Mind & Life

By Mind & Life Institute

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

Episode Date
Jenny Mascaro – Compassion in Healthcare

In this episode, Wendy speaks with biological anthropologist and contemplative researcher Jenny Mascaro. Jenny's work weaves together meditation, compassion, psychology, and healthcare, and moves us toward a deeper understanding of interconnectedness. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her interest in social cognition in animals - and humans;
  • what compassion is, and how it's different from empathy;
  • biological basis of compassion, and the role of oxytocin;
  • how social factors and context shape compassion;
  • training compassion and the skills underlying it;
  • understanding self-compassion;
  • the under-appreciated role of hospital chaplains;
  • compassion training for chaplains;
  • preparing for interpersonal interactions;
  • how compassion shows up in language;
  • how compassionate care can help anxiety and depression;
  • responding to healthcare provider stress;
  • how meditation has changed her;
  • and building awareness of interdependence.

Full show notes and resources

Mar 23, 2023
Elissa Epel – Mind, Body, and Stress

In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative health psychologist and stress researcher Elissa Epel. Elissa studies how mindfulness, meditation retreats, and breathing techniques can help buffer stress processes, biological aging, and promote both physical and mental health. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her early roots of interest in the mind-body connection;
  • bringing contemplation into health and stress psychology research;
  • two key aspects of stress;
  • learning to deal with uncertainty;
  • uncertainty in the body;
  • acute vs. chronic stress response;
  • why we might want to intentionally induce acute stress to boost our health;
  • cell aging systems (telomeres);
  • contemplative practices as a way to reduce stress;
  • how our minds influence our cells;
  • the concept of cellular safety;
  • rest, retreat, and vacation;
  • how contemplative benefits can transfer to the next generation;
  • what it means to have a sensitive nervous system;
  • and the importance of focusing on joy and gratitude.

Full show notes and resources

Mar 09, 2023
Matthieu Ricard – Compassion and Care

In this episode, Wendy speaks with the renowned Buddhist practitioner and author Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu was integral to the founding of contemplative science, serving as both a participant and co-investigator in many early studies, and has deep expertise in compassion, altruism, and well-being. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his roots in both science and Buddhism, and his appreciation for rigorous inquiry;
  • his role as a participant and collaborator in contemplative science;
  • lessons from research on compassion vs. empathy;
  • how the self shows up (or doesn't) in compassion;
  • links between self-focus and vulnerability;
  • hedonia, eudiamonia, and self;
  • altruism and our current crises;
  • reconciling three time scales of concern;
  • sentience, life, and interdependence;
  • caring for our whole interconnected system;
  • the practice of awe;
  • using photography to share basic human goodness;
  • balancing fame and monastic life;
  • and a poignant example of his own personal experience of care.

Full show notes and resources

Feb 23, 2023
Jamie Bristow – Policy, Practice, and Planet

In this episode, Wendy speaks with mindful policy advocate and contemplative teacher Jamie Bristow. Jamie co-directs the Mindfulness Initiative in the UK, an organization that bridges contemplative practice and public policy, championing the inner dimension of social change. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • why he first started meditating and the surprise that came with it;
  • his commitment to climate work;
  • integrating advertising talent into policy work;
  • mindfulness in the UK government;
  • development of the Mindfulness Initiative;
  • the nuts and bolts of mindful policy work;
  • policy advances in health, criminal justice, and education;
  • mindfulness as a foundational capacity (not just a skill);
  • how the mind relates to the climate crisis;
  • consequences of our failure to see the interconnectedness in the world;
  • how mindfulness and compassion can help with reconnection;
  • two modes of operating (holistic intuitive vs. verbal conceptual);
  • and where to go from here.

Full show notes and resources

Dec 16, 2022
Amy Cohen Varela – The Power of Undoing

In this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical psychologist and contemplative Amy Cohen Varela. In addition to her work as a psychoanalytic therapist, Amy is also the widow of Francisco Varela (co-founder of the Mind & Life Institute), and continues to share his vision and work through the offerings of Mind & Life Europe. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her dual interest in biology and literature;
  • the contemplative aspects of psychoanalysis;
  • skills learned from listening deeply to yourself and to others;
  • how she met Francisco Varela;
  • enaction, meaning, and participatory sense-making;
  • links between Francisco's ideas and Buddhist philosophy;
  • subjective and objective viewpoints, and how we oversimplify Buddhism and science in that dynamic;
  • how more than a decade with Francisco has changed her;
  • the power of curiosity and openness;
  • doing and undoing the self in psychoanalysis;
  • Francisco's reflections on the Chilean civil war, and implications for polarization;
  • the need for systems to be able to "undo" themselves;
  • and Mind & Life Europe's latest offerings.

