ESRI 2020 Faculty bios & abstract texts

On this page you will find the bios, the abstract texts & references of our ESRI 2020 Faculty, Contemplative Faculty as well as information on our Planning Committee members.

Faculty 2020

  • Micah Gallen Allen
    Micah Gallen Allen Aarhus University and Cambridge University - United Kingdom + Denmark
    Micah Gallen Allen

    As an undergraduate I studied experimental psychology at the University of Central Florida, and worked together with Shaun Gallagher in the interdisciplinary application of philosophy, phenomenology, and experimental psychology to the embodied self.

    In 2012, I completed a PhD in Neuroscience at Aarhus University within the Interacting Minds Centre, where I worked with Chris Frith and Andreas Roepstorff to investigate how mindfulness-based stress reduction impacts cognitive control and affective neural processing.

    From 2013 – 2018 I was a Postdoctoral Fellow jointly in the FIL and ICN at University College London, where I worked with Professor Geraint Rees and Karl J. Friston to develop embodied predictive processing models of metacognitive inference. After leaving UCL, I took up my current position as a Research Associate at Cambridge Psychiatry, where together with Paul Fletcher I am investigating clinical and surgical disruptions of brain-body signalling.

    In the spring of 2019, I have taken up joint positions as an Associate Professor at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS), and a visiting professorship at Cambridge Psychiatry.   

  • Michel  Bitbol
    Michel Bitbol CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris - France
    Michel Bitbol

    Michel Bitbol is researcher at CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. He received a M.D., a Ph.D. in physics and a “Habilitation” in philosophy. After a start in scientific research, he turned to philosophy of science, editing texts by Erwin Schrödinger and formulating a neo-kantian philosophy of quantum mechanics.

    He then studied the relations between physics and the philosophy of mind, in collaboration with Francisco Varela, and drew a parallel between Buddhist dependent arising and non-supervenient relations in quantum physics. He also developed a first-person conception of consciousness expressed from the standpoint of an experience of meditation.

    More recently, he engaged a debate with the philosophical movement called “speculative realism”, from the same standpoint. Michel Bitbol is a member of the Mind & Life Europe Association.

    Uncertainty about oneself

    The source of the quantum indeterminacy has been widely discussed. I’ll first argue that this source is neither the disordered nature of some “external reality”, nor our own uncertainty about some ordered “external reality”, but our intimate enactive participation to the world we are exploring. This will serve to illustrate the self-referential and self-involving process by which we ascribe “reality out there” to some features of what appear to us.

    A generalization of this thesis has been recently proposed by Donald Hoffman. According to him, what we call “external reality” is a just an (inadequate) construct of our adaptative entanglement with the environment in which we live. But then, what can we deem to be more than a construct; what can we deem to be “really real”? To answer this question, I’ll propose a modernized (and non-egotic) variety of Descartes’ criterion. What is “really real” is beyond the external / internal divide: it is what dwells in the self-referential “eye of the storm”; in other terms, it is what is presupposed by doubting it.

    Several current theses about the mind and the world, from cognitive science and from physics as well, will be evaluated against this criterion. It will then be found that no other approach than the phenomenological or contemplative stances can give us a hint about “real reality”. 

     

    References:
    Is Consciousness primary?
    Philosophy as a bridge between Buddhism and Science
    A Phenomenological Ontology for Physics

  • Asaf  Bachrach
    Asaf Bachrach Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Paris - France
    Asaf Bachrach

    Asaf is a practicing cognitive neuroscientist (PhD 2008, MIT) at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). His research topics include  language (syntax, brain imaging of naturalistic language comprehension) and dance (performance, spectating, joint improvisation, new technologies, labodanse.org). He is currently leading an intervention project on the effect of dance improvisation on the ecology of attention in school and an interdisciplinary project (Articulations) on multi-user movement improvisation in Virtual Reality. He has organized a number of indisciplinary events around dance, improvisation and cognition bringing together scientists, movement practitioners, anthropologists and philosophers. He is a member for the new ArTec graduate program in the university Paris 8 where he is taking part in shaping the recherche-creation program.

    Asaf has been practicing contact improvisation (CI, a contemporary dance technique) as well as other types of improvisation techniques (Butoh, tuning score...) since 1994. He studied in Tel Aviv, New York, Paris and Boston. Among his most influential professors are Steve Paxton, Kirsty Simson, Lisa Nelson and Min Tanaka. Since 2000, he has taught in Europe, in the USA, in Buenos Aires and in Israel. In 2012, he organized an international conference in Paris around CI and ‘mindfulness (http://mindthepoint.wordpress.com/). He is the co-founder of the ME-lieu performance collective (2015-2016).

    Since 2016 he is a certified Rolfing® practitioner, a student of Hubert Godard. Asaf has been co-leading with Matthieu Gaudeau, since 2013 of the bodylab and the F.A.R nomadic somatics school, a trans-somatic (Feldenkrais, Alexander, Rolfing and CI) experiential research group.

    What does it mean to improvise?  What does it mean to do science?

    For many people (and dictionaries) to improvise means something like “do or perform on the spur of the moment”. However, the latin origin of the word is in-provisus  or unforseen.

    So rather than focus on the doing, improvisation invites us to attend to what is yet unexpected or unknown...

    In other words, as improvisers we ask how to wait for the un-waited for (French: attendre l’inattendu)

    In my talk I will propose that this perspective on the practice of improvisation makes it not so different from the practice of science. This convergence offers insights into both practices that I will point to. However, certain differences make a difference… Building on Karen Barad’s Agential realist framework I will propose that science-doing and improvisation differ as to the nature of the apparatus the practitioners use to engage with the phenomenon.

