaries for this immediate opportunity to promote individual and societal flourishing in an important global context.  Our primary goal is to develop a manual for a program that uses compassion, equanimity, and kindness meditation and didactic exercises for use in peacebuilding contexts. As long-term goals, think tank participants will go on to implement this framework with Colombian ex-combatants. Additionally, scientific research on its effects will be carried out in or to further refine the program and facilitate its adaptation for use with other marginalized populations in the USA and other global contexts.

“Conceptualizing Compassion: A Heuristic Model”

Organizer: Brooke Dodson-Lavelle
Participants: Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Paul Condon, Helen Weng, Jenny Mascaro, Wendy Hasenkamp, Gaelle Desbordes, Yoona Kang, Lisa Flook, Paul Gilbert, John Makransky, Wendy Farley, Andy Dreitcer, Eve Ekman (missing: John Dunne, Erin Robbins and Jim Coan)
Date: January 29, 2017
Location: Courage of Care, Berkeley, California

The study of compassion is gaining increasing attention. Yet to date, there is little consensus on what compassion is, how it is to be cultivated, or whether compassion is the appropriate term to capture a range of complex motivations, capacities and behaviors deemed critical not only to our survival, but also to our collective evolution or awakening.

Various conceptions of compassion are articulated in diverse contemplative traditions and scientific disciplines. Though interest in the study and practice of compassion is increasing, little scholarly attention has been paid to the differences between these conceptualizations or to the implications that such differences might have for training, research and application.

The goals of this think tank therefore are to convene a working group of leaders in compassion research, scholarship and practice to develop an account of different models of compassion from which we will design a collaborative, interdisciplinary research agenda for the field.  A long-term goal is to form a professional learning circle of colleagues committed to community building, knowledge- and resource-sharing, and socially-engaged advocacy work.


“Establishing Contemplative Studies Programs: Practices, Priorities and Problems”

Organizer: Hal Roth
Participants: Mirabai Bush, Carolyn Jacobs, Judith Simmer-Brown, David Germano, Anne Klein, Hal Roth, and John Dunne
Dates: September 21–24, 2017
Location: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

This weekend workshop for contemplative educators will present practical information about how to establish undergraduate programs in Contemplative Studies. Featured topics will include definitions of key terms in the field including multi-epistemological models, balancing the humanities and the sciences, including issues of ethics and social justice, how to incorporate contemplative practices into the curriculum, fund-raising, and how to persuade colleagues and administrators.  Workshop leaders include field pioneers such as Mirabai Bush, Carolyn Jacobs, Judith Simmer-Brown, David Germano, Anne Klein, Hal Roth, and John Dunne. 15 educators who are actively involved in building Contemplative Studies undergraduate programs will be chosen by application. All expenses in Providence will be covered; participants will be responsible for their own transportation.  Application details can be found at the Brown University Contemplative Studies Program website after April 1, 2017.


“Socially-Engaged Mindfulness Interventions (SEMI) and the Promise of Making Refuge”

Organizer: Ronald Purser
Participants: David Loy, Edwin Ng, Zack Walsh, Jack Petranker, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Katie Loncke, Rhonda Magee, Sharon Suh, Beth Berila, Tom Yarnall, Charles Strain
Dates: July 28–30, 2017
Location: Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, Berkeley, California

This Think Tank brings together engaged Buddhist and secular mindfulness practitioners, teachers, scholars, and activists from areas like minority rights and struggles, environmentalism and sustainability, critical pedagogy and liberal arts education. We draw on Buddhist and feminist and posthumanist thinking for inspiration to formulate our working questions: What is refuge? Where or when do we encounter refuge? Who or what creates space for refuge? We experiment with Socially-Engaged Mindfulness Interventions (SEMI) in order to probe the limits of prevailing outlooks. How might we develop more caring ways of relating the human to the nonhuman and vulnerability to resistance in “social”, “ecological”, or other modes of engagement with the world-in- becoming? What are the dangers accompanying the pathologizing and medicalized connotations of “intervention”? What new ways of engaging with mindfulness might be discovered by investigating these questions? What is the role of mindfulness in the investigation of these questions? We perform these inquiries to resituate mindfulness as part of a larger praxis-ideal of making refuge, understood as the collective work of cultivating conditions of trust and safety necessary for living and dying well together as co-inhabitants of a precarious planet.


“Educating the Heart: Cultivating Compassionate Global Citizens”

Organizer: Caroline Murphy
Participants: Ozawa de-Silva, Thomas Pruzinsky, Scarlett Lewis, Liz Gulliford, Alan McMurray, Anne-Marie Poynor, Jacqueline Irwin, James Nelson, Alan McCully, Dorothy Black, Gerard McCann, Anne Dichelle, Majella O’Shea, Rita Sexton, Aidan Clifford, Frank Geary
Date: May 2017
Location: Children in Crossfire, Derry, Northern Ireland

This Think Tank explores how Critical Pedagogy and Social and Emotional Learning can be synthesised through an Ethics rooted in Compassion. The intention is to develop innovative pedagogy for a ‘Global Education Curriculum’ for students aged 8-15. Traditionally, Global Education nurtures competencies in line with Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy. It is proposed that the nurturing of emotional and social competencies are also essential components. By rooting all competencies in an Ethics based in Compassion, a ‘holistic’ approach might emerge for preparing young people as Compassionate Global Citizens.