Full show notes and resources

Dec 02, 2022
Zindel Segal – Mindfulness and Depression

In this episode, Wendy speaks with renowned clinical psychologist, researcher, and co-developer of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Zindel Segal. Zindel's work has brought relief to many who suffer from depression, by sharing the tools and skills of mindful awareness. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his early experiences with meditation and psychology;
  • the development of MBCT and its evolution;
  • seeing thoughts as thoughts;
  • the power of curiosity, kindness, and an attitude of letting be;
  • clinical research on MBCT in depression;
  • staying with difficult experiences;
  • the latest thinking about how antidepressants work;
  • a short guided meditation;
  • the importance of sense foraging;
  • using digital platforms and increasing accessibility to mindfulness skills;
  • adapting practices for the challenges young people face today;
  • how MBCT can shift the sense of self and identity;
  • and how practice has changed him.

Full resources and show notes

Nov 18, 2022
Randima Fernando - Humane Technology

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Randima (Randy) Fernando, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. Over several decades, Randy has worked to integrate technology, mindfulness, and social impact, trying to find ethical solutions to some of our most challenging issues. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how the strands of Buddhism and technology have woven together throughout his life;
  • the challenges we face with tech today;
  • parallels between mindfulness and humane technology;
  • understanding the "race to the bottom";
  • breaking the myth that technology is neutral;
  • looking at technology through the Buddhist lens of dependent co-arising;
  • problematic incentives in the tech space (e.g., advertising as a business model);
  • the attention economy;
  • how technology trains our attention, emotions, and even our values;
  • technology's impact on the way we view our "self";
  • customized realities, echo chambers, and polarization;
  • how to avoid tech traps;
  • the core principles of humane technology;
  • building values/ethics into AI;
  • understanding dukkha;
  • the pros and cons of using technology to teach mindfulness;
  • and the latest resources from the Center for Humane Technology.

Full show notes and resources

Nov 04, 2022
Yuria Celidwen - Indigenous Wisdom

In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative scholar and Indigenous activist Yuria Celidwen. Yuria has worked across many sectors to bring Indigenous ways of knowing into conversation with Western approaches, particularly in contemplative science. This conversation covers many topics, including: 

  • the importance of Indigenous languages;
  • her roots in a lineage of mystics, healers, and explorers;
  • insights from the Mayan calendric system;
  • bringing Indigenous ideas into a dualistic culture;
  • her own experience of othering;
  • the role of contemplative practice amidst today's challenges;
  • opening our awareness to interdependence;
  • bridging and safety as we come together across differences;
  • kin relationality and ecological belonging;
  • subtleties of language and what they reveal;
  • implications of the term "mechanism" in the scientific approach;
  • Indigenous contemplative science;
  • and an inspiring closing poem.

Full show notes and resources


Oct 21, 2022
Norm Farb - Meditation and the Brain

In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative researcher Norm Farb. Norm was one of the first people to study how meditation impacts our brains, and his broader work incorporates emotions, body sensations, and present-moment awareness. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his initial research on meditation, neural networks, and modes of self;
  • predictive models of mind;
  • reinforcing vs. updating our model of the world (and implications for political polarization);
  • the default mode network and its role in cognition;
  • how meditation can help shift our habitual patterns;
  • what happens in our minds when we learn to meditate;
  • the concept of mental foraging;
  • interoception and how sensing the body might reduce conceptual processing;
  • depression & interoception, and getting stuck avoiding difficult feelings;
  • the self as the current model of the world;
  • a deeper look at the idea of no-self;
  • the ethics of updating our self model responsibly;
  • localization vs. distribution in the brain;
  • and the state of research on meditation and the brain.

