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Contemplative Studies


There are a variety of organizations associated with Contemplative Studies. Some of these organizations have academic affiliations, while others are independent and privately funded. Many of these organizations emphasize a scientific, and specifically a neuroscientific approach to contemplative practice as well as contemplative practice as a form of social engagement.

Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education

Affiliated with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, ACMHE is a multidisciplinary, not-for-profit, professional academic association with a membership of educators, scholars, and administrators in higher education. The ACMHE promotes the emergence of a broad culture of contemplation in the academy by connecting a network of leading institutions and academics committed to the recovery and development of the contemplative dimension of teaching, learning and knowing.

Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

Named in honor of Dr. Herbert Benon (b. 1935) and John William Henry II, and affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), BHI is a non-profit scientific and educational organization dedicated to research, teaching, and clinical application of mind/body medicine and its integration into all areas of health. Associated with Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School.

California Institute of Integral Studies

Located in San Francisco, California and founded in 1968, CIIS is a private institution of higher education that strives to embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities, and the Earth. The Institute expands the boundaries of traditional degree programs with interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and applied studies in psychology, philosophy, religion, cultural anthropology, transformative learning and leadership, integrative health, and the arts

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Located in Northampton, Massachusetts and founded in 1991, CCMS is a private non-profit organization that works to integrate contemplative awareness and contemporary life in order to help create a more just, compassionate, reflective, and sustainable society. CCMS holds annual retreats, conferences, and intensive summer sessions on contemplative pedagogy; oversees the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education; and offers Contemplative Practice Fellowships for course development.

Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Affiliated with the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, CIHM conducts rigorous interdisciplinary research on healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, forgiveness and mindfulness. Scientists at CIHM represent an integrated team with a broad array of research methodologies from behavioral to neuroscientific. The CIHM engages in translational research and outreach with the goal of cultivating healthy qualities of the mind at the individual, community and global levels. Associated with Dr. Richard Davidson of the Department of Psychology and Psychiatry; University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Center for Mind and Brain

Affiliated with the University of California at Davis, CMB is a research and training unit dedicated to understanding the nature of the human mind from interdisciplinary perspectives. Dr. Clifford Saron, a member of CMB, is also the principal neuroscientific investigator of the Shamatha Project, which studies the effects of meditation practice on the brain.

Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society

Affiliated with the Department of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, CFM is a center dedicated to the investigation of mind-body medicine and mindfulness-based treatment and research investigations, including the integration of meditation and mindfulness into mainstream medicine and health care. Associated with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (b. 1944) of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Center for Teaching (Vanderbilt University)

Affiliated with Vanderbilt University, this center aims to advance teaching excellence, specifically by fostering and sustaining a culture that practices, values, and rewards university teaching and learning as vital forms of scholarship. This center is working to develop contemplative pedagogy.

Contemplative Outreach

Associated with the three Benedictine monks Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington who established the Centering Prayer movement, Contemplative Outreach is a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel. The CO community is united by a common desire for divine transformation, primarily expressed through a commitment to a daily Centering Prayer practice.

Contemplative Sciences Center (Tibet Center; University of Virginia)

Affiliated with the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia, CSC aims to foster dynamic partnerships between humanistic scholars, medical and nursing practitioners, clinical researchers, neuroscientists, educational researchers, and contemplative practitioners. This center works to articulate new models and trajectories for colleges and universities to offer guidance, support, and leadership in addressing the transformative potential of contemplative traditions as resources for addressing contemporary social challenges.

Contemplative Studies Group (American Academy of Religion)

Established in 2011 as a program unit in the American Academy of Religion, CSG aims to strengthen and develop Contemplative Studies as an academic field of inquiry, especially in the context of Religious Studies and the AAR. CSG provides a forum for: 1) The investigation of contemplative practice and experience, considered inclusively and comprehensively; 2) Critical discussions on the field itself, including theoretical and interpretive issues; and 3) The application of contemplative practice to academic life and university culture, including the possible contribution of "contemplative pedagogy" to teaching and learning. At present, the CSG accepts two panels for each annual meeting of the AAR. Its founding members include Thomas Coburn (Brown University/Naropa University), Fran Grace (University of Redlands), Anne Klein (Rice University), Louis Komjathy (University of San Diego), Harold Roth (Brown University), and Judith Simmer-Brown (Naropa University).

