Mind & Life Institute December 2009 Newsletter


Mind & Life Institute December 2009 Newsletter

Building a scientific understanding

of how to create and maintain a healthy mind

Mind & Life Institute

December 2009 Newsletter


December 2009

Letter from the Chairman

Warmest greetings to you in this

2009 holiday season.

This year has brought new

challenges to each of us,

personally and in our organizational

relationships. But the truth

of life is that challenges are never

ending; we each deal with many

every day. The work of the Mind

& Life Institute is to provide the scientific understanding

of how to develop methods, tools and

practices to cultivate our minds to be more effective

in meeting challenges, developing mental fitness,

emotional balance, kindness and compassion.

As we at the Mind & Life Institute face our constant

stream of daily challenges, we also reflect on the

cumulative success of our 22 years of work. In this

issue of our newsletter, we give a snapshot of Mind

& Life XIX: Educating World Citizens for the 21 st

Century, which we recently held in Washington DC.

This conference produced a dialogue among a group

of world-renowned thinkers, including the Dalai

Lama on the critical issues of how we educate

ourselves and our children to meet the challenges we

will continue to face. We have produced a DVD of

this event which is available for purchase from our

website www.educatingworldcitizens.org/ewc_dvd.html.

We also call your attention to Mind & Life XX:

Altruism and Compassion in Economic Systems: A

Dialogue between Economics, Neuroscience and

Contemplative Sciences, which will be held in Zurich

on April 9–11, 2010; www.compassionineconomics.org.

I just returned from Zurich where all our speakers

and panelists gathered for three stimulating days to

refine our meeting agenda and prepare for our

dialogue together. This conference launches our

work in Europe and we hope our European friends

will join us.

One of the most significant indicators of the success

of our work is the growth of the emerging fields of

Contemplative Neuroscience; Contemplative Clinical

Science and Contemplative Education. Since we

began our research agenda in 2003, the number of

research scientists involved in these fields have

grown from a handful to literally hundreds.

Moreover, there are growing numbers of other

established research centers or research groups that

trace their lineage to their association with Mind &

Life Institute. In this issue we are beginning to

feature scientists and research centeres that have

become important collaborators in the establishment

of these emerging fields.

We thank each and every one of you for your

continued interest in and support of the work of the

Mind & Life Institute. By working together to

develop ways to cultivate qualities of mind that

support our human family, we can more wisely meet

the long- and short-term challenges we inevitably


We wish you warmest regards for the holidays,

Adam Engle

Chairman and CEO



December 2009

Educating Whole-Hearted World Citizens

Linda Darling-Hammond, His Holiness the Dalai

Lama, Roshi Joan Halifax (back)

Mind & Life XIX: Educating

World Citizens for the 21st

Century: Educators, Scientists

and Contemplatives Dialogue

on Cultivating a Healthy Mind,

Brain and Heart took place

October 8– 9, 2009, at the

DAR Constitution Hall in

Washington, DC. The crisp,

fall setting of the capital, where

the Dalai Lama had meetings

also with the State Department

and on Capitol Hill, was a

reminder of the ambitious

scope of this particular Mind &

Life dialogue. Its goals

encompass public policy on

education, reforms that will

affect the lives of countless

young people, and the nature of

the world that the next

generation will shape.

The conference was the

culmination of three years of

work by the Mind & Life Education Research

Network (MLERN), a multidisciplinary intellectual

forum exploring issues at the intersection of mind,

brain, education and contemplative practice. Directed

by Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of

Wisconsin, MLERN has forged a leadership role in

stimulating research into developmentally

appropriate, secular ways of bringing contemplative

practices into the educational arena. The intent of the

conference was to catalyze a paradigm shift from an

educational system focused narrowly on cognitive

and academic learning to a more holistic vision of

education that will prepare young people in body,

heart and mind for the challenges of life in the 21 st

century. An increasingly globalized and interdependent

world will only be sustainable if its citizens

manifest creativity, compassion, and a strong sense

of ethical responsibility to all humanity.

How can we restructure our educational system to

foster these social, emotional, and ethical qualities in

young people in addition to cognitive skills

Contemplative traditions like Buddhism have honed

practices that approach attention, emotional balance,

compassion, kindness, and empathy as learnable

skills. The ability to be mindful of one’s own

attention and emotions, and to direct them

consciously, is a powerful skill that supports

An increasingly globalized and interdependent

world will only be sustainable if its citizens

manifest creativity, compassion, and a strong

sense of ethical responsibility to all humanity.

academic learning and positive social relationships.

