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Mind & Life

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

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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


5 Aug 2020

Rank #1

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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


27 May 2020

Rank #2

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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


22 Jul 2020

Rank #3

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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


9 Dec 2020

Rank #4

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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


2 Sep 2020

Rank #5

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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

1hr 38mins

19 Aug 2020

Rank #6

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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


23 Oct 2020

Rank #7

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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


8 Jul 2020

Rank #8

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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


12 Mar 2021

Rank #9

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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

1hr 3mins

13 May 2020

Rank #10