“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: David Vago
Participants: Norm Farb, Bo Forbes, David Vago, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, William Cunningham, Julian Thayer, James Coan, Mahzarin Benaji, Rhonda Magee, Jonathan Haidt, Leroy Little Bear, John Dunne
Date: Summer 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.