Mind & Life

By Mind & Life Institute

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

Episode Date
Rhonda Magee - Mindfulness, Interconnection, and Justice

In this episode, Wendy speaks with law professor, author, and meditation teacher, Rhonda Magee. Rhonda's work has focused on bringing contemplative approaches into the practice of law, and the fight for social justice. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her path to contemplative practice from roots in the American South;
  • mindfulness in the fight for racial justice;
  • embracing equanimity when you really want a certain outcome;
  • contemplative approaches in law;
  • awakening to our interconnectedness;
  • challenging the idea of one winner/one loser (the adversarial model in law);
  • balancing individual rights with a connected whole;
  • restorative justice and collaborative divorce;
  • how racism harms us all (including white folks);
  • bias, fear and safety in the body;
  • how dominator culture cuts us off from our bodies;
  • racial capitalism;
  • ColorInsight vs. color blindness;
  • and the joy that comes from embracing our shared humanity.

Full show notes and resources

Sep 24, 2021
Jon Kabat-Zinn - The Heart of Mindfulness

We're back with Season 3 of the show, starting with renowned meditation teacher, author, and creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn. This spacious and personal conversation is full of insights on a wide range of topics, including:

  • what drew him to meditation;
  • his development of and vision for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR);
  • the mystery of the line between the inside and outside of any system;
  • adapting Buddhist practices for Western audiences;
  • how mindfulness has been taken up in society, and science as a main driver;
  • moving from "me" to "we";
  • the challenges of repeatability in scientific studies of meditation;
  • weaving together art and science;
  • and how 50+ years of meditation has changed him.

Full show notes and resources


Sep 10, 2021
Vandana Shiva - Earth Democracy

In this bonus episode, we're sharing a special presentation from environmentalist, physicist, and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva. This session is from our Summer Research Institute, held in June of this year, entitled The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis. We're adding this to the podcast feed because Vandana speaks powerfully about how the mind contributes to so many of the world's current emergencies, including health, hunger, poverty, climate, extinction, and injustice, exclusion, and inequality. Countering these outcomes of disconnection, Vandana offers Earth Democracy as a worldview, paradigm, and practice based on the recognition that everything is interconnected. She covers a lot of ground, touching on topics such as:

  • the intellectual architecture of disconnection;
  • the many ramifications of Cartesian dualism;
  • the colonialist mindset of conquest and mastery;
  • mistaken frameworks that try to dominate nature;
  • how dead carbon leads to wars;
  • food and our microbiome;
  • quantum physics and interconnectedness;
  • statistics and updates on the science of climate change;
  • the economy of earth care;
  • and the power of self-organizing systems within nature to heal ourselves and our world.

Full show notes and resources

Aug 13, 2021
David Sloan Wilson - Conscious Evolution

In this bonus episode, Wendy speaks with evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. This episode is being released in conjunction with Mind & Life's new film, Evolution of the Heart — a short documentary covering conversations between the Dalai Lama, David Sloan Wilson, and social scientist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela from a 2019 Mind & Life event in Dharamsala, India. The theme of that gathering was Compassion, Interconnection, and Transformation; please check out the film here! David’s work extends beyond genetics to include personal and cultural evolution, and sheds light on how we can move forward as a global community. In this conversation, they discuss many topics, including:

  • the role of competition, cooperation, and prosocial behavior in human evolution;
  • how evolutionary pressure operates at both individual and group levels (multilevel selection);
  • the possibility of conscious evolution;
  • what it means to be part of a group;
  • expanding the notion of the self;
  • becoming "bilingual" in scientific and spiritual perspectives;
  • the need to create a system of ethics for the whole world;
  • and core design principles for creating more egalitarian and compassionate communities. 

Full show notes and resources

Jul 09, 2021
Dekila Chungyalpa - Human-Earth Connection

In this episode, Wendy speaks with environmentalist Dekila Chungyalpa about her views of nature, the climate crisis, and her unique collaborations with faith leaders. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • growing up in the Himalayas and being interconnected with nature;
  • the dominance of dualistic thinking in the West, and the dangerous separations it creates;
  • embracing a framework of interdependence;
  • the role of indigenous wisdom in conservation;
  • her own experience dealing with eco-anxiety;
  • working with faith leaders to move the needle on environmental issues;
  • weaving together Buddhist values and activism;
  • bridging science and religion;
  • and the need for compassion and community in facing the climate crisis.

