BG Lab: The Scientist and the Contemplative

Kelly Sosan Bearer

What happens when you bring together a longtime meditation teacher interested in advanced mathematics and science with a Harvard neuroscientist who is an avid meditator?

You get the Harvard Brain Study on Shinzen Young Meditators. Together, Shinzen Young and Dave Vago have teamed up to investigate what happens in the brain when you apply Shinzen Young’s meditation techniques. By combining Shinzen’s meditation students with Dave’s research skills and uber-geeky laboratory, they just might be forcing science to evolve and go a whole lot deeper in the process.

And this isn’t just another "meditation and brain study," either. As meditator and New York Times journalist Jeff Warren states, “This is not another meditation and the brain story—it’s about the new age of contemplative transparency that may finally be upon us, and the radical prospect of science taking enlightenment—that multifaceted jewel—seriously.”

Equal Parts Buddhist and Geeky

Dave Vago represents the next generation of neuroscientists—those who are willing to examine some of the more difficult and even taboo aspects of deep contemplative transformation and speak openly about their findings. This is a very different approach from the previous generation of more cautious researchers who tended to be "in the closet" when it came to the enlightenment game.

As a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, Dave has held the position of Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering dialogue and research at the highest possible level between modern science and the great living contemplative traditions.

Shinzen Young is a Vipassana meditation teacher who frequently uses concepts from mathematics as a metaphor to illustrate the abstract concepts of meditation, making his teachings popular among academics and professionals. His interest in integrating meditation with scientific paradigms has led to collaborations with neuroscientists at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and now with Dave Vago at Harvard Medical School.

The Big Reveal

So, what did Dave and Shinzen find out from their research study—how do Shinzen Young’s meditation techniques affect the brain? Lucky for us, they’ll be presenting their research findings for the very first time at this year’s Buddhist Geeks Conference through a new format we’re calling BG Dialogue. At this summer’s conference, Shinzen and Dave will have a 90-minute dialogue, including a live question and answer period with the audience on their latest research findings.

Will they present data on the neural correlates of "no self" and enlightenment? Maybe their research findings will help advance the "progress of insight?" Or perhaps they will touch upon the "experience of cessation" from a neurobuddhist perspective?

What questions do you have for the scientist and the contemplative? Make sure to reserve your spot to attend the Buddhist Geeks Conference, Aug. 16th–18th in Boulder, Colorado to get your answers. Either way, you don’t want to miss the big reveal!

Go back to the Tricycle | Buddhist Geeks page.

Kelly Sosan BearerKelly Sosan Bearer
is an Integral meditation teacher. She was ordained in 2007 as a Zen monk in both the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen Buddhism and is a senior student of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Practice. Kelly also studies Hatha Yoga and Feminine Embodiment with Sofia Diaz. She is a published author in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and completed her graduate studies at Naropa University with a MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. In addition, Kelly cofounded Integral Chicks—a women’s integral practice community dedicated to uniting Beauty, Truth, and Goodness with Big Heart. She is also the Conference Director and Partner at Buddhist Geeks. Follower her on Twitter @KellyBearer.

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mattbard's picture

.... the geek thing seems cool. ....from my readings in tricycle mag ... science and tradition converge occasionally, but on some fundamental areas of meaning seem to be a brave new world apart........ oh well, all very interesting......... both here n now , the future , neuro whatevers.... keep on exploring......... ....matt