Compassion and empathy are essential to moral

development and to any vision of a kinder, more just,

and more caring society.

The synergy of the combined expertise of educators,

neuroscientists and contemplatives was at the heart

of the dialogue. Educators in particular spoke with a

passion that was unprecedented in the Mind & Life

arena. Marian Wright Edelman, founder and

president of the Children’s Defense Fund, gave what

moderator Daniel Goleman described as “a call to

open arms,” advocating urgently for the reform of a

broken educational system that is particularly failing

children in poverty.

continued on page 3

Thupten Jinpa,

Lee Shulman,

Richie Davidson



December 2009

MLERN Core members Jacquelynne Eccles, Richard

Davidson, Linda Lantieri, and Mark Greenberg played

key roles in advancing the dialogue, building on a

foundation of evidence drawn from extensive research

on social-emotional learning in children. Studies on

the positive neuroscientific and psychological effects

of contemplative practices in adults point to the

possibility of adapting such practices for children and

adolescents. Developmental issues are critical here.

Takao Hensch, Professor of Neurology at Harvard

Medical School, spoke of windows of opportunity in

which the developing brain is optimally receptive for

the cultivation of particular mental qualities associated

with attention, emotion, empathy and compassion.

Also critical, as educators know well, are the

significant challenges in translating research from the

constrained conditions of the laboratory to more

complex, real-world classroom situations.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was actively engaged in

every session, sharing insights drawn from his personal

experience, childhood memories, and the Tibetan

monastic educational system. Most of all, he grounded

the discussion by keeping the larger purpose—“how to

make a better human society”—constantly in view.

Others who contributed from the contemplative side

were the venerable Matthieu Ricard, Anne Klein,

professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, and

Thupten Jinpa, who also served as interpreter for His

Holiness. Martin Brokenleg added a unique

perspective as both a Christian minister and a leader of

youth development programs based on Native

American traditions.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at

Stanford University, named as one of the nation’s ten

most influential people affecting educational policy

over the last decade, addressed the issue of how to

translate research findings and successful pilot

programs into broad policy. We had heard from

several speakers over the course of the meeting about

exemplary programs already active in schools and

communities that are successfully using creative

approaches to social and emotional learning, or

beginning to introduce contemplative techniques.

Darling-Hammond offered her own examples of

inspiring model programs. “We need policies,” she

said, “that make such schools the norm and not the


In the closing session, Lee Shulman, President

Emeritus of the Carnegie Foundation for the

Advancement of Teaching, acknowledged the extraordinary

complexity of teaching as a profession where

every day a teacher might have to address the

different cognitive and emotional needs of thirty

individual children simultaneously. Teachers

themselves have an urgent need for training in

contemplative practices in order to improve their own

emotional and attentional skills, as well as to acquire

a genuine experience of such practices if they are to

embody and teach them effectively. The message

clearly resonated with the many teachers and graduate

students of education among the audience.

The complete conference is now available on DVD

online at www.educatingworldcitizens.org/ ewc_dvd.html

To find out more about the conference, visit:


(left to right)

Takao Hensch,

Linda Darling-Hammond,

Roshi Joan Halifax,

The Dalai Lama,

Thupten Jinpa,

Lee Shulman,

Richie Davidson



December 2009

Zürich Participants Gather for Pre-Conference Meeting

Adam Engle, Gabi Reinhardt, Beat Curti, Bill Harbaugh, Heather Locke, Connie and Barry

Hershey, Nicolas Oltramare (right front)

for the first time in history, some of the

foremost minds in applied and theoretical economics,

neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and contemplative

science are coming together to explore the

opportunities to craft an economic culture that is

sustainable and serves all humanity. On December

10–12, 2009, participants hailed from around the

globe to gather in Zürich for a pre-conference

meeting to plan the agenda for the first public Mind

& Life event in Europe, sponsored by Mind & Life


The participant’s level of commitment and dedication

to prepare for an upcoming dialog is humbling. All

totaled, they have committed more than six days of

time to ensure that the dialogs on compassion and

economics are meaningful and beneficial. They

arrived as strangers, with a mission to delve deeper

into the topic of compassion in economics. After three

days of discussions and planning, sharing in meals

and missions, philosophies and philanthropy, they

parted friends; engaged, committed and intrigued

with the possibilities for the future.