Full resources and show notes


Oct 07, 2022
Tish Jennings - Contemplative Education

In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative educator and researcher Patricia (Tish) Jennings. Tish has been a pioneer in bringing mindfulness and compassion into school settings, with a particular focus on helping teachers. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her experience as an educator and a meditator;
  • how teacher stress contributes to the classroom environment;
  • how contemplative practice can help bring awareness to automatic responses, and help shift them;
  • the process of attunement and our core as social beings;
  • how teachers can be sensitive to students who have experienced trauma;
  • problems with the industrialized model of education;
  • how teachers can be a force for change from the inside;
  • yoga and body sensation as mindfulness for young children;
  • somatic awareness and understanding emotions;
  • and what young people need most right now.

Full show notes and resources

Sep 23, 2022
Sharon Salzberg - Love and Wisdom

In this episode, Wendy speaks with renowned and beloved meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. Sharon has been teaching meditation in the West for over 40 years, and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society. Their conversation covers many topics, including:

  • finding Buddhism and meditation as a teenager, and where it led her;
  • her experience as a woman in the early contemplative movement;
  • loving kindness & metta, and their relationship to prayer;
  • love as an ability;
  • the role of narrative and story-telling in our world and minds;
  • a call for balance and self-compassion on the path;
  • the role of the body in meditation;
  • why contemplation matters for societal change;
  • and living into our interconnection.

Full show notes and resources

Sep 09, 2022
Bob Thurman - Wisdom is Bliss

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Buddhist scholar and author Robert (Bob) Thurman. Bob is one of the foremost scholars in the world on Tibetan Buddhism, and played a major role in bringing Buddhism to America. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his entry into Buddhism, and befriending the Dalai Lama;
  • links between Buddhism and science (and why Buddhism is 1/6 religion);
  • problems with scientific materialism;
  • enlightenment and emptiness;
  • stories of the Buddha leaving home;
  • four friendly fun facts (noble truths);
  • realistic vs. right approaches on the path;
  • jumping into bliss prematurely;
  • Buddhist ethics;
  • practices to push against essentialism;
  • the key role of compassion in enlightenment;
  • how he thinks about reincarnation and continuation of consciousness;
  • the role of science on the contemplative path;
  • and Bob's parting fun fact.

Full show notes and resources

Jun 03, 2022
Lasana Harris - Flexible Social Cognition

In this episode, Wendy speaks with social neuroscientist Lasana Harris about his work on flexible social cognition—the variable ways that we perceive others. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his accidental entry into psychology;
  • what flexible social cognition is;
  • schemas and predictions about others' minds;
  • dehumanization and why we do it;
  • the role of propaganda and implications for the war in Ukraine;
  • how these processes scale up from individuals to societies;
  • bias and prejudice, and the key roles of threat and safety;
  • the inseparability of cognition and emotion;
  • how contemplative practice might help reduce dehumanization;
  • information overload and echo chambers, and what to do about them;
  • and looking at the concept of self to change social bias.

Full show notes and resources

May 20, 2022
Jessica Morey - Healing Attachment

In this episode, Wendy speaks with meditation teacher and co-founder of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), Jessica Morey. Jessica has been working with the contemplative path through the lens of attachment theory, and shares how she blends these approaches for healing. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her long roots in the contemplative path;
  • meditation retreats for teens through iBme;
  • the basics of attachment theory;
  • contemplative approaches to healing attachment wounds;
  • subtle body and trauma;
  • developing embodied safety;
  • grounding practices with the earth;
  • why it helps to examine your own lineage;
  • benefactor practices and imagining perfect parents;
  • links between Buddhism and attachment theory;
  • and the joys and opportunities of working with teens.

Full show notes and resources

May 06, 2022
Juan Santoyo - Practice and Peace

In this episode, Wendy speaks with contemplative researcher and social activist Juan Santoyo. Juan's work sits at the intersection of basic neuroscience and community-based programs; his central interest is in understanding the factors that are needed for peace and healing—both in the brain, and in the world. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his path into contemplative research;
  • neurophenomenology;
  • life in Colombia and reflections on the peace process;
  • working with ex-combatants through community engaged research;
  • Indigenous practices to connect with land and ancestors;
  • working with difficult emotions;
  • self-forgiveness;
  • the lack of land and ancestor practices in the West;
  • how oppressive systems impact the sense of self;
  • why contemplation matters for justice and equity work;
  • integrating basic neuroscience with healing in the world;
  • and investigating what is needed for peace.

