Mindfulness and Compassion: The Art and Science of Contemplative Practice
For thousands of years the art of contemplative practice has been used to explore the nature of mind and its potential. Today the emerging science of contemplative practice promises to shed new light on these essential human questions. Facilitating conversation between these two worlds may provide a catalytic mutual benefit, exploring how contemplative practice and scientific research can best inform each other for a greater common good.
To this end we will convene a group of internationally recognized scholars from the sciences and humanities along with leading thinkers in contemplative practice for a multi-disciplinary conference on this issue. Featured speakers include Dr. Josephine Briggs (Director of the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), Robert Thurman (Columbia University), Venerable Ajahn Amaro (abbot of the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery), David Vago (Harvard Medical School), Willoughby Britton (Brown), Clifford Saron (UC Davis), Geoffrey Samuel (Sydney University), Eijun Linda Cutts (San Francisco Zen Center), Gregory Kramer (Insight Dialogue), and many more.
We invite you to join us for what we expect to be a thought provoking, innovative, and informative conference. The meeting will be held June 3-7, 2015 at San Francisco State University … Read More
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., an accomplished researcher and physician, is Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading Federal agency for research on integrative and complementary health practices. At NIH, in addition to leadership of NCCAM, she has served as Acting Director of the Division of Clinical Innovation in the newly established National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Dr. Briggs is also a member of the NIH Steering Committee, the most senior governing board at NIH. She also serves as a member of the NIH Scientific Management Review Board. Dr. Briggs's research interests include the renin–angiotensin system, circadian regulation of blood pressure, and policy and ethical issues around clinical research. She has published more than 175 research articles, book chapters, and other scholarly publications. Dr. Briggs also has served on the editorial boards of several journals and was Deputy Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. She is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a recipient of many awards and prizes, including the Volhard Prize of the German Society of Nephrology, the Alexander von Humboldt Scientific Exchange Award, and NIH Director's Awards for her role in the development of the Trans-NIH Type I Diabetes Strategic Plan, her leadership of the Trans-NIH Zebrafish Committee, and her direction of the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory.
David Vago is an associate psychologist in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and instructor at Harvard Medical School. David has previously held the position of Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute and is currently a Mind and Life Fellow supporting the Mind and Life mission by advising on strategy and programs. David has been specifically investigating brain networks supporting self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence in order to clarify adaptive mind-brain-body interactions and their therapeutic relevance in psychiatric disorders. Functional and structural neuroimaging studies along with self-report and performance-based measures are used to explore contemplative practices that cultivate mindfulness as a state, trait, and memory-related process. In this context, David has been specifically focusing on the study of mindfulness-based interventions in clinical settings, and the basic neuroscientific mechanisms by which mindfulness-based practices function. David is an avid Vipassana, Dzogchen meditation and Hatha Yoga practitioner, and enjoys recreating in the outdoors.
Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, a non-profit affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and dedicated to the publication of translations of important texts from the Tibetan Tengyur. Time chose Professor Thurman as one of its 25 most influential Americans in 1997, describing him as a "larger than life scholar-activist destined to convey the Dharma, the precious teachings of Siddhartha, from Asia to America." The New York Times recently said Thurman "is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism." He is the author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics and culture, including The Central Philosophy of Tibet, Circling the Sacred Mountain, Essential Tibetan Buddhism, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, Worlds of Transformation, Inner Revolution, Infinite Life, and, most recently, Why The Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World. At the request of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Thurman co-founded Tibet House US in 1987 with Richard Gere and Philip Glass. Tibet House US is a non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to the preservation and renaissance of Tibetan civilization. It maintains a lively museum and cultural center, and offers programs in all aspects of the Tibetan arts and sciences.
Born in England in 1956, Ven. Amaro Bhikkhu received his BSc. in Psychology and Physiology from the University of London. Spiritual searching led him to Thailand, where he went to Wat Pah Nanachat, a Forest Tradition monastery established for Western disciples of Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, who ordained him as a bhikkhu in 1979. He returned to England and joined Ajahn Sumedho at the newly established Chithurst Monastery. He resided for many years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, making trips to California every year during the 1990s. In June of 1996 he established Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, where he was co-abbot with Ajahn Pasanno until July, 2010. Ajahn Amaro has written a number of books, including an account of his 830-mile trek from Chithurst to Harnham Vihara called Tudong - the Long Road North, republished in the expanded book Silent Rain. Other works published by him include Small Boat, Great Mountain (2003), Rain on the Nile (2009) and The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana (2009) co-written with Ajahn Pasanno. Ajahn Amaro returned to Amaravati in July, 2010. At that time, he then moved back to Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England to take up the position of abbot of this large monastic community.
