Mind & Life

By Mind & Life Institute

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Exploring frontiers of contemplative science—discussing mind, meditation, and more.

Episode Date
Doris Chang - Critical Consciousness

dorischang_sq.jpgIn this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical psychologist Doris Chang about her work on race, ethnicity, culture, and other dimensions of social identity as they shape psychological experience and mental health treatment. They discuss a number of topics, including:

  • Critical Consciousness as the ability to recognize and analyze systems of inequality, and the commitment to take action against these systems;
  • that race is a social construct, not a biological fact;
  • the impact of race on measures of well-being and health;
  • how she brings critical consciousness into the classroom, and how it unfolds with students;
  • the role of contemplative practice in becoming aware of systems of oppression;
  • her research on these training programs;
  • where contemplative science needs to go next, and other topics.

Full show notes and resources

Aug 05, 2020
Richie Davidson - The Science of Meditation

In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist, psychologist, and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, Richard (Richie) Davidson. Richie is one of the founders of contemplative science, and shares his perspective on the past, present, and future of the field. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his early interest in the mind and experiences with meditation;
  • the beginnings of meditation research, and a challenge from the Dalai Lama;
  • what we know (and don't know) about how meditation changes the brain;
  • how investigating the self can lead to resilience;
  • current challenges to the field of contemplative science;
  • the need for research on analytic meditation;
  • negative findings and publication bias;
  • promises and pitfalls of research on psychedelics;
  • the value of training well-being, and other topics.

Full show notes and resources

Jul 22, 2020
Tanya Luhrmann - How Social Worlds Shape Our Minds


In this episode, Wendy speaks with anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann about how practices embedded in social realities change our minds and our experiences. They discuss:

  • her research on unusual spiritual experiences (voices, visions);
  • her work with magic practitioners and evangelical Christian communities;
  • the boundary between reality and imagination;
  • local theory of mind;
  • the psychological constructs of absorption and porosity, and how they relate to these spiritual experiences;
  • how mental training and mindfulness affect the way we relate to our thoughts;
  • the impacts of a relationship with the divine for self and society, and other topics.

Full show notes and resources

Jul 08, 2020
Amishi Jha - Attention, Mind Wandering, and Stress

In this episode, Wendy speaks with cognitive and contemplative neuroscientist Amishi Jha about using mindfulness to train attention, and its usefulness particularly in high-stress situations. They cover many topics, including:

  • her own experience of high stress and how that brought her to contemplative practice;
  • her research on how mindfulness can train attention and working memory;
  • the relationship between attention and stress;
  • bringing mindfulness to military populations;
  • the pros and cons of a wandering mind;
  • mindfulness during COVID;
  • the state of contemplative science, and current issues around gender and racial diversity.

Full show notes and resources

Jun 24, 2020
john powell - Othering and Belonging

In this episode, Wendy speaks with law professor and civil rights expert john a. powell about his work at the intersection of social justice and spirituality. This conversation was recorded during the 2019 Summer Research Institute. They discuss a wide range of topics, including:

  • the problem of othering;
  • the roots of whiteness;
  • recent changes in the world and how we react to them;
  • how our minds create mental schemas;
  • implicit bias and how to change it;
  • the importance of narrative and bridging stories, and the role of leadership;
  • the self as a construction;
  • spirituality and interconnection;
  • the roles of science and religion in society;
  • identity politics, and more.

Full show notes and resources

Jun 10, 2020
Willa Miller - Meditating with the Body

Willa_Miller_sq.jpgIn this episode, Wendy speaks with meditation teacher and Buddhist scholar Willa Miller about her work, and how the body is relevant in meditation. They cover many topics, including:

  • the roots of her interest in Buddhism and early experiences of Buddhism in action;
  • a research study about meditation and real-world compassionate behavior in which she was involved and various interpretations of the results;
  • how qualities like curiosity and compassion that we develop toward our own mental states in meditation might transfer to others;
  • the most relevant outcomes for contemplative scientists to be measuring;
  • role of the body in contemplative practice;
  • three natural metaphors for what she calls "somatic mindfulness" practice;
  • the role of letting go, and the importance of trust and how to foster it;
  • and implications of these ideas for how we view ourselves, and our interconnection with others and the world around us.
May 27, 2020
Anil Seth - How Our Minds Predict Our Reality


In this episode, Wendy speaks with cognitive scientist Anil Seth about his work on consciousness and the mind. They discuss the idea of the brain as a prediction machine; how perception is a kind of "controlled" hallucination; the self as a construction and implications for psychiatric disorders; connections between this view of the mind and Buddhist ideas; how these views might inform our subjective experience; the important role of the body in perception; the connection between life and mind (and Anil's views on panpsychism); emotions as prediction and interoception; the question of free will; communicating science to a public audience, and other topics.

May 13, 2020
Thupten Jinpa - Cultivating Compassion

In this inaugural episode, Wendy speaks with Buddhist scholar, author, and longtime translator for the Dalai Lama, Thupten Jinpa. Their conversation covers many topics, including: how he met and started working with the Dalai Lama, and insights from 35 years of translating for him; the relationship of language and mind; how to deal with self-consciousness; the dialogue between Buddhism and science; first- and third-person ways of investigating the mind that are central to the science of meditation; sources of valid evidence and knowledge; the mind as more than the brain; the relevance of compassion for well-being and a program he developed to cultivate it; the value of mental training in the time of COVID, and other topics.

Apr 29, 2020
Mind & Life Trailer

We're looking forward bringing you conversations with leading experts about mind, meditation, and more. Hear what we're about, and subscribe today so you don't miss an episode.

Mar 26, 2020