Esalen Institute

Located in Big Sur, California and founded in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, Esalen is an alternative educational center devoted to the exploration of human potential. Esalen offers workshops on alternative and experiential education and alternative spirituality.

Fetzer Institute

With roots going back to a grantmaking foundation established by John Fetzer in 1952, the Fetzer Institute aims to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community. It seeks to deepen the understanding and practice of love and forgiveness and the integration of the inner life with the life of action in the world among individuals and communities. The Fetzer Institute offers workshops and retreatsand supports research related to the transformative power of love and forgiveness. Specifically, it funds the Charter for Compassion and the Shamatha Project.

Garrison Institute

The Garrison Institute is dedicated to exploring the intersection of contemplation and engaged action in the world. This organization aims to apply the transformative power of contemplation to today's pressing social and environmental concerns, helping build a more compassionate, resilient future. The insitute currently has three program initiatives: Contemplation and Education, Transforming Trauma, and Transformational Ecology, and offers retreats and workshops on these topics.

Institute of Noetic Sciences

Founded in 1973 by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, IONS is a non-profit research, education, and membership organization whose mission is supporting individual and collective transformation through consciousness research, educational outreach, and engaging a global learning community in the realization of our human potential. IONS's primary program areas are consciousness and healing, extended human capacities, and emerging worldviews.

Merton Institute for Contemplative Living

Established in 1995 and based in Louisville, KY, the Merton Institute is an independent, non-profit organization that aims to awaken interest in contemplative living through the works of Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and key figure in the Chirstian contemplative revitalization movement, in order to promote Merton’s vision for a just and peaceful world.

Mind and Life Institute

Established in 1987 as a collaboration among Dalai Lama, Adam Engle, and Francisco Varela, and currently under the direction of Arthur Zajonc, MLI is a non-profit organization that seeks to understand the human mind and the benefits of contemplative practices through an integrated mode of knowing that combines first person knowledge from the world’s contemplative traditions with methods and findings from contemporary scientific inquiry. MLI also offers Contemplative Studies Fellowships that propose to bring fresh perspectives from the humanities into contemplative neuroscience and contemplative clinical science.

Mindful Awareness Research Center (University of California, Los Angeles)

Affiliated with the Semel Institue of the University of California at Los Angeles, MARC aims to foster mindful awareness through education and research to promote well-being and a more compassionate society.

Mindfulness in Education Network

Established in 2001 by educators who were students of Thich Nhat Hanh, MEN aims to support and cultivate the practice of mindfulness in educational settings. The purpose of the network is to facilitate communication among educators, parents, students and any others interested in promoting contemplative practice (mindfulness) in educational settings. MEN organizes conferences on this topic.

Mindfulness in Law Program (University of Miami)

Affiliated with the University of Miami School of Law and under the direction of Scott Rogers, MLP introduces law students to mindfulness insights and exercises in the context of their law school experience. It attempts to integrate contemplative practices with cutting-edge neuroscience research to share with students ways of optimizing performance and reducing stress.

Rothko Chapel

Founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil and dedicated in 1971, the Rothko Chapel is as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. It provides a tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970). The mission of the Rothko Chapel is to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to nurture reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and to provide a forum to explore matters of worldwide concern.

Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

Established by the B. Alan Wallace, who currently serves as president, SBI is dedicated to furthering the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural investigation of the nature and potentials of consciousness and extending its benefits to the general public. It is a non-sectarian organization that reaches out to the scientific and academic communities, a variety of contemplative traditions, and the general public. SBI is also a major contibutor to the Shamatha Project.

Shamatha Project

Supported by the Dalai Lama and the Fetzer Institute, and under the direction of Dr. Clifford Saron (Center for Mind and Brain) and B. Alan Wallace (Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies), the Shamatha Project is an international Buddhist research project. It brings together dedicated Buddhist teachers and meditators from both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism to collaborate in exploring the most effective methods and conditions for achieving shamatha in today's world. The project combines first-person approaches (contemplative practice) with third-person approaches (neuroscience) with the aim of developing "mind science" or "contemplative science." Webpages related to the project are also maintained by the Center for Mind and Brain and the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.