With Justice and Contemplation for All

With a focus on the latest in contemplative research from some of the field’s most noted scholars—a goal that’s informed the gathering since its 2012 inception—this year’s International Symposium for Contemplative Research (ISCR) is also moving beyond its roots and broadening its voice. 

That means lively discussions of contemplative practice in the digital age. Dialogue on mindfulness training in high-pressure environments—the military, healthcare, in emergency response—where practitioners strain against the clock. Research on mindfulness’s impact on children in a classroom, its ability to assuage pain, and be a possible salve for those struggling with addiction. And deep thinking about how, and why, social justice, historical inequities and determined inclusion must inform its progress forward.

The planning committee shares that the variety in this year’s conference is quite on purpose, and reflects Mind & Life’s deepening commitment to expanding its message and reach. And diversity won’t only be felt on stage. ISCR 2018 will also draw participants from across the professional spectrum, including students, researchers, practitioners, clinicians, social workers, teachers, and academics alike, when the meeting convenes November 8 to 11 in Phoenix, AZ.

“At Mind & Life’s heart is the hope to bring different voices and perspectives together to foster human flourishing and connection. This is an unparalleled opportunity, stimulated by the latest research, grounded by a variety of experiential contemplative practices, and lifted by powerful performing arts.”

—Susan Bauer-Wu, President, Mind & Life Institute

“As the whole discipline of contemplative studies has evolved, so has this conference,” explains planning committee co-chair Erin McCarthy, a philosophy professor at St. Lawrence University. “I really think it’s representative of the field’s interdisciplinarity, and the palpable sense of growth it has right now. To see the diversity of people and traditions represented—on the stage, in the audience—and the depth of practice and scholarship they bring . . . that’s impressive.”

Topics will be as dynamic as those who’ll lead them: Sona Dimidjian, professor and clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder; Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Zen priest and co-author of “Radical Dharma;” Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center; Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard of Karuna-Shechen; filmmaker Darnell Lamont Walker, producer of “Seeking Asylum;” and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic

Jon Kabat-Zinn, who will offer the closing keynote address; as well as many, many others.

ISCR attendees will also enjoy ample opportunity to explore a variety of contemplative practices on site—with sessions in yoga, qigong, Hebrew sound meditation, prayer, poetry, and other mindfulness exercises, led by some of the world’s most renowned teachers—to keep the scholarship deeply rooted in practice.

“Academics are important,” asserts University of Toronto psychology professor Zindel Segal, ISCR planning committee co-chair, “but especially when studying a contemplative phenomenon, you can’t escape the fact that experiential insights from one’s personal practice, or the practice of experts and adepts, needs to be included to arrive at a fuller understanding.”

“This is not an abstract look at research untethered from the way people live their lives,” adds McCarthy.

In all, the four-day conference aims to spark wide-ranging discussions, practice, and thought, plotting Mind & Life’s forward momentum in a way that is intentionally inclusive, and, as ever, focused on relieving suffering and promoting human flourishing.

“There’s no single action that will help redress imbalances,” says Segal, “but our efforts to organize a program characterized by diversity and inclusion sends an important message to attendees that this work isn’t reserved for one particular group. Ours is work that can be accomplished by individuals from all backgrounds.”

In addition to the keynotes, master lectures, and contemplative practice opportunities, attendees will enjoy more than 200 paper and poster presentations on the latest research, a community fair, and an evening of performing arts with an eclectic mix of music and poetry.

Registration for ISCR 2018 remains open. For more information, visit iscr2018.org.


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