Contemplative Studies Initiative and Concentration

Contemplative Studies Footprints

Contemplative Studies has influenced eduction at Brown and beyond.

At Brown

School of Public Health

The Mindfulness Center at Brown brings together top academics in research with leading educators in mindfulness. Dedicated to rigorous research and student-centered education, their goal is to offer programs that improve individual lives and organizational effectiveness. Their courses are offered in-person and live-online, in the local community, nationally and globally. At the Brown University School of Public Health, they are educating future public health leaders to evaluate and intervene upon issues that face the most vulnerable populations—including disorders of aging and chronic health conditions, maternal and child health and infectious disease outbreaks.

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The Warren Alpert Medical School

The Concentration on Lifestyle Medicine and Integrative Health seeks to encourage scholarly work in lifestyle medicine, which encompasses a wide variety of preventive modalities and methods in order to better educate and equip medical students with the knowledge and experience to become future leaders in the field of prevention of chronic disease. Areas of interest considered in this concentration include nutrition, exercise, sleep, weight loss, stress management, and evidence-based integrative health approaches (e.g., acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, mindfulness training). Other topics of interest within the realm of lifestyle medicine and integrative health can be discussed with the directors on a case-by-case basis.

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The Carney Institute for Brain Science

The Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science is committed to supporting research and facilitating collaborations in brain science across the Brown University community. Their mission is to promote discovery and innovation in brain science by supporting a diverse community of experimentalists, theorists, engineers, and clinical scientists. They do this by recruiting and retaining world-class faculty, creating an outstanding collaborative training environment, seeding innovative projects, supporting collaborative teams, and raising the visibility and reputation of Carney researchers. Their vision is to become a global leader in brain science, recognized for excellence, innovation, and discovery, and applying knowledge to improve lives and benefit society.

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Other Departments that Support COST

The Department of Classics offers advanced work in Ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and Modern Greek languages, literatures, history, and philosophy. In addition to the degrees of B.A. and Ph.D. in Classics, the department also offers graduate study leading to a Ph.D. in Classics & Sanskrit, Sanskrit, or (jointly with the Department of History) Ancient History. While they are committed to the traditional study of ancient Greek and Roman cultures, languages, and literature, the department also considers Classical Studies to be a collaborative discipline that encompasses a number of subjects. Students are encouraged to take courses in Art History, Archaeology, Comparative Literature, Egyptology & Assyriology, Philosophy, and several other affiliated areas. They believe these studies with overlapping interests will foster cross-disciplinary collaboration and innovation.

The Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences (CLPS) was created in 2010 by joining the departments of Psychology (established in 1892) and Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences (formed in 1986). State-of-the-art research in mind, brain, behavior and language requires spanning multiple levels of analysis and using a range of approaches and methodologies, and the integration of these two closely related departments has created an environment where this intellectual synthesis can flourish. The creation of CLPS reflects Brown’s philosophy to build bridges between disciplines and to encourage interdisciplinary studies.

The Department of East Asian Studies offers Brown students a window into the worlds of East Asia, a region that has emerged, over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both as a major site of geopolitical power and as a vital node of economic development within the global economy. Foundational to the intellectual mission of the department is the assumption that East Asia, like most large and complex regions, can best be studied across time and from a variety of methodological perspectives. Thus, the department offers or cross-lists a range of courses in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Asian American literature, history, religion, art history, government, and linguistics. Students are encouraged not only to experiment with different disciplinary approaches but also to explore an East Asian culture or cultures outside their own focus on China, Japan, or Korea.

The mission of the Department of Neuroscience is to excel in scientific discovery and in the training of the next generation of scholars in Neuroscience. They are advancing knowledge of the nervous system at all levels of inquiry -- from genes, molecules, and cells to neural networks and behavior -- both in the healthy brain and neurological disorders. Areas of interest include neural plasticity, information processing, and neuronal and synaptic functions, particularly as they relate to development, sensory perception, motor behavior, and cognition.

The Department of Philosophy engages in the systematic and critical study of fundamental questions that arise both in everyday life and through the practice of other disciplines. Some of these questions concern the nature of reality. Others concern our nature as rational, purposive, and social beings. Still others concern the nature and extent of our knowledge. And finally, others concern the foundations and implications of other disciplines. The aim in Philosophy is not to master a body of facts, so much as think clearly and sharply through any set of facts. Towards that end, philosophy students are trained to read critically, analyze and assess arguments, discern hidden assumptions, construct logically tight arguments, and express themselves clearly and precisely in both speech and writing.

The Department of Religious Studies at Brown University provides students with an understanding of a variety of religious traditions, an exposure to the academic approaches employed within the academic study of religion, as well as an opportunity to explore diverse intellectual, social-theoretical, cultural, and ethical issues that arise when one considers the various manifestations of religion in human affairs.

The Department of Sociology offers a comprehensive set of introductory and advanced courses through which students can acquire a range of research and theoretical skills. Sociology is the study of how groups and individuals interact in producing social systems. Sociologists study the norms, values, identities, power structures and institutions through which societies are organized. Sociologists have long been particularly concerned with the gap between the ideal of legal equality and the reality of social inequality.