    Specifically, the improviser trains at maintaining the agential cut virtual ‘as long as possible’ so to bring about the density of the not-yet. Together with Brian Massumi’s Aesthetic politics this difference in apparatus will provide an outline for an aesthetic theory of improvisation (and science making).

  • Ven. Aileen  Barry
    Ven. Aileen Barry Australia/Ireland
    Ven. Aileen Barry

    Aileen Barry was born in Ireland, raised in a Catholic family, trained in Psychology, subsequently worked with vulnerable families in London and completed training there in Family Therapy. Personal illness drove her to seek treatment in alternative medicines whose success led her to take up a formal training in Homeopathy. With an opportunity to visit Australia in the late 90s she took advantage of the journey to spend time in India en route, to pursue further training in Homeopathy. There, she encountered Tibetan Buddhism and despite her misgivings about taking on any religious system, found the teachings to offer a very sound methodology to explore and understand the mind.

    This led to her eventually taking ordination and she has been a nun for more than 16 years now. In that time, she has lived and worked within various Buddhist Centres, worked within primary schools, visited prisons for several years, was part of the core organizing team for three of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visits to Australia. She spent eight years living in India, as personal assistant to an International Buddhist Teacher, based at a Monastic Institute. In her role as Assistant she has traveled extensively, working closely with individuals and communities across a broad range of cultures around the globe. More recently, she is striving to spend more time in study and meditation practice, balancing this with continued work serving communities .

  • Giovanna  Colombetti
    Giovanna Colombetti Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at Exeter University - United Kingdom
    Giovanna Colombetti

    Giovanna Colombetti is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology of the University of Exeter (UK). Her primary research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy of cognitive science (of situated cognition in particular), philosophy of emotion, phenomenology, and material culture studies. After getting a DPhil from the University of Sussex in 2004, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Universities of York (Canada), Trento, and Harvard. Since 2007 she has worked and lived in Exeter, temporarily visiting research centres in Europe, Australia, and Asia.

    In 2010-2014 she led a project funded by the European Research Council on embodiment and affectivity, and wrote The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind (MIT Press, 2014). Since then, she has worked on the notion of “situated affectivity” and is currently writing a book on this topic. She is also a qigong instructor. 

    Personal webpage: http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/sociology/staff/colombetti/
    Publications page: https://sites.google.com/view/giovannacolombetti-pages/publications

    Emotions and inconspicuous bodily feelings

    How do we experience our body during emotions (and arguably also beyond emotions)? Whereas some bodily feelings are conspicuous and appear to track actual physiological changes (a form of certainty), others are much less clearly felt and/or related to the physiological condition of the body (a form of uncertainty). The latter are particularly interesting phenomena that illustrate the more general point that our mind is, arguably, never fully known or “transparent” to us—at least not in what some philosophers call a “reflective” or “explicit” sense.

    In my lecture I will talk about these liminal phenomena: feelings at the boundary of the known (also called “prereflective” or “background” feelings), and their part in emotion.

    Reference:
    Colombetti, Giovanna: The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind. MIT Press (2014).
    With the courtesy of Professor Colombetti please find here the link to 'Chapter 5 - How the Body Feels in Emotion Experience' from this book.

  • Luisa  Damiano
    Luisa Damiano Philosophy of Science at University of Messina - Italy
    Luisa Damiano

    Luisa Damiano (Ph.D. in Epistemology of Complex Systems) is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Messina (Italy), where she coordinates the Research Group on Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial (RG-ESA).

    Her main research fields are: Epistemology of the Sciences of Complex Systems; Epistemology of the Cognitive Sciences and Philosophy of Mind, with a focus on Cognitive Extension, Minimal Cognition, Inter-subjective Cognition, Embodiment and Enaction; Philosophy of Biology, with a focus on Self-organization, Autopoiesis, Minimal Life, Origins of Life; Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial, with a focus on the Synthetic Modeling of Life and Cognition, in particular in Synthetic Biology and in Cognitive, Developmental and Social Robotics.

    On these topics she wrote many articles, published two books (Unità in dialogo, Mondadori, Milano 2009; Living with robots, with P. Dumouchel, Harvard University Press, 2017) and co-edited several journal special issues. Her philosophical exploration of the above mentioned domains of contemporary science is based on ongoing collaborations with scientific teams (e.g., University of Salento, Italy, and ELSI, Japan, SB-AI Project; Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Kyoto, Japan, Artificial Empathy Project).

    The synthetic method: developing scientific knowledge in uncertainty

    The talk focuses on the so-called ‘synthetic method’ (Ross, 1935), that is, the methodological approach which, since the late 1930s, has been guiding scientific rationality in its attempts of studying natural processes through the construction and experimental exploration of artificial systems – systems ‘made by man rather than by nature’ (Langton, 1989). The methodological promise is ‘understanding by building’ (Pfeifer, Scheier, 1999): constructing hardware, software and/or wetware systems (i.e., robotic platforms, computer simulations and/or chemical artificial systems) that, as they are able to re-create aspects of the target natural processes based on scientific hypotheses, can be considered as material models of these processes (Cordeschi, 2002). After a short survey of the main genealogy and current developments of the synthetic method, the talk proposes an exploration of its epistemological structure. The main thesis is that this methodological approach expresses a new way of conceiving and practicing science, which diverges from the modern tradition of Western science. The idea is that of a ‘constructivist’ research paradigm, grounded in an epistemology which discards the traditional ideal of a purely objective science, and guides scientific rationality in developing its knowledge in uncertainty. The option is not substituting objectivism with subjectivism, but taking ‘the third way of participation’ (Varela, 1979): engaging in a subtle, attentive, interminable work of interpretation in which scientific facts are inseparable from artifacts, objective representations converge with subjective constructions, and discovery coincides with invention (von Foerster, 2007; Damiano, 2009; Damiano et al., 2011).