Full show notes and resources


May 21, 2021
Peter Wayne - Ecology of Mind

In this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical researcher Peter Wayne about his work on mind-body and movement-based interventions like tai chi. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how a background in ecology informs his research;
  • embracing multiple causes of any outcome;
  • how to do non-reductionist science;
  • removing the hyphen from the mind-body system;
  • harnessing the wisdom of the body through contemplative practice;
  • the value of first-person narrative in research;
  • safety and trauma in the body;
  • the relationship between physical and emotional patterns;
  • how the concept of the subtle body relates to Western views;
  • the role of integrative medicine in dealing with climate change;
  • and bringing together multiple perspectives to investigate the mind & healing.

Full resources and show notes


May 07, 2021
Mingyur Rinpoche - Awareness, Compassion, and Wisdom

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche about how contemplative practice can lead us to awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his involvement in early contemplative research;
  • translating concepts between Buddhism and science;
  • what Buddhists mean by "emptiness";
  • non-conceptual meditation, open presence and foundational awareness;
  • the three kinds of self, and which one is like shaving foam;
  • the problem of othering;
  • making friends with panic and difficult emotions;
  • the experience of a "wandering" retreat;
  • and building trust through contemplative practice.

Full show notes and resources


Apr 22, 2021
Buju Dasgupta - Social Context & Implicit Bias

In this episode, Wendy speaks with social psychologist Buju Dasgupta about her work on implicit bias, and the role of social context in shaping the mind. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her path to merging science and social justice;
  • the crucial role of social context in implicit bias;
  • the malleability of implicit bias & the "wallpaper" of the mind;
  • how scientists measure unconscious processes (like implicit bias);
  • changing bias against women and underrepresented groups in STEM education;
  • links from this work into contemplative science;
  • increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration to advance research around equity;
  • the subtle ways we can change implicit bias by changing the wallpaper of our lives;
  • and turning research into social impact.

Full show notes and resources


Apr 09, 2021
Larry Barsalou - Habits of Mind

In this episode, Wendy speaks with cognitive psychologist Larry Barsalou about his work on grounded cognition, concepts, stress, and habits. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • a historical look at how psychology has viewed and studied the mind;
  • simulation and prediction in the brain;
  • what a concept is, and benefits and harms they can bring;
  • stereotypes, implicit bias, and how we might change them;
  • the "situated action" cycle that drives our behavior;
  • understanding habits, and the role of mindfulness in breaking unhealthy habits;
  • how humans form self-concepts, and how meditation can help us move beyond them;
  • the importance of context (situatedness) in cognition, and how to study it scientifically;
  • and how he got interested in contemplative science.

Full show notes and resources

Mar 26, 2021
Sona Dimidjian - Bringing Relationship into Research

In this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical psychologist and contemplative researcher Sona Dimidjian. Sona's career has focused on using contemplative practices to improve mental health, with a focus on systems of inequality. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her path to contemplative practice and research;
  • using collaborative teams in science to reduce bias;
  • how she applies mindfulness to help with postpartum depression;
  • working with young women around stereotypes about appearance;
  • embodied practices delivered through peer instruction;
  • community-engaged participatory research, working "with" and not "for";
  • creating digital platforms for more equitable dissemination of contemplative programs;
  • and how she brings a lens of anti-racism to her research and teaching.

Full show notes and resources

Mar 12, 2021
John Dunne - At the Crossroads of Buddhism and Science

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Buddhist scholar John Dunne. John has interfaced with contemplative scientists for over two decades to help advance rigorous research on meditation by incorporating a nuanced Buddhist perspective. They touch on many topics, including:

  • his path to integrating Buddhism and science, and the early days of contemplative research;
  • defining "meditation" for research purposes;
  • focused attention vs. open monitoring meditation;
  • a deep dive into meta-awareness;
  • subject/object duality and whether anything really exists;
  • the different ways we experience the sense of self;
  • hallucinogens, ego dissolution, and non-dual practices;
  • decentering and dereification;
  • and where he thinks the field should go next.

Full show notes and resources

Feb 26, 2021
Eric Garland - Working with Addiction & Pain

In this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical researcher and psychotherapist Eric Garland. Eric has spent his career developing effective ways to use mindfulness and other contemplative approaches for problems like addiction and chronic pain. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how early mystical experiences led him to a contemplative path;
  • the power of meditation to heal and restore well-being;
  • self-transcendence and non-dual states of consciousness;
  • the features of his intervention, Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), and its application for addiction and chronic pain;
  • how reappraisal can help in difficult situations;
  • the role of savoring and reconnecting with natural rewards;
  • deconstructing pain;
  • a large clinical trial showing how effective MORE is, and how it might work;
  • and the biggest lesson he's learned from his work so far.

