Mind & Life

Mind & Life Institute

Exploring frontiers of contemplative science

  • 1 hour 11 minutes
    Eve Ekman – Building Emotion Awareness

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with social scientist and meditation teacher Eve Ekman. Eve's work integrates contemplative practice and modern psychology to help people learn about and work with their emotions. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • her early exposure to Tibetan culture and Buddhism;
    • emotion regulation vs. awareness;
    • reappraisal and self-compassion;
    • labeling feelings & being seen;
    • handshake meditation practice;
    • mapping an emotion: trigger, experience, and response;
    • the complexity of what shapes each moment;
    • becoming more sensitive through meditation;
    • constructive vs. destructive emotions, and the complexities of anger;
    • understanding equanimity;
    • leveraging technology to help awareness and tracking of emotions;
    • helping Apple incorporate well-being practices into its platforms;
    • teaching meditation through the Cultivating Emotional Balance program;
    • the Atlas of Emotion (free online resource);
    • and life lessons from surfing.

    Full show notes and resources

    13 June 2024, 8:27 am
  • 57 minutes 51 seconds
    Dave Vago – Meditation, Neuroscience, and Self

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative neuroscientist Dave Vago. Dave has been studying the brain, meditation, and the self for over two decades, and has developed several models of how mindfulness might work from cognitive and neurobiological perspectives. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • his intertwined interests in brain, mind, self, philosophy, and religion;
    • the temporal nature of memory;
    • mindfulness for fibromyalgia and chronic pain;
    • unconscious attentional bias;
    • sticky thoughts and how they change with meditation;
    • the role of the self in contemplative practice (S-ART model);
    • meta-awareness and decentering;
    • the centrality of inhibitory control in contemplative practice;
    • dissolving the self/other divide;
    • integrating wisdom to create meaning;
    • how meditation can shift attentional bias at very early levels of processing;
    • the deeply interconnected nature of brain function;
    • self-pattern theory and (in)flexibility in the mind;
    • mindfulness and the glymphatic system, and implications for sleep and neurodegenerative disorders;
    • and the new academic society for contemplative research (ISCR).

    Full show notes and resources

    3 June 2024, 8:23 am
  • 1 hour 7 minutes
    Tawni Tidwell – Between Life and Death

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with biocultural anthropologist and Tibetan medical doctor Tawni Tidwell. Tawni's research focuses on living—and dying—with greater awareness and well-being, and integrates multiple biological and cultural perspectives on mind-body systems. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • merging interests in biology, culture, ecology, nature, and medicine;
    • how our minds shape our bodies;
    • the holistic approach of Tibetan medicine;
    • understanding constitutions and individual proclivities;
    • the subtle body and consciousness;
    • studying monastics who are able to extend the death process (Tukdam project);
    • implications for life, death, and the nature of consciousness;
    • individual differences and determining which practices might be best for someone;
    • studying Tibetan medicine's approach to treating COVID;
    • and coming back to our bodies, our communities, and our environments.

    Full show notes and resources

    16 May 2024, 8:16 am
  • 58 minutes 51 seconds
    Brian Dias – Epigenetics and Intergenerational Trauma

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist and trauma researcher Brian Dias. Brian is one of the pioneers in understanding how trauma can be transferred between generations. Research in this space has helped fuel a major revolution in biology, because itmeans that not just our genes, but some aspects of our experiences can be inherited. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • his path into studying trauma;
    • how trauma can pass through generations;
    • links with the Buddhist concept of karma;
    • understanding epigenetics & the interplay between genes and environment;
    • implications for inheritance and evolution;
    • whether such intergenerational transmission is helpful or harmful;
    • epigenetic clocks in our cells;
    • how trauma affects brain development;
    • sociocultural, developmental, and biological pathways for transmission of experiences;
    • creating legacies of flourishing;
    • lessons learned from collaborating with Tibetan monastics;
    • providing resources to parents to try to halt legacies of trauma;
    • impacts of stress on our mitochondria and microbiome;
    • and scientists as humans first.

    Full show notes and resources

    2 May 2024, 8:18 am
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    Jyoti Mishra – Mindfulness and Climate Trauma

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist and mental health researcher Jyoti Mishra. Jyoti has been investigating how mindfulness and attention training affect our brains, and can help in the context of mental health challenges related to climate disasters and other trauma. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • her intertwined interests in neuroscience, meditation, and mental health;
    • understanding climate trauma and its unique impacts on mental health;
    • community resilience and action in the face of disaster;
    • the rise of mental health issues worldwide;
    • studying the mental health and brain function impacts of the deadliest fire in CA history;
    • healing broken relationships with nature through mindfulness and ecotherapy;
    • social justice issues around climate vulnerability;
    • how childhood adversity affects brain circuitry for emotional awareness;
    • developing contemplative tech interventions for disadvantaged youth, and impacts on brain and daily life functioning;
    • nature and the sense of self;
    • regulating the stress response through mindfulness and social connection;
    • and empowering youth through the Climate Change & Mental Health Initiative.

    Full show notes and resources

    18 April 2024, 8:17 am
  • 47 minutes 32 seconds
    Simon Goldberg – The Shape of Healing

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with psychologist and contemplative researcher Simon Goldberg. Simon uses tools drawn from psychotherapy research to better understand the therapeutic processes and outcomes of mindfulness and meditation-based interventions. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • coming to practice through one's own suffering;
    • what we know from science about whether and how meditation "works;"
    • the nuts and bolts of meditation research, and the importance of control groups;
    • the file drawer effect and publishing negative findings;
    • common factors in healing interventions;
    • working with the self in psychotherapy vs. Buddhism;
    • the critical role of acceptance;
    • some challenges when measuring effects of meditation;
    • individualizing contemplative practice to suit the person;
    • delivering and studying meditation interventions through apps;
    • and the possibilities of AI to help support meditation practice.