    References:
    Cordeschi R. [2002], The Discovery of the Artificial, Kluwer Academic Publishers
    Damiano L. [2009], Unità in dialogo, Mondadori
    Damiano L., Hiolle A., Cañamero L. [2011], “Grounding Synthetic Knowledge”, in Lenaerts, T. et al. (Eds.), Advances in Artificial Life, MIT Press, pp. 200-207
    Foerster, H., von [2007], Understanding Understanding, Springer
    Langton, C. [1989], “Artificial Life”, in Boden, M. (Ed.) [1996] The Philosophy of Artificial Life, Oxford University Press, pp. 39-94
    Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C. [1999], Understanding Intelligence, MIT Press
    Ross T. [1935] “Machines that think”, Psychological Review, 42 (4), 1935, p. 387-393
    Varela, F. [1979], Principles of Biological Autonomy, North-Holland

  • Hsuan-Hsiu  Hung
    Hsuan-Hsiu Hung Resident artist - Estonia
    Hsuan-Hsiu Hung

    Hsuan-Hsiu Hung is a dance and movement artist from Taiwan. She comes from a visual art background with a B.F.A from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Over time, because of her personal practice of Qi Gong and dance, her work gradually evolved into an interdisciplinary practice which crosses over visual and movement, and contemplative art. She has received modern dance training at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and obtained an M.A. in Creative Practice from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. She has studied with a Qi Gong master in Taiwan for over ten years.

    In Taiwan, she has worked as an artist in residence in school, collaborating with teachers to develop projects that incorporate both visual and movement art in the learning process. She has presented her dance works in New York and in London. In Europe, she has been invited to teach in dance festivals as well as in meditation retreats where movement is practised as a way to work with the many layers of our self. 

    Her current research Gestures of Offering explores the improvisational nature of encounters within a context of contemplative movement practice. It is inspired by the love of tea ceremonies and the movement rituals in Buddhist practice.

    Website: www.dancinginart.com

    → For the visual material that Hsuan-Hsiu Hung will use during ESRI 2020, please click here

    Improvisation

    - Movements arise in the space of the awareness, in that awareness borns the gestures of offering. They seem to emerge from nowhere and from everywhere.

    - Per-form, in its word root means to “carry into effect; fulfil; discharge.” Per in Latin means “through; thoroughly, entirely, utterly.” And form, one theory holds that it is related to the Greek morphe; "form, beauty, outward appearance" (Etymonline.com, 2019). In my opinion, per-form or through-form resonates with the Buddhist view of emptiness - because of the empty nature of things, forms appear, and at the same time because of emptiness, forms are always emerging and dissolving.

    - The idea of performance being an act in which I play out a fixed choreography dis-interests me and so does the traditional setting of performer and audience being in two separate positions, where the performers offer and the audience receive. By letting go of any fixed score and by tuning into what is present in the moment, the performance emerges in the process of our encounters. The gestures of offering is per-formed, through the presence of our bodies, from which emerges living and evolving human connections. The practice for me personally becomes fresh and exciting, to be always faced with unknown conditions that continue to unfold. The gestures of offering are per-formed dependently, this is how they truly emerge in the present moment. In this sense, whoever is present is both the per-former and the audience. On the other hand, because the gestures arise in the moment of recognising them in awareness, not in the act of making, there is no per-former but only per-forming.

  • Giulia Moiraghi
    Giulia Moiraghi Fenomeno Yoga
    Giulia Moiraghi

    Giulia Moiraghi is a post-doctoral researcher in Philosophy and has been a dedicated Yoga practitioner for about 20 years. After a summa cum laude Master’s Degree in Contemporary Aesthetics from the University of Milan in 2005, she completed a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Verona in 2010. She is the author of In cammino verso la cosa. Heidegger dall’estetica all’ontologia, (On the Way to the Thing. Heidegger from Aesthetics to Ontology, Mimesis, Milano, 2006, monography) and has written several essays on philosophical subjects. 

    She is a certified yoga teacher at the Cavedine Yoga Academy (3-Years Teacher Training – 1920 hours)  and Y.A.N.I. member (National Association of Yoga Teachers) and teaches yoga and meditation since 2013 in Rovereto (TN), where she founded “Fenomeno Yoga” in order to create a bridge of communication between Eastern contemplative practices and Western philosophical research.

    She developed an embodied phenomenological methodology through the practice of postures and breathing techniques. In 2017 she published with Corriere della Sera: Cura e Ardore. Il rigore e la passione della pratica yoga (Care and Ardor. The Rigor and Passion of Yoga Practice), RCS, Milano, 2017. In September 2020 she will teach a course on Philosophy within the “Consciousness and Cognition Summerschool” of the University of Pisa.

    Website: www.fenomenoyoga.it

    → Material for the Yoga Sessions: Yoga mat and comfortable clothes
        Optional: blocks (or thick books) / cushion / strap or belt / bolster

    Fenomeno Yoga - Introduction to the Method

    In the world of yoga there is a tendency to practice on the one hand very dynamic forms of yoga, very demanding on the physical level, that fall within the great vein of hatha yoga, and on the other, thoroughly meditative approaches to yoga where the body is not used. With Fenomeno Yoga I wanted to keep the body dimension together with the meditative one.

    Hence Hatha yoga and Raja yoga coexist thanks to a method that singles out two different moments, the “moment of action" and the "contemplative moment", not necessarily subsequent in time. In two words we can define this method as a method made up of "doing" and "letting happen".

