We Are Building American Buddhism

Brown University

Religious Studies Department Box 1927
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3104
Website: www.brown.edu
Attn: Harold Roth

Description of Organization

Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University, is devoted to the research and teaching in human techniques and experience of tranquil, attentive awareness and concomitant epistemological and moral insights across human history and across traditions. This initiative proposes to develop the field of Contemplative Studies through, among other things, teaching undergraduate courses, guiding independent concentrators in their study, supporting students in developing their own first-person experiential engagement with contemplative practice, and conducting original research on the effects of sustained contemplative practice. Some of the program's long range goals are to establish the first undergraduate concentration in Contemplative Studies in the Western World, to establish a first class scientific and humanistic research center, to incorporate contemplative practices as a regular element of Brown's undergraduate and medical school curriculum, and to train a new generation of contemplative scholars and scientists.

Grant(s) Awarded

In early 2009, the Foundation made a grant in the aggregate amount of $20,000 with its first installment of $10,000 disbursed in 2009 and the second installment paid in 2010.

In 2012, Brown University received an additional grant of $15,000.  Of that amount, $5,000 was paid in support of a scholarship fund to hepl defray the costs of tuition for the Brown 2012 Contemplative Studies Summer Intensive.  The remaining $10,000 was paid in 2013 for the Contemplative Mentor in Residence Program.

In 2014, Brown University received a $2,500 Women in Buddhism grant to enable one of its professors to train and subsequently teach the Divine Feminine principles of Lama Tsultrim Allione.

Results / Updates



During the period of the grant the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University engaged in the following activities consistent with our grant application to the Lenz Foundation:

  • We ran a series of twelve public events (lectures and retreats) that were attended by over 1000 people;
  • We ran a Contemplative Practice Grant program that gave grants to seven Brown undergraduates to attend contemplative retreats in the summer of 2009;
  • Developed and printed a brochure about our program;
  • We maintained a website staffed by a Student Webmaster that provided advertising for our programs, video copies of our lectures, and links to contemplative websites throughout the country, including the Frederick Lenz Foundation;
  • We worked on raising new funding;
  • We actually raised some new funds;
  • We had several social events for students and faculty in Contemplative Studies;
  • We funded travel to attend contemplative conferences for two faculty members

Contemplative Practice Grants

We awarded grants to the following students: Noah Levin, Zachary Chapman, Christopher Oates, Ylan Vo, Thomas Rocha, Tyler Keith. In general the awards were for $300; a few needed less.

New Funding

Harold Roth has been in detailed conversation with Ms. Zhou Ru-jün, Funding Officer for the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation. Discussions have included significant funding for the Contemplative Studies Infrastructure and possibly a new academic position.

Dr. Willoughby Britton has submitted a K23 grant proposal entitled "Dismantling Mindfulness: Contributions of attention vs. acceptance in the treatment of affective disturbances" to the National Institute of Health. She is proposing to study two basic dimensions of Buddhist mindfulness practice, stopping (or training the attention) and acceptance (open awareness). Much of her research on the cognitive emotional changes produced by regular meditation has concentrated on students who are practicing meditation in Contemplative Studies courses. A summary of her K-23 Grant Proposal is appended to this document.

Brown Contemplative Studies received $4000 from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society to sponsor a viewing and discussion of the new PBS film, "The Buddha." Funds will be received in the fall of 2010.

Brown Contemplative Studies received $3000 in 2009 for Dr. Roth's work as Co-director of the Medical School Scholarly Concentration in Contemplative Studies; we will receive the same amount in fiscal year 2010.

Brown Contemplative Studies showed a profit of about $1600 on the Sharon Salzberg retreat and $1050 from the Shinzen Young retreats. That means we have raised a total of $5650 for the first year of the grant and at least $7000 for the second year of the grant, with the potential to raise much more.

The Contemplative Studies Research Lab

The Brown CSR Lab has an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship to the Contemplative Studies Initiative. As mentioned above, students who meditate on a regular basis in our Contemplative Studies Initiative courses are important subjects for research. There is no comparable research being currently undertaken on such a subject population. The most common form of meditation in these courses is Buddhist. In addition, many Contemplative Studies Independent Concentrators (we have graduated 5 and are currently mentoring 4) and other students who focus in this area without becoming concentrators (majors) have done research in this lab. Finally members of this research team have lectured widely at conferences thus bringing the activities of both the Lab and the entire Contemplative Studies Initiative into greater national awareness. The following document gives further details on the work of this important component of Brown Contemplative Studies.

Contemplative Studies Research Laboratory, Brown University

Research Summary: The Effects of School-Based Meditation Training

Integrating contemplative practices into required school curricula has the promise of cultivating positive qualities (attention, compassion, patience etc), decreasing current and future emotional disturbances, as well as assess the feasibility of a widespread, pre-existing, cost-effective and community-based delivery system (i.e. schools).

The Contemplative Studies Research Laboratory at Brown University has three ongoing school-based meditation research projects (see www.brittonlab.com for details). Our first study includes a randomized control trial (n=101) of simple breath awareness meditation integrated into the 6th grade history class of a local K-12 school. The second study compares the effects of 3 hours/week "meditation labs" vs comparable music or dance training in university students (n=158) on neuropsychological functioning, sleep and emotional wellbeing. The third study investigates the effects of contemplative training on attention/learning, empathy and burnout in medical students.

Preliminary results indicate that meditation training has multiple benefits beyond control conditions, including improved attention, anxiety/depression, emotion regulation, emotional information processing, healthy embodiment, pro-social behavior and compassion. These benefits also seem to be influenced by developmental stage, gender, spirituality, type of practice and correct understanding of practice. These studies also indicate that contemplative practices can be easily integrated into school curricula and both students and school administrators are eager to increase its implementation.

Current Status:

This research has won several awards since its inception in 2007, including Brown's Public Health Award in 2008 and 2009 and Brown's Psychiatry Award in 2009. The research has been invited for more than 20 presentations at international conferences, including the American Academy of Religion (Montreal); the World Congress of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies, the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, Academic Grand Rounds at Akron General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School's Osher Institute. The research is currently featured in an ongoing exhibit entitled "Shape Your Being" at the Boston Museum of Science and was recently awarded $30,000 by the Mind and Life Institute to continue through 2012.

In addition to scientific recognition, this research is also a training ground for students who hope to pursue careers in meditation research. To date, the lab has mentored four yearlong Senior Capstone projects in Biology and Human Behavior, a graduate thesis in Public Health, and a medical school Contemplative Studies concentrator. The lab has also provided training to more than 20 independent study students or volunteer research assistants in meditation research, including neuropsychological assessments, EEG and sleep recordings. The clinical portion of the lab offers Contemplative Studies students and faculty the opportunity to intern at the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Clinic, to get first-hand experience with meditation-based interventions in clinical populations. The lab also provides mindfulness instructor training and supervision to contemplative studies students and faculty who are experienced meditation practitioners. The lab is a valuable resource to Brown's Contemplative Studies initiative and participation in research activities has been a unique gateway into careers in meditation research for many students. Twelve research assistants were awarded Mind and Life Summer Research Institute Fellowships, where they met the field's leading neuroscientists, contemplative scholars and meditation researchers. Eight research assistants have gone on to medical or graduate careers in health or biological sciences and three are clinical psychology doctoral candidates with a focus in mindfulness meditation-based intervention research.

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