Dr. Britton holds a B.A. in Neuroscience and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Public Health at Brown Medical School and Research Director of the Brown University Contemplative Studies Initiative. She received sleep/EEG training at Harvard Medical School and was a Research Fellow at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) and Andrew Weil’s Program in Integrative Medicine. She spent several years in Asia studying meditative techniques and received her mindfulness instructor certification training at the Center for Mindfulness at the UMASS Medical School. She is also investigating the question: Which contemplative practices are best (or worst) suited for which populations, and has received a 5-Year Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health to pursue this question. This April, she was invited to present her research to the Dalai Lama at the Mayo Clinic.
Geoffrey Samuel is Emeritus Professor in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University and Director of the Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR) Research Group, and an Honorary Associate of the Department of Indian Sub-Continental Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is President of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM), and was until recently co-editor of IASTAM's journal Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity.
Born in France in 1946 as the son of French philosopher Jean-François Revel and artist Yahne Le Toumelin, Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, author, translator, and photographer. He first visited India in 1967 where he met great spiritual masters from Tibet. After completing his Ph.D. degree in cell genetics in 1972, he moved to the Himalayan region where he has been living for the past 40 years. His deep and scientifically tinged reflections on happiness and Buddhism have turned into several books, including The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet. At the same time, he also makes sensitive and jaw-droppingly gorgeous photographs of his beloved Tibet and the spiritual hermitage where he lives and works on humanitarian projects. His latest book on happiness is Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill; his latest book of photographs is Tibet: An Inner Journey.
Clifford D. Saron, an Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Mind and Brain and MIND Institute at the University of California at Davis, received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1999. Dr. Saron has had a long-standing interest in the effects of contemplative practice. He has coordinated field research investigating Tibetan Buddhist mind training under the auspices of H. H. the Dalai Lama, served on the Mind and Life Institute’s (MLI) Program and Research Council, and been frequent faculty at the MLI Summer Institute. Dr. Saron is Principal Investigator of the Shamatha Project, a multidisciplinary longitudinal investigation of the effects of long-term intensive meditation on physiological and psychological processes central to well-being, attention, emotion regulation and health. It was conceived with and taught by Alan Wallace, with the talents of a large consortium of researchers at UC Davis and elsewhere. In 2012, Dr. Saron and his colleagues were awarded the inaugural Templeton Prize Research Grant from the John Templeton Foundation to continue this work. Dr. Saron also studies sensory processing and multisensory integration in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Dr. Saron is also part of a large collaborative study examining how mindfulness-based interventions can ease the chronic stress of mothers of children with ASD in ways that may be beneficial for the whole family system and contribute to a lessoning of difficulties for the affected children.
Erika Rosenberg, Ph.D. is a world-renowned expert in facial expressions of emotion, an emotions researcher, a meditation teacher, and a longtime practitioner. At the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis, Dr. Rosenberg is a senior investigator on the Shamatha Project, a multi-disciplinary study of how intensive meditation affects cognition, emotion, and neurophysiology. She consults with both academic and non-academic clients on facial measurement using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), teaches FACS workshops worldwide, and served as Scientific Consultant on the TV drama Lie to Me. Erika is co-author of the Introductory Psychology textbook, Psychology: Perspectives and Connections, now in its third edition with McGraw-Hill, and has authored numerous scientific articles and chapters. Dr. Rosenberg is a senior teacher at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and a faculty member at The Nyingma Institute of Tibetan Studies in Berkeley. She has offered meditation trainings in international venues such as: Lerab Ling Monastery, Upaya Zen Center, the Telluride Institute, and at Google Inc. In 2010, Erika personally presented the Stanford compassion cultivation training program to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Eijun Linda Cutts came to San Francisco Zen Center in 1971 and was ordained as a priest in 1975. She has lived at Tassajara and San Francisco City Center, and has resided at Green Gulch Farm since 1993. In 1996 Linda received dharma transmission from Tenshin Reb Anderson. Having served as Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center from 2000 to 2007, she was appointed Abiding Abbess of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in 2010, and Central Abbess of SFZC in 2014. She continues to teach and lead practice periods and retreats at Tassajara, Green Gulch, Mexico, Italy and elsewhere, and has been leading Yoga-Zen retreats and workshops for many years. Linda sits on the Steering Committee of the California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL), an interfaith group dedicated to addressing climate change through faith-based education and skillful action. She is also on the Board of the Consciousness, Mindfulness & Compassion (CM&C) International Association.
David L. McMahan is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Making of Buddhist Modernism (Oxford, 2008) and Empty Vision: Metaphor and Visionary Imagery in Mahayana Buddhism (Routledge Curzon, 2002), editor of Buddhism in the Modern World (Routledge, 2012), and author of a number of articles on Mahayana Buddhism in South Asia and Buddhism in the modern world. He has written on early Mahayana Buddhist sutra literature, visual metaphors and practice, and the early history of the Mahayana movement in India. More recently, his work has focused on the interface of Buddhism and modernity, including its interactions with science, psychology, modernist literature, romanticism, and transcendentalism. He is currently researching the role of cultural and historical context in Buddhist meditation practices.