    So it is a type of practice in which you must be ready to feel the internal fire burning and also to shed a few sweat drops; but there are moments in which action is suspended and a different phase is entered, where you allow yourself to start exploring what was created. This is what yoga allows you to discover and what I call the phenomenon, “fenomeno” in Italian.

    The metaphor of  lighting a fire is very fitting to somehow represent this approach. An approach in which an action must be implemented, a demanding action like the one of setting up a fireplace, which implies beforehand searching for the wood, cutting the logs, putting them together, arranging finer branches and, underneath them, crumpled newspapers balls.

    So there is a lot to do to light a fire, but once you have lit the fire you must also be able to stop, because haste can turn into something almost compulsive, which prevents you from being with what happens, with what occurs, with the happening of the fire. Again, the trigger is necessary, and for the trigger you need a lot of ardor, but then you need to be able to pause on the fire, look after it, take care of the fire, and, thus, avoid overdoing, like pushing with the poker, or blowing, which would probably end up in extinguishing the fire; instead observation is needed and care, in order to set a touch at the right time, to revive it.

    This metaphor helps us to understand the essence of this approach. So on the one hand there is doing, on the other there is letting happen, on the one hand there is action, on the other there is passion (in the etymological sense of letting oneself being imprinted).

    All this is what I call the application of the phenomenological method, the method by which we can reach pure experience; therefore not the experience we usually deal with, which is mediated by the analytical and categorizing mind, but experience in its rawest form.

    In summary: the first phase, the active one, we can call it, as the ancient Greeks did, the epochè, the second, the receptive one, is the phase of the widening of the field of consciousness.

    The first phase is the one in which we must burn the past, burn the habits, the natural attitude towards reality, the mental patterns, the prejudices, in a word, everything that makes up the filter with which we usually meet the world and which, however, prevents us from experiencing it "as if it were the first time"; and then, once this has been done, there is the possibility of having access to a contemplative dimension in which what unfolds before us is simply allowed to happen, within the limits in which it is given to our experience.

    This second phase could be called, in philosophical terms, the "phenomenological reduction", which, despite the name, is a dimension of a widening of the field of consciousness, a kind of taking into charge the appearance of the world, beyond mental categories, beyond interpretative patterns: it is the givenness of what is, exactly as it is given: the phenomenon!

    When getting back to our mats and our bodies, these apparently abstract theories get rooted in an intuitive and spontaneous understanding, felt in one's own psycho-physical complex, in one’s own flesh, and thus we become holders of a knowledge which cannot be said, but only experienced!

    It is a particularly suitable and rigorous method to introduce Westerners to the experience of yoga
    , outside of excessive metaphysical interpretations and concepts that often load the domain of yoga, but are largely foreign to us.

    In yoga, in fact, it is a matter of "removing" all that can be removed, rather than "adding", to try to reach the essential, which is never an inherent and autonomous substance, but something that arises in a weave of relation and interdependency. Ultimately this equals the discovery of a non-dual relationship between us and the world, where the boundaries between subject and object overlap and dissolve.

     

    Online materials:

    Video on the method with English subtitles - Fenomeno Yoga: Introduzione al metodo - with English subtitles

    Videos of the practice
    Rovereto Corsi di Yoga
    Surya Namaskar A
    Traditional Surya Namaskar
    Sirsasna to Prasarita Padottanasana
    Momenti da una sequenza di Yoga Fenomenologico

  • J. Kevin  O'Regan
    J. Kevin O'Regan SCIRE, CNRS & Université Paris Descartes Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition Center - France
    J. Kevin O'Regan

    Kevin O'Regan is emeritus ex-director of the Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, CNRS, Université Paris Descartes. After studying theoretical physics at Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Kevin moved to Paris in 1975 to work in experimental psychology at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. Following his Ph.D. on eye movements in reading he showed the existence of an optimal position for the eye to fixate in words.

    His interest in the problem of the perceived stability of the visual world despite eye movements led him to question established notions of the nature of visual perception, and to discover, with collaborators, the phenomenon of "change blindness". This work then led him to propose a "sensorimotor" theory of phenomenal consciousness that he described in his 2011 book: "Why red doesn't sound like a bell: Understanding the feel of consciousness".

    In 2013 he obtained a five year Advanced ERC grant to explore the implications of sensorimotor theory to sensory substitution, pain, color, space perception, developmental psychology and robotics. Currently, within a european FETopen project GoalRobots, he is studying how young infants learn the structure of their bodies.

    Most recently Kevin O'Regan has become concerned by the ethical implications of his work on consciousness, in particular when applied to A.I.

    Website: http://nivea.psycho.univ-paris5.fr

    What is perception like?

    We usually have the impression of perceiving the "real world" outside of us. Vision, for example, seems rich and detailed, colorful, continuously present over time and "outside" of us. How is this possible, given that in fact our brains only receive nervous impulses, and given that our visual systems are defective in many ways, with blind spots, poor color acuity in peripheral vision, continual eye movements? 

    Why do we have the impression of being part of a three dimensional physical space extended over time, when, again, all the brain receives is a jumble of nerve activations? 

    Why do we have the impression that thoughts and memory are less "real" than the world itself: after all, both are just neural excitation in the brain... (and here we are assuming the brain is real!?).

    My "sensorimotor" theory of phenomenal consciousness suggests that our impression of "reality" is a construction that our minds create by examining "sensorimotor contingencies": the relations between the actions we undertake and the resulting changes in nervous input. The phenomenal experience we have of the world, its continuous-in-time, spatial nature and its particular sensory quality (e.g. the redness of red, the smell of an onion, ...) is constituted by these sensorimotor contingencies. Sensory experience feels "real" to us, and different from our thoughts and imaginings, when the sensorimotor contingencies have particular properties that we (arbitrarily) call "real". Organisms with different sensors and bodies have different realities.

