Member Directory

Mind & Life Institute

Address 977 Seminole Trail
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901
Phone (434) 939-0001
Website https://www.mindandlife.org
Primary Contact Tess Ortega
Primary Email tortega@mindandlife.org
Executive Director Susan Bauer-Wu
Primary Focus Area Other
Service Areas
  • International

Mission Statement

At the Mind & Life Institute, we bring science and contemplative wisdom together to better understand the mind and create positive change in the world. At this critical moment in history, it’s clear that efforts to address mounting global challenges must take into account our inner lives, and how individual well-being contributes to collective flourishing.


Mind and Life emerged in 1987 from a meeting of three visionaries: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama — the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and a global advocate for compassion; Adam Engle, a lawyer and entrepreneur; and Francisco Varela, a neuroscientist. While the trio understood that science had become the dominant framework for investigating the nature of reality — and the modern source for knowledge that could help improve the lives of humans and the planet — the three regarded this approach as incomplete. Whereas science relies on empiricism, technology, “objective” observation, and analysis, the Dalai Lama, Engle, and Varela were convinced that well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could, and should, be used as equal instruments of investigation — instruments that would not only make science itself more humane but also ensure its conclusions were far-reaching. Mind and Life was formed to bridge this divide and advance progress in human well-being.

Since the first Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Mind and Life has held 26 others that bring together scientists and contemplatives on a wide range of critical subjects: addiction, ecology, ethics, attention, neuroplasticity, destructive emotions, altruism, economics, and more. Additionally, over the past 30 years, Mind and Life’s work has extended beyond the Dialogues. The Institute has become a direct funder of individual research via its grant and scholarship programs. It convenes an annual Summer Research Institute, as well as the field’s marquee biannual conference: the International Symposium for Contemplative Studies. In the process, Mind and Life has become more than just a leader in the field of contemplative science; it has become an incubator for discovery in all of the fields this new science touches. The Institute’s impact has been chronicled in numerous best-selling books, including Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley; Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman; andThe Dalai Lama at MIT by Anne Harrington and Arthur Zajonc. Through the support of Mind and Life, researchers have produced dozens of pivotal studies and more than 200 journal articles, chapters, and books; participated in more than 300 public talks; obtained prestigious faculty appointments, fellowships, and directorships; and been awarded more than $15 million in follow-on funding.

Key Programs

Program 1
Title:Summer Research Institute
Description:The Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI), held annually at the Garrison Institute in New York, is a week-long event to foster collaborative research in behavioral science, neuroscience, clinical science, and the humanities based on a process of inquiry, dialogue, and collaboration with contemplative practitioners and scholars. The long-term objective is to advance the training of a new generation of interdisciplinary scholars interested in exploring the influence of contemplative practice on mind, behavior, brain function, and health, including the potential role of contemplative methods in shaping and enriching human experience and consciousness.
Program 2
Title:Mind & Life Podcast
Description:The Mind & Life podcast addresses fundamental questions that arise through bridging science and contemplative wisdom.

How do we understand our minds? What are the mental patterns that shape our experience—how are those patterns created, maintained, and changed? In what ways can contemplative practices like meditation help us work with our minds? And what are the potential benefits of these practices for individuals and society?

This inquiry can happen through many lenses. Conversations on the show integrate contemplative approaches with perspectives from psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, religion, social science, art, activism, and lived experience.

We investigate these complex questions with leading researchers, thinkers, and on-the-ground practitioners, moving us toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world.

Program 3
Title:Dialogues with the Dalai Lama
Description:The Mind and Life Dialogues began in 1987 as a joint quest between scientists, philosophers, and contemplatives to investigate the mind, develop a more complete understanding of the nature of reality, and promote well-being on the planet. Originally conceived as small, private talks between the Dalai Lama and a few scientists and scholars, the Dialogues have since grown to include large public conferences that have embraced a variety of contemporary topics including physics and cosmology, neuroplasticity, addiction, education, altruism, economics, and ethics. These Dialogues will expand as Mind and Life grows to include Europe, Asia, and beyond.

In December 2015, the 3oth Dialogue with the Dalai Lama was held at the Sera Monastery in India: Periodic Mind and Life XXX: Perception, Concepts, and Self.

We extend our sincerest gratitude to the Dalai Lama Trust, India, for co-organizing this event with us, and to all of the participants.
Program 4
Title:Inspiring Minds Series
Description:Mind & Life's monthly online Inspiring Minds series that brings together thought leaders and contemplatives to engage with one another and the audience in exploring the role of the mind in human flourishing. At a time of profound global crises, we’ll be looking at how science and contemplative wisdom can inform efforts to build a more just, compassionate, and inclusive world.

Each heartfelt conversation will include a guided meditation and artistic offering, and inspire us with a call-to-action to be a force for positive change. A recording of the event is available afterwards.

Giving Opportunities

Opportunity 1