Full show notes and resources

Apr 22, 2022
Al Kaszniak - The Universe of Verbs

In this episode, Wendy speaks with psychologist, contemplative researcher, and Zen Buddhist teacher, Al Kaszniak. Al has been in the contemplative science space since the earliest days, and his work has shed light on how meditation impacts our thoughts, emotions, and sense of self. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his parallel interests in Buddhism and neuropsychology;
  • research on meditation, emotion, and attention;
  • how our view of self impacts what seems relevant to us;
  • cognitive effort and emotion regulation;
  • how his own experience of self has shifted through practice;
  • attention and early emotion/affective tone;
  • shifting out of the conceptual mind;
  • the relationship of attention and emotion;
  • how decades of practice have changed his daily life;
  • free will vs. free won't (meditation as inhibition);
  • increasing access to contemplative ideas and practices;
  • mind as process, interaction, and context—and what that means for science;
  • and the value of interdisciplinary dialogue and the "in-between" spaces.

Full show notes and resources


Apr 08, 2022
Brooke Lavelle - Courage in Community

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Buddhist scholar, contemplative teacher, and social activist Brooke Lavelle. Brooke is the co-founder and president of Courage of Care, an organization that seeks to build transformational practice communities rooted in compassion, healing, and counter-oppressive frameworks. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • her trajectory of work from mindfulness to compassion to relational practice to social justice;
  • relationality as the starting point for contemplative growth;
  • Courage of Care, and the CourageRISE framework;
  • routes to understanding oppressive systems;
  • the body as culture;
  • the skills needed to build multicultural community;
  • applications in climate work;
  • the non-dual frame as an antidote to othering;
  • and love as an organizing principle.

Full show notes and resources


Mar 25, 2022
Jud Brewer - Changing Habits

In this episode, Wendy speaks with addiction psychiatrist and contemplative researcher Jud Brewer. Jud is one of the leading figures in the use of mindfulness for addiction and anxiety, and his work emphasizes the brain's habit cycle, and how to change it. He's also developed a number of smartphone apps to deliver contemplative interventions widely, which research is finding to be highly successful. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his own use of meditation to relieve stress, and where that led;
  • the failure of willpower for treating addictions;
  • the benefits and downsides of the brain's habit mechanisms;
  • commonalities between Buddhist philosophy and modern psychology;
  • the key role of awareness in changing habits;
  • the basic "habit loop" (trigger - behavior - result);
  • anxiety as a habit;
  • mindfulness for habit change;
  • divisiveness as a bad habit;
  • research on the effectiveness of app-based interventions;
  • next steps for digital therapeutics;
  • insights on communicating science to the public;
  • and the power of kindness and connection as the ultimate reward.

Full show notes and resources


Mar 11, 2022
Roshi Joan Halifax - Enactive Compassion

In this episode, Wendy speaks with Zen Buddhist teacher and author Roshi Joan Halifax. A pioneer in the field of end-of-life care, Roshi Joan was instrumental in developing the dialogue between science and Buddhism, and has been an advocate for engaged Buddhism, social activism, and compassion in response to today's crises. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • the birth of dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists;
  • how our minds are "enactive";
  • compassion as emergent and dependent on context;
  • the trainable factors that set the stage for compassion;
  • the importance of embodiment in health care;
  • non-referential compassion;
  • interdependence, compassion, and climate change;
  • working with dying people;
  • how letting go is safe;
  • clinical use of psychedelics;
  • and reflections on the field of contemplative science.

Full show notes and resources


Feb 25, 2022
Cliff Saron - Embracing Complexity

In this episode, Wendy speaks with neuroscientist and contemplative researcher Cliff Saron. Cliff is a pioneer in studying the effects of meditation on attention and emotion, and has been deeply embedded in the field of contemplative science since the earliest days. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • his winding path into contemplative research;
  • drilling down and pulling back;
  • conducting research with Tibetan monks in India;
  • how brain signals can predict behavior, and implications for free will;
  • the importance of context in meditation research;
  • effects of intensive meditation on attention, markers of cellular aging, and purpose in life;
  • community-engaged participatory research;
  • communicating the nuance and uncertainty inherent in science;
  • Ubuntu, and living into our interdependence.