From Brown

Catherine Kerr Vital Energy in Health and Healing Lecture Series

Originally conceptualized by the late Catherine Kerr, Ph.D., to catalyze a new field of integrated discovery around the role of vital energy ("Qi/chi") in health and healing. Building off of recent advances in the sciences, as well as the longstanding scholarship in the humanities examining how contemplative practices (eg.  meditation and qigong) may promote health, this speaker series brings together humanistic, scientific, clinical, and practitioner perspectives. In honoring Cathy’s work and vision, this speaker series provides an important forum to continue and deepen a critical interdisciplinary approach to studying the role of vital energy in health. The lecture series accomplishes this through the exploration of current and future scholarship and research pathways and collaborations. 

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Mary Interlandi ’05 Lecture and Workshop

Contemplative Studies and the Chaplain's Office has co-sponsored a distinguished lecture and workshop series in memory of the late Mary Interlandi '05. Mary was a brilliant young woman who had lived in northern India and was very interested in the idea of a Contemplative Studies program when we were in our nascent stages. Tragically, she passed away in an accident during Winter Break 2002-03. Her family wanted to do something positive out of this terrible family loss, so they established this lectureship fund in her memory in Contemplative Studies.  Throughout the years, we have hosted some of the world’s leading contemplative scholars and contemplative practitioners who have led both a day long workshop and given a major public lecture each spring.  

Hershey Family Foundation Lectures in Contemplative Studies

Contemplative Studies has sponsored over 220 lectures and workshops significantly funded by the Hershey Family Foundation.  These events have covered a wide variety of contemplative practices and traditions.  Lectures and workshops have been delivered and led by leading scholars and contemplative researchers and teachers from around the world.

Brown Virtual Contemplative Mentors in Residence Program

The Brown University Virtual Contemplative Mentors in Residence Program makes tradition-based contemplative practices available to students and faculty at Brown University and several affiliated institutions.  Our Contemplative Mentors in Residence are all skilled practitioners in their respective traditions and also PhD- level scholars who have extensive experience teaching at institutions of higher education in Asia, North America and Europe. These practitioner-scholars are familiar with the Liberal Arts values typical of higher education and are thus able to suit their teaching to the academic environment. Each of our Contemplative Mentors has extensive training in both the contexts and the methods of the practices they will be leading.

Our mentors teach weekly in the noon hour Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 12 weeks during each term of the upcoming academic year.


The Fall Sessions start the week of September 18th.

  • Mondays: Thai Samatha (Concentrative) Meditation: Sarah Shaw
  • Wednesdays: Chinese Qigong Moving Meditation: Larson DiFiori
  • Fridays: Japanese Rinzai Zen Meditation: Masaki Matsubara

Beyond Brown

Brown Contemplative Studies Faculty have been active in developing the field, playing important roles in the following organizations or conferences:

International Society for Contemplative Research

The mission of the International Society for Contemplative Research is to support the independent and collaborative work of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and practitioners who are engaged in the rigorous investigation of traditional and modern forms of contemplative and other mind-body practices. We envision a world in which contemplative and other mind-body practices are understood in accord with their culture and context, rigorously investigated, and made universally available to enhance the health and well-being of all.

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The Mind & Life Institute’s International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS)

The Mind & Life Institute’s International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS) seeks to encourage and help shape a cohesive interdisciplinary field of contemplative studies in which basic and applied science, scholarship, education, the arts, and contemplative traditions collaboratively develop an integrated way of knowing. It gathers the most innovative thought leaders and present their ground breaking research in neuroscience, psychology, clinical science, the humanities, philosophy, and education – all with the goal of advancing our understanding of the mind, reducing human suffering, and enhancing well-being.

The Mind & Life Institute’s International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS)

American Academy of Religion Contemplative Studies Unit

This program unit aims to strengthen and develop contemplative studies as an academic field of inquiry, especially in the context of religious studies and the AAR. The unit provides a forum for: The investigation of contemplative practice and experience, considered inclusively and comprehensively; Critical discussions on the field itself, including theoretical and interpretive issues; The application of contemplative practice to academic life and university culture, including the possible contribution of “contemplative pedagogy” to teaching and learning The unit thus aims to gather together currently diffused groups as well as dislocated, marginalized, and underrepresented individuals in the academy. To this end, it encourages research that is topical, tradition-specific, comparative, and cross-cultural. It also invites scholars to investigate contemplative practice and experience in ways that traverse and transcend the boundaries of traditions, disciplines, and research methodologies.

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Contemplative Program Development Think Tank Sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute

Brown University’s Contemplative Development Think Tank (September 22 – 24, 2017)
was a workshop that brought together educators, programs leaders and administrators with experience in building Contemplative Studies’ undergraduate programs with a small group of academic applicants who were attempting to build such a program at their college or university. The ultimate goal was to provide hands-on advice and counsel that would help establish Contemplative Studies undergraduate programs on campuses throughout North America.

Members of Brown University’s undergraduate concentration and Contemplative Studies field leaders offered their expertise to the participants. These notables included:

  • Mirabai Bush (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society)
  • David Germano (University of Virginia)
  • Carolyn Jacobs (Smith College)
  • Harold D. Roth (Brown University)
  • John Dunne (University of Wisconsin)
  • Anne Klein (Rice University)
  • Judith Simmer-Brown (Emerita, Naropa University)
  • Willoughby Britton (Brown University)