This spring, the participants will have the opportunity

to fully engage in this fascinating dialog with His

Holiness the Dalai Lama. On April 9–11, 2010, The

Mind & Life Institute will hold Mind & Life XX:

Altruism and Compassion in Economic Systems: A

Dialogue between Economics, Neuroscience and

Contemplative Sciences at the Kongresshaus in

Zürich, Switzerland. This dialogue will interface

economics, neuroscience and contemplative sciences

to discuss the profound moral and ethical issues that

lie at the heart of today’s global economics.

The ongoing global financial crisis shows clearly just

how vulnerable economic systems are to human

behavior, particularly to corruption and greed. It

stands to reason that pro-social human behavior such

as empathy, compassion and altruism could play a

role in creating and supporting a more just and

sustainable economic system.

But can we really imagine an economic system that

delivers prosperity and welfare, or is competition an

unavoidable instinct of the human race How can

we, as individuals, help form a society that is

productive and resolves societal and economic

problems What have the sciences to contribute - if

anything at all

To find out more about the event, visit


To register and purchase tickets, visit


Matthieu Ricard, Diego Hangartner

Pre-conference group discussion



December 2009

Francisco J. Varela Research Award Update

Featured Young Scientist:

Area of Research:



Baljinder Sahdra, Ph.D.

[click here to see Baljinder’s profile]

Measurement and Correlates of Nonattachment

University of California, Davis

Dr. Phillip R. Shaver, Distinguished Professor of

Psychology, Center for Mind and Brain, University of

California, Davis; Speaker and Panelist at Mind & Life

XII, Neuroplasticity: The Neuronal Substrates of

Learning and Transformation October, 2004,

Dharamsala, India.

Measuring Nonattachment

Baljinder Sahdra began her journey with The Mind &

Life Institute when she attended Mind & Life XIII:

The Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation,

a dialog with the Dalai Lama in 2005. At the event,

she found out about the research endeavors supported

by The Mind & Life Institute, attended our Summer

Research Institute in 2007 and applied for a Francisco

J. Varela Research Award. She has since attended our

Summer Research Institute in 2008 and 2009.

“I was working as a post-doctorate researcher at UC

Davis on the Shamatha Project,” Baljinder said. “In

Dr. Shaver’s lab we study attachment in adulthood.

While there are 30-plus years of research on

attachment in Western psychology, what’s not so

well-studied is the Buddhist concept of nonattachment.

So I began thinking about how these two

parallel systems talk about attachment in different


In January, 2008, Baljinder was awarded the Varela

Research Award on her proposal to create an

instrument to measure nonattachment, a measure

necessary to carry out further research on the effects

and implications of the practice of nonattachment.

“The award was tremendously helpful,” Baljinder

said. “I don’t think the research could have happened

otherwise. While it didn’t pay my salary or personal

expenses, I was able to purchase a very large,

nationally representative sample of American adults,

which helped in designing a psychometrically sound


Baljinder’s research generated a 30-item, self-report

scale to measure nonattachment. Her research will be

published in the March, 2010 issue of the Journal of

Personality Assessment. For a pre-press version of

the publication, click here.

Baljinder has reapplied to The Mind & Life Institute

for a second Varela Research Award to take her

research to the next level. “I am building on this

research and trying to investigate how nonattachment

might affect memories of historical injustices in

intergroup conflicts,” she said. “Members of

victimized and perpetrator groups tend to get

‘attached’ to or mentally stuck on their divergent

accounts of historical intergroup conflicts, and that

prevents reconciliation and can perpetuate animosity

and even violence. This is a very important topic

globally; consider the Tibet-China and Israel-

Palestine conflicts, for example. The idea of investigating

the role of nonattachment in historical

memory is highly novel. Conceivably, nonattachment

can help loosen the grip on rigid accounts of history,

help move beyond an impasse, and thus support

reconciliation and peace. But these ideas remain to

be empirically examined.”

The Mind & Life Institute is very proud of Baljinder

and her research. We congratulate Baljinder on her

excellent work and look forward to her years of

contribution as her research unfolds and her career




December 2009

MLI Board Member Richard Davidson Establishes New Research Center

In 1990, the Mind & Life Institute invited world-renowned affective neuroscientist Dr.

Richard Davidson to participate in Mind & Life III on Emotions and Healing. In the

ensuing years, Richie has organized and participated in numerous Mind & Life dialogues

with the Dalai Lama, helped start the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute and the

Varela Research Awards, directed the Mind & Life Education Research Network, joined

the board of the Mind & Life Institute, and established research programs in his lab at the

University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the effects of meditation on brain and

behavior. The Mind & Life Institute owes its success in large part to Richie’s wise

guidance and unflinching dedication.