Full show notes and resources

Dec 17, 2021
Bobbi Patterson - Contemplation, Place, and Resilience

In this episode, Wendy speaks with professor and Episcopal priest, Bobbi Patterson. Bobbi's work integrates Christian contemplation, Buddhist meditation, contemplative pedagogy, the role of place, and adaptive resilience. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • contemplative Christian traditions;
  • the power of silence;
  • dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism;
  • a Christian contemplative view of mind;
  • women in the church;
  • how to listen to a place;
  • bringing students into nature and urban settings;
  • the role of the body in contemplation;
  • understanding burnout;
  • and adaptive and land-based resilience.

Full show notes and resources

Dec 03, 2021
Cortland Dahl - Integrating Science and Buddhism

In this episode, Wendy speaks with researcher, translator, and Buddhist teacher, Cortland Dahl. Cort's work integrates science, psychology, meditation, and Tibetan Buddhism. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how meditation helped with his social anxiety as a young person;
  • benefits and challenges in the dialogue between Buddhism and science;
  • customizing meditation practice in the Healthy Minds app;
  • understanding the diversity of contemplative practice;
  • analytical meditation;
  • meditation as a treatment for mental health problems;
  • transcending the conceptual mind, and loosening concepts of self;
  • seeing the limits of science;
  • looking at well-being through the lens of learning;
  • the key role of social connection;
  • and moving forward with intellectual humility (knowing that we don't know).

Full show notes and resources


Nov 19, 2021
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel - Identity as Path

In this episode, Wendy speaks with author, Zen priest and Buddhist teacher, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Zenju's work highlights how the various facets of our identity can become "fertilizer" for growth on the path of spiritual and personal development. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • growing up in the Christian church, and the questions it raised for her;
  • her unusual path into Buddhism;
  • how to work with your identity while moving beyond the self;
  • the truth of interdependence and cause & effect;
  • two truths (relative vs. absolute) in relation to identity;
  • bringing together spirituality and social justice;
  • the central importance of embodiment;
  • integration with nature;
  • how contemplative science should proceed;
  • and the dance between delusion and enlightenment.

Full show notes and resources


Nov 05, 2021
Willoughby Britton - When Meditation Causes Harm

In this episode, Wendy speaks with clinical psychologist and meditation researcher, Willoughby Britton. Willoughby is a pioneer in contemplative research and one of the only people dedicated to understanding the possible negative outcomes from meditation (so called meditation-related adverse experiences). This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how she came to study the negative side of meditation;
  • support and resources for those struggling with meditation-related difficulties (Cheetah House);
  • scientific research on meditation-related adverse experiences;
  • changes in perception and anxiety that can happen with meditation;
  • how the same experience can be positive or negative depending on context;
  • how the causes of adverse effects may be the same as for the benefits;
  • the science of measuring harms in meditation research;
  • what we know (and don't know) about these effects—who's at risk, how frequent they are, and how they show up for people;
  • whether or not these difficulties are "part of the path" of transformation;
  • grounding care in compassion;
  • and aligning practices with the outcomes you want.

Full resources and show notes

Oct 22, 2021
Nicholas Van Dam - Nuancing the Narrative

In this episode, Wendy speaks with meditation researcher and clinical psychologist, Nicholas Van Dam. Nicholas is the Director of the Contemplative Studies Centre at the University of Melbourne—the first such center in Australia. His work explores how meditation and mindfulness can support well-being, and help with conditions like anxiety and depression. This conversation covers many topics, including:

  • how an existential crisis led him to meditation practice;
  • bringing loving critique to contemplative science;
  • the complicated realities of mindfulness, how we measure it, and its impact on the brain;
  • looking at effects beyond just the individual who is meditating;
  • insights from a year of daily practice;
  • balancing personal interest vs. research objectivity;
  • the freedom that comes from letting go;
  • how skills learned on the cushion transfer to daily life;
  • deconstructing the self;
  • mindfulness and meditation for anxiety and depression;
  • getting out of your head and into your body;
  • connecting with Indigenous and other non-Buddhist contemplative traditions;
  • and advancing evidence-based research on meditation.

Full show notes and resources

Oct 08, 2021
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 Blythe Baker - Meditating with the Body

In this episode, Wendy speaks with meditation teacher and Buddhist scholar Willa Blythe Baker 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