Contemplative Research and Scholarship Speaker Series, 2023-2024

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Contemplative Research and Scholarship Speaker Series, 2023-2024

The Contemplative Research and Scholarship Speaker Series hosts leading scholars, scientists, and practitioner-teachers in the study of contemplative practices. The series will be held on Grounds at the University of Virginia.

What is a Psychedelic Experience? Measuring and Characterizing the Acute Subjective Effects
Time and Location: TBD
This talk is co-sponsored by the Finan Lab, UVA SOM Department of Anesthesiology. 

Talk Description
Psychedelic experiences have been variously described and current psychometric measures have problems. This talk will describe issues surrounding measuring and characterizing psychedelic experiences for the purpose of predicting risks, benefits, describing, and comparing these experiences to those triggered through other means. 

About David Yaden
David B. Yaden, PhD, is Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research. He studies the measurement and experimental manipulation of mental states called altered states of consciousness. These mental states are often among the most transformative and meaningful moments in people’s lives, yet little is known about how they are triggered, the neurophysiological processes that underlie them, or how they impact the beliefs and behavior of those who have them. His research is currently focused on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances for mood and substance use disorders.

Contemplation and Culture: Self-Cultivation, Context, and Social Imaginaries
3:00-4:45pm (ET), Newcomb 481

This talk is sponsored by the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.

Talk Description
Meditation is often described in terms of internal mental states that presumably arise in anyone who practices them diligently, whether they are an ancient monastic or a contemporary professional. Much of the work these practices do, however, may be quite different in divergent contexts. This talk analyzes the role of culture in contemplative practices and theorizes them as methods of cultivating ways of being in particular cultural contexts constituted by repertoires of concepts, attitudes, social practices, ethical dispositions, institutions, available identities, structures of authority, and conceptions of the cosmos. Taking greater account of these cultural contexts in which meditation occurs is necessary to understanding the potential benefits and problems involved in modern contemplative practices.

About David L. McMahan
David L. McMahan is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Making of Buddhist Modernism (2008), Empty Vision: Metaphor and Visionary Imagery in Mahayana Buddhism (2002), and several articles on Mahayana Buddhism in South Asia and Buddhism in the modern world. He is also the co-editor of Buddhism, Meditation and Science (2017), editor of Buddhism in the Modern World (2012). 

From the Himalayas to the Clinic: Ancient Tibetan Bön Yogic Practices and Applications in Contemporary Scientific Research
4:30-6:00pm (ET) New Cabell Hall 168
This talk is sponsored by the Compassionate Care Initiative.

Talk Description
Ancient Tibetan yogic practices of the Bön Tsalung Trulkhor have been utilized at least since the 10th century for their spiritual development as well as healing body, energy, and mind. Since 1999, we have been implementing them in clinical research to support people touched by cancer in their illness experience at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with the supervision of the Tibetan lama, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. This talk will focus on how this Tibetan yoga has been practiced among Bönpo communities as they migrated outside of Tibet and the Indian subcontinent and on the more recent clinical and research applications within contemporary clinical settings, including Tibetan yoga interventions, research protocols, and related research published in scientific journals.

About Alejandro Chaoul
Alejandro “Ale” Chaoul is the Huffington Foundation Endowed Director of The Jung Center’s Mind Body Spirit Institute. He is a scholar, researcher, author, teacher, and educator, with an MA from the University of Virginia, and a PhD from Rice University focusing on Tibetan mind-body practices and applications in contemporary health environments. For over twenty years, Ale has researched and taught mind-body techniques to help relieve stress and support well-being throughout the community, including at MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Program and other educational, health care, and nonprofit organizations. He is the author of over 20 articles and three books, including Tibetan Yoga for Health & Wellbeing and Tibetan Yoga: Magical Movements of Body, Breath & Mind

More to come.