Lisa is a private practice psychotherapist in Los Gatos, CA, specializing in mindfulness psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing therapy for depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction and chronic pain. Lisa is the author of a highly regarded textbook on Buddhist psychology for mental health professionals, Effortless Mindfulness: Genuine mental health through awakened presence. Training clinicians in the practical application of Buddhist psychology is her greatest joy. Lisa is also an outpatient provider for the VA San Jose and has taught Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). She has been a yogic and Buddhist meditation practitioner for four decades.
Steven Stanley, Ph.D., works as a Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom. He is a social psychologist interested in the critical and qualitative study of social life, and teaches mindfulness and Qigong courses and retreats, both inside and outside of the university. He has practised meditation since 2000. He is particularly interested in the potentials of early Pāli Buddhist ideas and practices, as well as modern retreat practice, for potentially reorienting our relationship to life in capitalism. In his research, he has investigated historical changes in meanings of mindfulness and meditation, ethics and politics of the mindfulness movement, mindfulness meditation as a psychosocial research methodology, interactional aspects of ‘inquiry’ sequences in mindfulness courses, rhetoric of promotion in mindfulness self-help books, and pluralism in mindfulness-based mental health care interventions. His teaching explores mindfulness and socially engaged Buddhism as styles of contemplative education for social science and Social Work. He has recently completed the Committed Dharma Practitioner Programme (Gaia House/Sharpham House) and will be taking the Pali Summer School (Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies).
Shauna Shapiro, PhD, is a professor, clinical psychologist, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness. With twenty years of meditation experience studying in Thailand and Nepal, as well as in the West, Shapiro brings an embodied sense of mindfulness to her scientific work. She has published over 100 journal articles and chapters, and coauthored the critically acclaimed book, The Art and Science of Mindfulness, as well as her forthcoming book, Mindful Discipline: A loving approach to setting limits and raising an emotionally intelligent child. Dr. Shapiro is the recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies teaching award, acknowledging her outstanding contributions to graduate education, as well as a Contemplative Practice fellow of the Mind and Life Institute co-founded by the Dalai Lama. Dr. Shapiro has been invited to lecture for the King of Thailand, the Danish government, and the World Council for Psychotherapy in Beijing, China. Her work has been featured in Wired, USA Today, Oxygen, The Yoga Jo.
Gregory Kramer is the Founder and Guiding Teacher of Metta Programs and has been teaching Insight Meditation since 1980. He developed the practice of Insight Dialogue and has been teaching it since 1995, offering retreats in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. He has studied with esteemed teachers, including Anagarika Dhammadina, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thero, Achan Sobin Namto, and Ven. Punnaji Maha Thero. Gregory is the author of : Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom (Shambhala), Seeding the Heart: Practicing Lovingkindness with Children, Meditating Together, Speaking from Silence: the Practice of Insight Dialogue, and Dharma Contemplation: Meditating Together with Wisdom Texts.
Award-winning poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight collections of verse, including the newly published The Beauty (2015, which appeared alongside a new book of essays, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, 2015). Her earlier books include Come, Thief (2011), After (2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. Hirshfield has also translated the work of early women poets in collections such as The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1990) and Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (1994). Hirshfield published her first poem in 1973, shortly after graduating from Princeton as a member of the university’s first graduating class to include women. She put aside her writing for nearly eight years, however, to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. “I felt that I’d never make much of a poet if I didn’t know more than I knew at that time about what it means to be a human being,” Hirshfield once said. “I don’t think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn’t just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.” Hirshfield’s many awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She has received honors including the Poetry Center Book Award, Columbia University’s Translation Center Award, the Bay Area Book Reviewer’s Award, the Commonwealth Club of California Poetry Medal, and the Hall-Kenyon Award. In 2004, she was awarded the Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. She was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2012. Hirshfield’s poems reflect, her long-standing interest in biology, as well as physics and other fields of science. She was the 2013 Hellman Visiting Artist in the Neuroscience department at The University of California, San Francisco a program “created to foster dialogue between scientists, caregivers, patients, clinicians and the public regarding creativity and the brain.” She was featured on the highly acclaimed PBS documentary, “The Buddha.”
David Brazier, Ph.D., President of the Instituto Terapia Zen Internacional, Head of the Order of Amida Buddha, Buddhist priest, author of nine previous books, psychotherapist, and social worker. He was fortunate to encounter leading Buddhist teachers at the beginning of his adult life and their teachings spoke to his condition. He travels widely and has been the creator of aid, education and social work projects in Europe, India and elsewhere and of training programmes in Buddhist psychology, Zen Therapy and Buddhist ministry.