The Think Tank brings together Ireland, USA, and UK scholars, educators, researchers and policy makers to:

  • Strengthen theoretical underpinnings
  • Define core competencies
  • Develop the ‘Teacher Training Course’
  • Explore a ‘Teacher’s Masters Programme’
  • Design research to pilot to 120 Ireland teachers

Ireland and UK participants will meet in person, and e-conference USA colleagues. Participants will collaborate towards developing a Programme for replication across countries.


“Embodiment, Contemplative Practice, and Equality: Developing a Programmatic and Research Agenda for Reducing Ingroup Bias through Embodied Inquiry and Contemplative Practice”

Organizer: Bo Forbes
Participants: James Coan, William Cunningham, John Dunne, Norman Farb, Bo Forbes, Leroy Little Bear, Aneeta Rattan, David Vago, Angel Kyodo Williams, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall
Date: September 14-16, 2017
Location: Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Prejudice and discrimination have destructive consequences in contemporary society. Discrimination based on social categorization (e.g., by gender, age or ethnicity) is thought to stem from implicit and explicit expression of in-group bias, a preference for others who belong to one’s own salient social categories. Existing theories are limited in explaining how to limit the effects of such bias on social behavior, decision making, and well-being. This Mind and Life Think Tank will integrate perspectives from contemplative studies, the humanities, psychology, and neuroscience to better understand how to overcome in-group bias and its expression as prejudice. We will explore the potential for embodied contemplative practices to disrupt automatic categorization of others and promote prosocial behavior. Deliverables include an integrated theoretical model that introduces new practical measures and techniques for reducing bias and prejudice.


“Concepts and Nonconceptuality in Buddhist Philosophy”

Organizer: Evan Thompson
Participants: Evan Thompson, Robert Sharf
Dates: March 22–25, 2018
Location: Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

This workshop focuses on Buddhist philosophical accounts of concepts and nonconceptuality. Understanding these accounts is crucial for the proper investigation of Buddhist contemplative practices. Buddhist practitioners and contemplative scientists often claim that various meditation practices induce nonconceptual modes of experience. But without a precise understanding of concepts, it is impossible to know what it means for an experience to be nonconceptual. Moreover, claims that nonconceptual experiences have psychological benefits run the risk of decontextualizing and thereby distorting these experiences by supposing that they can be characterized outside of the normative and soteriological context of Buddhism as a “path” to “awakening.” It is also important to ask whether any mode of experience that could meet the conditions of being nonconceptual according to a given philosophical or scientific criterion is the kind of experience that would be valued according to a particular Buddhist conception of the path to awakening. Addressing these issues requires that Buddhist philosophy and cognitive science engage each other more extensively than they have to date. A crucial step is to analyze the array of Buddhist philosophical views on conceptuality and nonconceptuality. This step constitutes the motivation and agenda for this workshop. The workshop will be held at the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the papers will be published together in book form.


Apply for a Mind & Life Think Tank Grant

Funding

  • $10,000 to $15,000 per Think Tank.
  • Up to six Think Tanks are funded each year.

Application Process

  • Applications can be submitted year-round.
  • Applications are reviewed and awarded once per year.
  • The application deadline is June 1.
  • Applications are reviewed by a blind interdisciplinary committee.
  • Applicants are notified by the second week of August.
  • International applicants are encouraged to apply.

Program Parameters

  • One- to three-day self-organized gatherings.
  • Ten to 25 participants per Think Tank.
  • Applications must include the names of participants representing diverse disciplinary expertise (minimum three disciplines and three institutions).
  • Must demonstrate relevance to the Mind & Life mission, engage leaders and changemakers, have social and ethical relevance and include diverse perspectives (ethnic, racial, gender, geographical, disciplinary, etc.).
  • Must have clear outcomes and deliverables (white paper, conference, grant, curricular development, etc.).
  • Must have a clearly defined timeline supported by progress reports.
Apply Online Now

Abstracts and Reports

Successful applicants must sign an agreement with Mind & Life to provide:

  • A 150-word abstract of the Think Tank.
  • A one- to two-page summary report, due at the conclusion of the Think Tank.
  • A full impact report detailing the deliverables and outcomes, due 24 months after the Think Tank.
  • Publications or other productions from the Think Tanks must acknowledge support by the Mind & Life Institute.
  • Outcomes, deliverables and insights from Think Tanks may be shared on the Mind & Life website and posted on social media to educate the public.