    Our reality is just a self-consistent way of thinking.

    References:
    On why vision seems "perfect":
    O’Regan, J. K. (1992). Solving the “real” mysteries of visual perception: The world as an outside memory. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 46(3), 461–48. 

    On why we see space as 3D:
    Terekhov, A. V., & O’Regan, J. K. (2016). Space as an Invention of Active Agents. Front. Robot. AI.

    On why feels feel the way they do:
    O’Regan, J. K., Myin, E., & Noë, A. (2005). Skill, corporality and alerting capacity in an account of sensory consciousness. Boundaries of Consciousness : Neurobiology and Neuropathology. Progress in Brain Research, 150, 55–68. 

    The sensorimotor theory explained in my book:
    Kevin O’Regan (2011) “Why red doesn’t sound like a bell” (penultimate draft)

    A web page under construction that has all the publications and will soon have some videos about various topics: http://whatfeelingislike.net/

  • Giuseppe Pagnoni
    Giuseppe Pagnoni University of Modena and Reggio Emilia - Italy
    Giuseppe Pagnoni

    Giuseppe Pagnoni is Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. After a Master in Physics, he completed a PhD in Neuroscience and has worked for several years in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at Emory University, Atlanta (GA), USA.

    He has led and collaborated to neuroimaging studies on diverse topics including reward processing, the interaction of immune and brain function, social cognition, intrinsic brain activity, pain processing, mental effort, meditation. He is currently interested in the application of the predictive coding framework to the study of contemplative practices. Giuseppe Pagnoni is a member of the Mind & Life Europe association.

    Seeing things as they are? Contemplative epistemology from the perspective of predictive coding

    I have been interested for some time now in exploring how the process of contemplative practice can be better understood in terms of predictive coding/active inference. This theoretical framework sees the brain as an organ exquisitely specialized for adapting its synaptic activity and architecture to mirror the casual structure of events that the organism both encounters and actively induces in its environment.

    In this perspective, consciousness reflects the ongoing process that allows us to infer the causes of our sensations through the sensory veil, in the service of an action aimed ultimately at self-preservation. For this process to be both feasible and efficient, it seems that some sort of Bayesian machinery is necessary, whereby the inferential process is guided and constrained by a set of empirical priors or `beliefs' acquired through experience or genetically inherited. Such belief structure is encoded in a hierarchical internal model that constantly generates predictions about the incoming sensory flow, and is constantly modified via a prediction error minimization scheme that compares the predictions with which we query the world with the actual world's response.

    Both traditional teachings and phenomenological reports suggest that contemplative practice may work through subtly weakening and mobilizing the set of engrained priors that habitually constrain our thoughts and behavior along fairly rigid tracks. This `work in regress', which is often hinted to by various mystical traditions and seems to require the full engagement of the mind-body complex, may provide a countermeasure to the progressive complexity and loss of flexibility of our generative internal model that tend to occur as we accumulate experience during our lifetime. The regular engagement in meditative practice may thus cultivate the potential of a freer (from one's own habitual schemes) outlook and behavior, and even disclose in particular settings unusual modes of consciousness.

    Another point that would be worthwhile discussing is the often mistaken concept of `living in the present' associated with mindfulness practice. I will argue that modern society already biases us too strongly towards the here and now, with the consequent loss of a thinking horizon of wider temporal and spatial scope. This is particularly interesting because in the context of active inference, the degree of consciousness of an organism has been proposed to depend on the temporal depth of its internal model. I hypothesize that the familiarization of meditators with the dynamics of mental time-travel and attentional regulation during their practice actually fosters a widening of their capacity for prediction and post-diction, and thus, in the sense proposed above, of their consciousness.

  • Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
    Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche Tergar
    Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

    Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche possesses a rare ability to present the ancient wisdom of Tibet in a fresh, engaging manner. His profound yet accessible teachings and playful sense of humor have endeared him to students around the world. Most uniquely, Rinpoche’s teachings weave together his own personal experiences with modern scientific research, relating both to the practice of meditation.

    Born in 1975 in the Himalayan border regions between Tibet and Nepal, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a much-loved and accomplished meditation master. From a young age, Rinpoche was drawn to a life of contemplation. He spent many years of his childhood in strict retreat. At the age of seventeen, he was invited to be a teacher at his monastery’s three-year retreat center, a position rarely held by such a young lama. He also completed the traditional Buddhist training in philosophy and psychology, before founding a monastic college at his home monastery in north India.

    In addition to extensive training in the meditative and philosophical traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche has also had a lifelong interest in Western science and psychology. At an early age, he began a series of informal discussions with the famed neuroscientist Francisco Varela, who came to Nepal to learn meditation from his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Many years later, in 2002, Mingyur Rinpoche and a handful of other long-term meditators were invited to the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Richard Davidson, Antoine Lutz, and other scientists examined the effects of meditation on the brains of advanced meditators. The results of this groundbreaking research were reported in many of the world’s most widely read publications, including National Geographic and Time.

    Mingyur Rinpoche teaches throughout the world, with centers on five continents. His candid, often humorous accounts of his own personal difficulties have endeared him to thousands of students around the world. His best-selling book, The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into over twenty languages. Rinpoche’s most recent books are Turning Confusion into Clarity: A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism, Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, and an illustrated children’s book entitled Ziji: The Puppy that Learned to Meditate.

    In early June, 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche walked out of his monastery in Bodhgaya, India and began a “wandering retreat” through the Himalayas and the plains of India that lasted four and a half years. When not attending to the monasteries under his care in India and Nepal, Rinpoche spends time each year traveling and teaching worldwide.