    Full show notes and resources

    4 April 2024, 8:23 am
  • 1 hour 4 minutes
    Diana Chapman Walsh – Contemplative Leadership

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with educational leader, writer, and climate activist Diana Chapman Walsh. Diana had a long and successful career in public health at Boston and Harvard University, and then became the president of Wellesley College, a position she held for 14 years. Diana has become an icon in educational leadership, and advocates that education can be both an intellectual and a spiritual journey. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • her path into contemplative practice and leadership;
    • the importance of knowing and questioning oneself;
    • vulnerability and responsibility in leadership;
    • how the qualities of a leader influence the system they are leading;
    • hierarchical vs. inclusive systems;
    • the five principles of trustworthy leadership;
    • interconnectedness as an underlying truth;
    • building community amidst the climate crisis;
    • how feedback loops can accelerate harm or spur change;
    • and encouragement to tell our stories.

    Full show notes and resources

    21 March 2024, 8:24 am
  • 46 minutes 12 seconds
    Daniel Goleman – Beyond Emotional Intelligence

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with psychologist and author Daniel Goleman. Dan has been fostering and contributing to contemplative science since the very early days of the conversation between science and Buddhism, and his long experience with meditation helped shape his notable work on emotional intelligence. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • his interest in both Western and Asian systems of mind;
    • his relationship with the Dalai Lama and involvement in Mind & Life dialogues;
    • how the conversation between science and Buddhism has influenced both sides;
    • when emotions become "destructive;"
    • the birth of contemplative science;
    • social emotional learning (SEL) in education;
    • links between emotional intelligence and contemplative science;
    • "McMindfulness" and the varying goals of practice;
    • nonconceptual states and dissolving the self;
    • navigating the complexities of science communication;
    • the latest research on emotional intelligence in organizations;
    • how awareness is (or isn't) showing up in the world;
    • and how he relates to meditation now.

    Full show notes and resources

    7 March 2024, 9:22 am
  • 1 hour 5 minutes
    Robin Nusslock – How Stress Gets Under Our Skin

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist Robin Nusslock. Robin has long been interested in the mind through both scientific and Buddhist lenses, and he trained with Richie Davidson. His work focuses on the brain's role in our emotional life, how stress impacts many of our bodily systems, as well as social determinants of health. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • his long interest in mind & Buddhism;
    • basic pathways of how stress gets into the body;
    • how the brain learns threat and safety;
    • effects of early life trauma on brain and behavior;
    • our brain's reward systems and relevance to Buddhist ideas;
    • craving and addiction;
    • pathways toward change, neuroplasticity and pause;
    • social and environmental determinants of health;
    • epigenetics and intergenerational trauma;
    • biology is not destiny;
    • how we can intervene and promote flourishing;
    • family-level interventions;
    • reducing exposure to adversity;
    • economic interventions (e.g., universal basic income);
    • teaching science and research to Tibetan monastics;
    • studying lucid dreaming with monks;
    • and fruits of the exchange between Buddhism and science.

    Full show notes and resources

    14 December 2023, 9:15 am
  • 56 minutes 23 seconds
    Hanne De Jaegher – Making Sense Together

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with philosopher and cognitive scientist Hanne De Jaegher. Hanne was influenced by Francisco Varela's ideas from an early age, and has been working to extend enactive theories of mind into social contexts. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • roots in Varela's work and an early interest in thinking;
    • sense-making and embodiment as foundational to cognition;
    • how our habits and models fit (or don't) with our experience;
    • participatory sense-making and the primacy of interaction;
    • how interpersonal dynamics can have a life of their own;
    • loving and knowing, letting others be;
    • over- vs. underdetermining (how our projections of others shape interactions);
    • emotional capacity and dementia;
    • understanding autistic people from their own side;
    • the need for people in dominant positions to listen;
    • the importance of silence in dialogue;
    • problems with the way social media platforms discourage interaction;
    • interactions within one person;
    • synthesis and breakdown;
    • tension between self and interdependence (creating boundaries);
    • and applying these ideas to our relationship with nature.

    Full show notes and resources

    30 November 2023, 9:14 am
  • 54 minutes 16 seconds
    Grant Jones – Music, Meditation, and Healing

    In this episode, Wendy speaks with musician, contemplative, researcher, and activist Grant Jones. Grant is working to develop and implement contemplative and liberatory tools for underserved populations. This conversation covers many topics, including:

    • blending music, psychology, contemplation, and activism;
    • music and mindfulness for healing race-based anxiety;
    • collaborating with Lama Rod Owens, Esperanza Spalding, and others;
    • the absence of research on black music;
    • music medicine vs. music therapy;
    • pleasure activism as a form of disruption;
    • balancing structure and freedom;
    • the Black Lotus Collective;
    • links between psychedelics and meditation;
    • potential benefits and harm of psychedelic treatment, and how race plays in;
    • the power of music to transcend language and culture;
    • balancing identity with non-self;
    • and letting go, having fun, and not being too serious.

    Full show notes and resources

    16 November 2023, 9:16 am
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