The Mind & Life Institute congratulates and supports

the establishment of Richie’s new Center for Investigating

Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center,

University of Wisconsin-Madison. The center

includes a diverse mix of scientists from several

different disciplines as well as scholars in the

humanities. It uses the plural “healthy minds” to

convey that there are many ways to have a healthy

mind, and it is dedicated to studying this diversity.

The word “investigating” is used since we do not yet

know exactly what constitutes healthy qualities of

mind. Part of the Center’s mission is to conduct

research explicitly examining this question.

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds is one of

the world’s leading scientific groups dedicated to the

study of how contemplative practices might play a

useful role in changing the mind in a positive

manner. If these practices are to gain widespread

acceptance in such fields as science, medicine, and

education, it is imperative to develop an understanding

of how meditation affects the brain. This

work can provide novel insights into relations

between brain and body. Some research is beginning

to suggest that contemplative practice may be

potentially helpful for certain neurological,

psychiatric, and health conditions including attention

deficit-hyperactivity disorder, depression, hypertension,

and asthma. By studying how contemplative

practices change both the brain and peripheral

biology (biology below the neck), the connection

between the brain and certain peripheral biological

functions (e.g., lung function) and physical diseases

(e.g., asthma) can be ascertained.

Using state-of-the-art methods in cognitive, affective

and social neuroscience and modern biology, the

Center for Investigating Healthy Minds is dedicated

to rigorous scientific research and translating how

such research can best be used to nurture positive

qualities of mind including kindness, compassion

and focused attention.

An important Center activity is outreach through

translational research. The Center for Investigating

Healthy Minds is committed to providing intervention

programs for members of the local community

including educators, parents, and children. In the

course of these offerings, Center researchers will

collect pilot data to help identify core features of the

interventions, obtain evidence related to optimal

timing and dosage, and examine novel measures

designed to reflect different positive qualities.

The Dalai Lama and the Mind & Life Institute will

participate in the formal dedication and public

opening of the Center for Investigating Healthy

Minds on May 16, 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Richie Davidson, Matthieu Ricard



Spring 2009

Annual Appeal Letter

Why Give

The work of the Mind

& Life Institute is

supported almost

entirely from contributions

and grants from

individuals and family

foundations. We have

received a few grants

from institutional

foundations, and over the years we have had a few

events for which we have charged admission, but the

survival of Mind & Life Institute depends upon the

kindness and generosity of people who support our

vision and mission and have confidence in our ability

to execute our strategy.

Our vision is huge. We recognize that the health,

wellbeing and happiness of both individuals and

societies are primarily dependant on the thoughts,

emotions and decisions we have individually or

collectively. The sad truth today is that while some of

the significant challenges we face flow from the

natural course of living (sickness, old age, death,

accidents, natural disasters like earthquakes and

Imagine a worldwide dialog about what

humans need to live and survive – together,

with respect, dignity, abundance and social

and economic sustainability.

such) many and perhaps most of our challenges we

create for ourselves and the world: global warming,

starvation, financial crises, war, terrorism, and on an

individual level, insecurities, fears and anger which

is based on worries about the future. Mark Twain is

rumored to have said, “Most of the things I have

worried about never, ever happened!”

Now, for the first time in history, science has the tool

to investigate how the mind, brain and human

biology work together, and how purposeful training

of our minds, guided by the wisdom of the contemplative

traditions, can cultivate a truly healthy and

resilient human mind; a mind capable of sustained

attention, emotional balance, kindness compassion

and confidence.

Advancing this understanding is the work of the

Mind & Life Institute. Over the past 22 years, under

Mind & Life XII (2004) on Neuroplasticity

the leadership of the Dalai Lama, other contemplatives

and world renowned scientists and scholars, the

Mind & Life Institute has become a world leading

pioneer and primary catalyst in this emerging field.

Our ability to continue to lead this critical

development depends upon your kindness and

generosity. We have the intellectual capital and

management experience to continue this work.

However, as our work grows, we need additional

financial partners to join us.

We want you to grow with us as we grow our collaborative

community. Together, we can build on our

vision for understanding, awareness and a better

world. Your donation is paramount in ensuring that the

important work we do with scientists and contemplatives

around the world continues. Without supporters

like you who see the value in the change we all seek,

we could not continue. Please consider making a

donation to The Mind & Life Institute this year.