  • Andreas  Roepstorff
    Andreas Roepstorff Culture and Society & Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University - Denmark
    Andreas Roepstorff

    Andreas Roepstorff is a professor in cognition, communication and culture at the department of Culture and Society and the department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, Denmark. He works at the interface between anthropology, cognitive science and neuroscience, ans is equally interested in the workings of the mind and brain, and in how cognitive science and brain imaging, as fields of knowledge production, relate to other scientific and public fields. He has formal training in social anthropology and in neurobiology and has published both within these disciplines as well as in various collaborations across other fields.

    He is the director of the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and is involved in a number of transdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on aspects of human interaction. He has a long-standing research interest in cognitive aspects of contemplative practices.

    Andreas Roepstorff serves also as a member of the Mind & Life Europe board and the MLE Association.

  • Donata  Schoeller
    Donata Schoeller University of Koblenz, Max-Weber-Kolleg at University of Erfurt - Switzerland
    Donata Schoeller

    Donata Schoeller is a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Koblenz, a fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, and a guest professor of philosophy at the University of Iceland. Her research focuses on an embodied and enactive approach to meaning and its implications on the methods of philosophy, which has led her to co-initiate and manage the international research project Embodied Critical Thinking (ect.hi.is).

    Among her recent publications are Close Talking: Erleben zu Sprache bringen, (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), Saying What We Mean, ed. with Ed Casey, (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2017), and Thinking Thinking, ed. with Vera Saller, (Freiburg: Alber Verlag, 2016). On account of her earlier work (PhD) on Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme, she continues to partake in research groups, conferences and publications on German mysticism and its philosophical impact. As a trainer of the philosophical mindfulness practices of Focusing and Thinking-at-the-Edge, she teaches at different institutes, academies and universities in Europe, the US and Israel.

    Donata is also a passionate translator of the work of the philosopher Eugene Gendlin, as well as of the poet Silja Walter. Last year, she was active in the scientific board of the WHO conference on Mental Health and Meaningful Life in Bratislava, and currently very much enjoys the inspirational learning as an association member of Mind & Life Europe. She is enriched by three rather grown up daughters and lives in (and on her way to) Erfurt, Koblenz and Zurich.  

    Embodied Critical Thinking

    The schism of thinking and embodiment is well-known and extensively bemoaned in the literature: in the Cartesian mind/body split and in mechanistic approaches to the body. This schism also leads to a double bind in critical thinking. According to Kant, critical thinking is the ability to truly think for oneself, within the wider social, political, enculturated world.

    Yet, students and scholars often experience being caught in a unacknowledged dilemma of adhering to the rigours of objective conceptualised thinking on the one hand, in which the particular person does not seem to matter, and the challenging fuzzy intricacy of their situated evolving experience on the other.

    Embodied Critical Thinking (ect.hi.is) is a research project that seeks novel ways of practicing critical thinking by applying first and second person methods that re-connect conceptualization to the implicit precision of embodied experience. I will provide a glimpses into our methods on Thursday afternoon.

  • Jun Tani
    Jun Tani Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology - Japan
    Jun Tani

    Jun Tani received the D.Eng. degree from Sophia University, Tokyo in 1995. He started his research career with Sony Computer Science Lab. in 1993. He became a Team Leader of the Laboratory for Behavior and Dynamic Cognition, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan in 2001. He became a Professor with the Electrical Engineering Department, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, South Korea in 2012.

    He is currently a Full Professor with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Okinawa, Japan. His current research interests include cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, phenomenology, complex adaptive systems, and robotics.

    He is an author of “Exploring Robotic Minds: Actions, Symbols, and Consciousness as Self-Organizing Dynamic Phenomena." published from Oxford Univ. Press in 2016.  

    Website: https://groups.oist.jp/cnru &  https://groups.oist.jp/cnru/jun-tani

    Exploring robotic minds

    This talk proposes that the mind is comprised of emergent phenomena, which appear via intricate and often conflictive interactions between top-down intentional processes involved in proactively acting on the external world and bottom-up inference processes involved in receiving the resultant perceptual reality. This view has been tested via a series of neurorobotics experiments conducted in my lab for more than 20 years which use “deep” recurrent neural network (RNN) models mechanized for prediction and inference.
    These experimental results suggest that phenomena of consciousness as well as free will can be structurally accounted for by indeterminism inevitably emerging due to circular causality in the enactment loop. Finally, I discuss how the synthetic approach could contribute to better understanding of phenomenological consciousness.

    References
    J. Tani:“Exploring Robotic Minds: Actions, Symbols, and Consciousness as Self-Organizing Dynamic Phenomena.”, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Note:
    Deep recurrent neural network model:
    A neural network model consisting of multiple layers of neural network with recurrent synaptic connectivity inside.
    Circular causality:
    A situation in which a sequence of causes and effects that leads back to the original cause and because of this feedback another dynamics can be initiated. The sensory-motor loop could be a such example through internal states, sensory state, and action of organism and environment.
  • Father Francis Tiso
    Father Francis Tiso Diocese of Isernia-Venafro - Italy
    Father Francis Tiso

    Father Francis V. Tiso was Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2004 to 2009, where he served as liaison to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Sikhs, and Traditional religions as well as the Reformed confessions. 

    Before coming to the USCCB, Father Tiso was assigned to the Archdiocese of San Francisco where he served as Parochial Vicar of St. Thomas More Church and Chaplain at San Francisco State University and the University of California Medical School. He was also Visiting Professor in the Archdiocesan School of Pastoral Leadership, where he taught courses in Foundational Theology.  He also served as Parochial Vicar in Eureka, CA and in Mill Valley, CA.

