In 1987, a lawyer, a neuroscientist and Tenzin Gyatso, known more commonly as the 14th Dalai Lama, had a meeting about science and spirituality. The three felt that the use of science as the dominant method in which to investigate reality was, at best, incomplete. They were convinced that ”well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could, and should, be used as equal instruments of investigation.” This would, in turn, complement scientific discoveries, adding a more humane element to science.
It was from that meeting that Adam Engle (the lawyer), Francisco Varela (the neuroscientist), and the Dalai Lama (spiritual leader of the Tibetan people) decided to form the Mind and Life Institute.
For the past 25 years, the institute has focused on “building a scientific understanding of the mind as a way to help reduce suffering and promote human flourishing.” They take several approaches in fostering this understanding, which includes seminars or “dialogues” led by the Dalai Lama and other educational initiatives that promote cooperation between western medicine and philosophy, humanities and contemplative traditions. They also provide funding for scientific research on meditation.
Meditation has its roots in religious traditions. The well-known transcendental meditation, which has its roots in eastern practices, has been replaced in popularity by “mindfulness meditation.” The most common techniques can find their links to the Buddhist tradition. While meditation is an umbrella term to describe various relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation is focused attention centered on the moment. This includes focusing on breathing, as well as current thoughts and emotional state. The idea is to be aware of everything that is going on in the mind and body without reaction or judgment, all while ignoring distractions. Continue reading >>