We are deeply grateful to our supporters who have

shared our vision and entrusted us with this important

mission so far, and we are excited to welcome new

friends joining us in the rich work we do.

Click here to make your year-end donation –

Thank you!

Thank you and warm wishes for Happy Holidays!

The Mind & Life Institute

P.S. Please share this newsletter with your friends

and family.

Mind & Life XIX (2009) on Educating World Citizens

The Mind & Life Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are fully tax-deductible.



December 2009


Mind & Life Dialogues

The titles of these dialogues between the Dalai Lama and leading scientists show the range of topics that the Mind & Life

Institute has explored. For more details on these conferences, please go to www.mindandlife.org.

2009: Educating World Citizens for the 21 st Century: Educators,

Scientists and Contemplatives Dialogue on Cultivating a Healthy

Mind, Brain and Heart, co-sponsored by Harvard University Graduate

School of Education, Stanford University School of Education,

Pennsylvania State University College of Education, University of

Virginia Curry School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

School of Education, the American Psychological Association and the

Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

2009: Attention, Memory, and the Mind

■ 2008: Investigating the Mind-Body Connection: The Science and

Clinical Applications of Meditation, hosted by Mayo Clinic

■ 2007: Mindfulness, Compassion and the Treatment of Depression,

co-sponsored by Emory University

■ 2007: The Universe in a Single Atom

■ 2005: Investigating the Mind: The Science and Clinical Applications

of Meditation, co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medical University

and Georgetown Medical Center

■ 2004: Neuroplasticity: The Neuronal Substrates of Learning and


■ 2003: Investigating the Mind: Exchanges between Buddhism and

Biobehavioral Science on How the Mind Works, co-sponsored by the

McGovern Institute at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

■ 2002: The Nature of Matter, The Nature of Life

2001: Transformations of Mind, Brain and Emotion at the University

of Wisconsin

■ 2000: Destructive Emotions

1998: Epistemological Questions in Quantum Physics and Eastern

Contemplative Sciences at Innsbruck University

■ 1997: The New Physics and Cosmology

■ 1995: Altruism, Ethics, and Compassion

■ 1992: Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying

■ 1990: Emotions and Health

■ 1989: Dialogues between Buddhism and the Neurosciences

■ 1987: Dialogues between Buddhism and the Cognitive Sciences

Mind & Life Books and DVD Sets

The following books and DVD sets describe discussions between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists. Books in print can be

obtained from major booksellers; DVD sets are available directly from the Mind & Life Institute. For more information about

each title, please go to www.mindandlife.org.

■ The Science of a Compassionate Life, DVD from the Dalai Lama’s

Denver Public Talk in 2006

■ The Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation, DVD from Mind

& Life XIII in 2005

■ Train your Mind; Change your Brain, from Mind & Life XII in 2004

■ Investigating the Mind, DVD from Mind & Life XI in 2003

■ The Dalai Lama at MIT, from Mind & Life XI in 2003

Mind & Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of

Reality, from Mind & Life X in 2002

■ Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama,

from Mind & Life VIII in 2002

■ The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama,

from Mind & Life VI in 1997

■ Visions of Compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists,

from Mind & Life V in 1995

■ Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying: An Exploration of Consciousness

with the Dalai Lama, from Mind & Life IV in 1992

■ Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on

Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, from Mind & Life III in 1990

■ Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversations with the Dalai Lama

on Brain Science and Buddhism, from Mind & Life II in 1989

■ Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences

of Mind, from Mind & Life I in 1987

Mind & Life Research Initiatives

Mind & Life Summer Research Institute — A week-long residential

science retreat for 185 scientists, clinicians, contemplative

scholar/practitioners and philosophers from around the world,

working together to develop new fields of science and studies that

examine the effects of contemplative practice and mental training on

brain, behavior, philosophy, religious studies and the humanities.

This is an annual program of the Mind & Life Institute and was begun

in June, 2004, and has continued yearly since then.

Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grant Program — providing

small research grants to investigate hypotheses developed at the ML

Summer Research Institute. 10 to 15 Varela Awards are given yearly.

Mind & Life Education Research Network — exploring how to bring

the benefits of mental training in clarity, calmness and kindness to


Mind & Life Institute • 7007 Winchester Circle, Suite 100 • Boulder, CO 80301

Phone: 303-530-1940 • Email: info@mindandlife.org • Website: www.mindandlife.org

© Copyright 2009 The Mind & Life Institute. All Rights Reserved


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