    A New York native, Father Tiso holds the A.B. in Medieval Studies from Cornell University. He earned a Master of Divinity degree (cum laude) at Harvard University and holds a doctorate from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary where his specialization was Buddhist studies. He translated several early biographies of the Tibetan yogi and poet, Milarepa, for his dissertation on sanctity in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. He has led research expeditions in South Asia, Tibet and the Far East, and his teaching interests include Christian theology, history of religions, spirituality, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

    Father Tiso is a priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro, Italy, where he now serves as chaplain to the migrant camps in the Province of Isernia. He is Diocesan Delegate for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs. He was also chaplain of the well-known Hermitage of Saints Cosmas and Damian at Isernia from 1988 to1998. He is founder and president of the Association "Archbishop Ettore Di Filippo", which offers legal, educational, medical, and spiritual support to migrants.

    In 1995 Father Tiso was invited to accompany Cardinal Francis Arinze, then head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to a dialogue with Buddhist leaders in Taiwan. He has traveled extensively in India, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, Japan, and Bangladesh.

    Father Tiso has written and lectured widely. He is the recipient of grants from the American Academy of Religion, the American Philosophical Society, the Palmers Fund in Switzerland, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, CA. He is a musician and paints in acrylics and watercolors.

    His research on Milarepa, Liberation in One Lifetime, was published in 2014, and he has recently published an article on Milarepa’s teachings on the intermediate state (the “bardo”). Tiso’s most recent book, Rainbow Body and Resurrection, explores the background to the manifestation of postmortem dissolution of the body in the case of Khenpo A Cho in 1998 in eastern Tibet.

    Fr. Tiso has been translating practice texts from the Milarepa lineage in the 12th century, and has recently participated in a retreat in northern Nepal with Bon po yogis whose practices aim at the rainbow body attainment.

    Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness Research: Presuppositions, Consequences, and Methods.

    Enriched by suggestive work in the laboratory, both science and philosophy are still very much “en route” to understanding artificial intelligence and consciousness by way of a great many unknowns and “uncertainty”.

    This essay begins by distinguishing artificial intelligence, i.e. the construction of a thinking device, from the phenomena associated with consciousness. It then examines the emergence of consciousness-like phenomena in both living and constructed matrices, with some attention given to the social, environmental, and evolutionary risks that are an unavoidable consequence of such experiments.

    Comparing emergent consciousness in both biological and artificial matrices, the question is raised as to whether the “emergence” model adequately describes human consciousness, or if it stands as a restricted explanation for a finite set of consciousness-like phenomena. Finally, based on accounts of contemplative realization, we propose a dialogue with AI experimentation, offering a model that does not exclude meaningful interaction with the body-mind complex.

  • Matthias  Staber
    Matthias Staber Tibetcenter Austria - Austria
    Matthias Staber

    After completing high school and a two-year course on painting and making jewelry, Matthias decided to travel to India in search of Buddhist wisdom. After spending several months in the Himalayas he met one of his main Buddhist teachers, the Ven. Wangdor Rinpoche, in the small Himalayan town of Rewalsar (Tibetan: Tso Pema). He started to accumulate the preliminary practices while receiving teachings on Dzogchen and Mahamudra him, a cave-yogi who spend most of his live in retreat. Rinpoche encouraged him to learn Tibetan saying, that it would be very beneficial. Receiving more teachings, doing meditation retreats and becoming proficient in Tibetan became his main objective for the next 8 years.

    He spend these years traveling between India, Nepal and his home country Austria, while deepening his practice and study of Tibetan Buddhism (in the attached files is a list of teachings, transmission and empowerments he received so far). After approximately five years of studying the Tibetan language, he was proficient enough to receive teachings directly in Tibetan and to start translating for masters of the Dzogchen and Mahamudra lineages.

    In 2017, after hearing that the Ven. Geshe Tenzin Dhargye was in search of an assistant and full time translator, he decided to go back to Europe in order to assist Geshe Tendhar in his activities. He now prepares teaching materials for Geshe la, translates classical Buddhist texts and Geshe la’s teachings. Geshe Tendhar is the director of Tibetcenter Austria, the biggest institute of H.H. Dalai Lama in Austria (https://www.tibetcenter.at/en/home-en/).

    In the summer of 2017, he also started to study western Philosophy academically in order to broaden his horizon, challenge his previous understanding of Buddhist Philosophy and to refine his terminology as a translator. He plans to finish his M.A. in the next couple of years, while at the same time working for Geshe Tendhar and the Tibetcenter.

    Consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism

    The main focus of my talk will be the Buddhist understanding of consciousness. As a translator, I deal with these terms and their meanings in both the source and target languages. In each, words like “consciousness” are not just empty shells—they come loaded with their own connotations. In this way, I also aim to show what might be ‘lost in translation’.

    Specifically, I’ll look at three main terms: rNam Shes (commonly translated as “consciousness”); Shes Rab (“wisdom”); and Ye Shes (“primordial wisdom”). By focusing first on “rNam Shes”—what it is and how it works (i.e. solidifying ‘what is’ into individual, permanent, and independent things)—I will then try to show how this solidifying-perceptual-process is loosened through “Shes Rab” in order to enable an ‘experience’ of “Ye Shes”. I will also explore the false notions of certainty that might be built into the cognitive structure of “rNam Shes”.

  • Indira Thouvenin
    Indira Thouvenin CNRS Heudiasyc at University of Technology Compiègne, Sorbonne Universities - France
    Indira Thouvenin

    Indira Thouvenin is professor (enseignant chercheur contractuel HDR rang A) at the CNRS Heudiasyc UMR 7253 laboratory at UTC (University of Technology Compiègne - Sorbonne Universities). She obtained her PhD in Biophysics at University Pierre & Marie Curie in 1989 in the field of image processing for echocardiography, then she joined the Institut Image ENSAM (Chalon sur Saone) on 1998 to participate to new research activity on virtual reality and computer graphics. Since 2001 she is focused on informed virtual environment at CNRS Heudiasyc Lab with two axis i.e. gestural interaction and adaptive feedback in virtual and augmented environments. In particular she is the leader of the TRANSLIFE research program including an immersive room (CAVETM).

