Contemplative Neurosciences Research

Scientists’ Meditation Retreat at Spirit Rock

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Spirit Rock is offering a Scientists’ Meditation Retreat in early 2009 from Sunday, January 11 – Sunday, January 18. This retreat is designed to introduce neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, mental health practitioners and others who study the mind to ways in which mindfulness practice can inform their research. The faculty includes vipassana teachers Sylvia Boorstein, Wes Nisker, Trudy Goodman and Diana Winston (who is Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center), plus Richard Davidson, PhD, from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The goal of this retreat is to introduce mind scientists and researchers to in-depth training in meditation. It is also open to graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty who work in the mind sciences. The retreat will be conducted in most respects like a traditional silent vipassana or Insight meditation retreat, which incorporates an ancient method of introspection often called mindfulness that readily conforms to the spirit of empirical science. While this method comes out of the most ancient school of Buddhism (the Theravada), it is presented as a non-sectarian practice as a means of training the mind to be more keenly aware of sensory phenomena, the flow of thought, the ever-changing display of emotions and moods. The practice need not be adopted in the context of Buddhism as a religion or as a philosophical tradition.

The last two days of this retreat will include a talk by Dr. Davidson and focused discussions among participants on topics relevant to the intersection of the mind, neurosciences and contemplative practice. Apart from instructions, question and answer sessions, and evening didactic presentations, the first five days of the retreat will be conducted in silence. For anyone who has never spent days in silence before, this aspect of the retreat alone is quite likely to be a revolutionary experience.

Prerequisite: Intended for neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists and other mind scientists, including graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty who work in the mind sciences, as well as all mental health practitioners.

Cost $905 – $555, sliding scale, plus a donation to the teachers and retreat staff. Click here to register:

Sylvia Boorstein has been teaching since 1985 and teaches both vipassana and metta meditation. She is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a psychotherapist, wife, mother, and grandmother who is particularly interested in seeing daily life as practice. Her books include It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness; Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat; That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist; Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake: The Buddhist Path of Kindness; and Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Richard J. Davidson, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he serves as both Director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in psychology and has been at Wisconsin since 1984. Davidson is internationally renowned for his research on the neural substrates of emotion and emotional disorders. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his research including a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award. He was the 1997 Distinguished Scientific Lecturer for the American Psychological Association. He served as a Core Member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network in Mind-Body Interaction, is currently a Core Member of the MacArthur Foundation Mind-Brain-Body and Health Initiative and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors, NIMH. In 2000, he received the most prestigious award given by the American Psychological Association for lifetime achievement-the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. He has published more than 150 articles, many chapters and reviews and edited 12 books.

Trudy Goodman has practiced Zen and Vipassana since 1974 and taught retreats and workshops nationwide for many years. She is a founder and guiding teacher of Insight LA, Growing Spirit (a family program) and the Center for Mindfulness and Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, and the first Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, in Cambridge MA, where she lived and taught at the Cambridge Buddhist Association from 1991-99.

Wes “Scoop” Nisker is a Buddhist meditation teacher, author, radio commentator and performer. His bestselling books include Essential Crazy Wisdom; The Big Bang, The Buddha, and the Baby Boom; and Buddha’s Nature. His latest book is Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again! He is also the founder and co-editor of the Buddhist journal “Inquiring Mind.” For the past 15 years, Wes has been leading his own retreats and workshops in Buddhist insight meditation and philosophy at venues internationally.

Diana Winston is the Director of Mindfulness Education at HYPERLINK ““UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research CenterHYPERLINK “” n. She is a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and founder of the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) Program and the former associate director of Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She has practiced vipassana since 1989, including a year as a Buddhist nun in Burma and is the author of Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens. She has been teaching meditation to youth and adults nationally for many years.

One Response

  1. yoga says:

    When I first started to meditate my mind seemed to be like a pack of monkeys, moving from one topic to another. But after time my mind became still and now meditation has helped me greatly with my stress levels

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