Full show notes and resources

Feb 12, 2021
Anne Klein - The Wisdom of the Body

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Buddhist scholar and teacher Anne Klein. They speak about the role of the body in practice and transformation, and touch on many topics, including:

  • her interest in Buddhism as a lens on the mind;
  • the role of the body in contemplative practice;
  • the dangers of not being embodied;
  • microphenomenology;
  • Eastern conceptions of the subtle/energy body;
  • the construction of self and other;
  • how the body can help us break out of rigid self-concepts;
  • the power of the imagination;
  • why we think things will always stay the same;
  • and how studying the feminine sheds light on interdependence.

Full show notes and resources

Jan 29, 2021
Lisa Feldman Barrett - Your Emotions Aren't What You Think

We launch our second season featuring a conversation with psychologist, neuroscientist, and emotion researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett. She and Wendy discuss a broad range of topics about the mind, including:

  • her unexpected path into studying emotions;
  • how our brains construct and predict our reality;
  • the brain's essential role in regulating the body;
  • emotions as interpretations of our bodily state;
  • how our past shapes and filters our present experience;
  • the difference between affective feelings (mood) and emotions;
  • our capacity to influence our own emotions;
  • deconstructing our experience through mindfulness;
  • how to improve our emotional lives;
  • connections with Buddhist theories of mind;
  • implications for our understanding of the self;
  • how we regulate not only our own, but others' nervous systems;
  • and how stress and modernity might lead to clinging to entrenched views.

Full show notes and resources

Jan 15, 2021
Jack Kornfield - Wisdom For Our Times

As 2020 draws to a close, Wendy speaks with Buddhist teacher, author, and psychologist Jack Kornfield in a special episode. Their conversation covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • how he's interpreting our current moment, and what's needed most;
  • his path into Buddhism & psychology, reflecting on family and coming of age in the 1960s;
  • the value of going on a meditation retreat;
  • links between Buddhism and psychology in terms of healing and self;
  • the problem of spiritual bypassing;
  • how to work with difficulties through allowing and gratitude;
  • the role of Buddhist ideas in activism and social justice work;
  • and the most important thing researchers can measure as an outcome of meditation practice.

Full show notes and resources

Dec 09, 2020
Adam Hanley - Taking Your Mind Off Autopilot

In this bonus episode, Wendy speaks with psychologist and contemplative researcher Adam Hanley. Adam studies mindfulness-based interventions for addiction and pain, seeking to understand how they work, and how they can best be applied in these populations. In this conversation they discuss:

  • how he became a contemplative scientist;
  • automaticity, habits, and addiction;
  • his research showing how mindfulness may help us de-automatize our thought processes, and stay more in the present;
  • self-transcendence and how he's beginning to study it;
  • and the importance of understanding the nature of self, and moving beyond egocentric views, as we seek to build a healthier society.

Full show notes and resources

Oct 23, 2020
Andreas Roepstorff - Interacting Minds

In this episode, Wendy speaks with anthropologist and neuroscientist Andreas Roepstorff. Andreas has been a pioneer in integrating these two approaches, examining how social context impacts the mind and brain. Their conversation covers a range of topics, including:

  • navigating academic training in two disciplines, and how he bridges the different perspectives of neuroscience and anthropology;
  • how being a research subject changed his view of subjective experience;
  • intersubjectivity, and his work to bring together first- and third-person perspectives;
  • research on fire-walking;
  • meditation and microphenomenology;
  • studying playfulness;
  • predictive models of mind;
  • the power of mindfulness to help with rumination;
  • and the importance of exploring how two minds can process and respond differently to the same experience.

Full show notes and resources

Sep 02, 2020
Evan Thompson - Expanding Our View of the Mind

In this episode, Wendy speaks with philosopher of mind Evan Thompson about embodied cognition and contemplative science. Evan is one of the earliest contributors to advancing the dialogue between Buddhism and Western science through his work with Mind & Life co-founder Francisco Varela, and he's spent decades exploring how the human mind extends beyond the brain, throughout the body and into the world. In this conversation, they discuss:

  • his unique upbringing and educational path;
  • his work with Francisco Varela and the beginnings of the conversation between Buddhism and cognitive science;
  • why philosophy matters;
  • the project of neurophenomenology and the integration of first- and third-person methods;
  • the problem of neurocentrism;
  • 4E cognition (that mind is embodied, embedded, extended, and enacted);
  • the “self” as construction vs. illusion;
  • how predictive models of mind line up with the enactive view;
  • whether or not meditation is a special avenue to reveal the nature of the mind;
  • the need for more thought systems and religions at the table in contemplative science;
  • and why it's critical today to understand the human mind in nuanced ways.

Full show notes and resources

Aug 19, 2020
Doris Chang - Critical Consciousness

In 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

In 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.

Full show notes and resources

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.

Full show notes and resources

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.

Full show notes and resources

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.

Read more about the show in this interview with host Wendy Hasenkamp.

Mar 26, 2020