    She is currently has been chairwoman of AFRV (French society for virtual reality), member of the steering committee of CNRS research group IG-RV and program committee of numerous VR conferences. She has been supervisor of 12 PhDs

    She has contributed to the scientific study of informed virtual environments and to technical development in the field of  training applications with VR. She is a co founder of the company Reviatech.

    Website: http://www.hds.utc.fr/~ithouven

    Interaction in informed virtual environments

    This talk is focused on informed virtual environments designed to allow interaction between humans and virtual worlds, in order to explore their believability. This exploration is done through three main concepts: intention and attention of the user modelling, adaptation to the user expertise or state, and multimodal dynamic feedback of the system.

    For many years, these concepts have been studied in my Lab through 3D dynamic metaphors or multi modal augmentations, based on decision models taking into account the user's state, expertise, emotion, body activity and mind activity as far as possible. We have experimented adaptive sensorial feedback for gestural training, learning abstract concepts like light decomposition, or 3D objects visualisation with gestural interaction.

    In these interactions, the experience is personal, unique, and based on an enactive coupling between human and virtual environment. Results show that the enactive loop in the informed virtual environment is a possible way to reinforce the believability of virtual worlds.

     

    References:
    Vincent Frémont, Minh Tien Phan, Indira Thouvenin: Adaptive Visual Assistance System for Enhancing the Driver Awareness of Pedestrians. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Interact. 36(9): 856-869 (2020)

    Camille Sagnier, Emilie Loup-Escande, Domitile Lourdeaux, Indira Thouvenin, Gérard Valléry: User Acceptance of Virtual Reality: An Extended Technology Acceptance Model. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Interact. 36(11): 993-1007 (2020

    Emilie Loup-Escande, Rémy Frenoy, Guillaume Poplimont, Indira Thouvenin, Olivier Gapenne, Olga Megalakaki: Contributions of mixed reality in a calligraphy learning task: Effects of supplementary visual feedback and expertise on cognitive load, user experience and gestural performance. Comput. Hum. Behav. 75: 42-49 (2017)

    Videos:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VxGVrn2HOw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl4h8D7P84c&t=53s
    https://youtu.be/fU8lA7h4qJo

  • Holger Yeshe
    Holger Yeshe Tergar Meditation Community
    Holger Yeshe

    Born in Nürnberg, Germany, Holger Yeshe began practicing Buddhism in 1999. Since that time, he has studied and practiced extensively in both the Theravadan and Tibetan Buddhist lineages. In 2005, he met his main teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche with whom he has practiced with ever since. During his two decades of intensive study and practice, Holger Yeshe became proficient (fluent?) in Tibetan language and now serves as primary interpreter for Khenpo Kunga, Mingyur Rinpoche’s main Khenpo. In 2010, he ordained as a novice Buddhist monk under the tutelage of Mingyur Rinpoche, splitting his time between monastic settings in Asia and Dharma centers in the West.

    Holger Yeshe has a particular interest in the intersection between the meditative arts and western Scientific modes of inquiry. In 2018, Holger Yeshe attended his first Mind & Life Europe Summer Research Institute which he believes is a great place to continue to explore this dialogue. He currently helps co-direct Tergar Germany, offering meditation seminars in both English and German, coordinating community outreach, and providing individual instruction for students of Mingyur Rinpoche.

    A perspective on "Self"  from the buddhist contemplative tradition

    In this presentation I will look at "Self“ from a Buddhist perspective. 

    What do we mean by that? How do we experience the Self? And how can we recognise the deeply held beliefs we hold, and look at them in a different way?

    Looking at the concepts that we hold and how different contemplative practises can provide a basis for such an exploration and how different methods might help to tackle the challenges that come from relating with ourselves and the world in certain ways. 

    Giving an overview of different practises that ultimately try to deal with the grasping to Self, which is viewed as the source of dissatisfaction. 

Contemplative Faculty & Practice at ESRI

  • Holger Yeshe
    Holger Yeshe Tergar Meditation Community
    Holger Yeshe

    Please see bio under 'Faculty'.

  • Ven. Aileen Barry
    Ven. Aileen Barry Australia/Ireland
    Ven. Aileen Barry

    Please see bio under 'Faculty'.

  • Matthias Staber
    Matthias Staber Tibetcenter Austria - Austria
    Matthias Staber

    Please see bio under 'Faculty'.

  • Ven. Ayya  Anopama
    Ven. Ayya Anopama
    Ven. Ayya Anopama

    Venerable Anopama, born in Germany, started meditating in 2002 with S.N. Goenka. In 2010 she left her professional career as a cultural policy adviser and yoga therapist in the United Kingdom to volunteer full-time at the meditation center Dhamma Dipa. She then went on to India to study Pali and into extended solitary retreat in Myanmar where she ordained as a Buddhist nun with the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw.

    After her training at Pa Auk Tawya Monastery and intensive meditation with various teachers in Myanmar, including Sayadaw U Tejania and Sayalay Dipankara, her journey led her to share and practice the Dhamma in various monastic communities and mediation centers in Australia, Europe, India and the United States where she also had the opportunity to study with Bhikkhu Analayo and Ajahn Brahm as well as with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Mingyur Rinpoche among others. Over the course of her journey she has spent over 5 years in retreat, mostly in silence. Her approach to meditation focuses on wakefulness and kindness as means to develop stillness and wisdom and does also include interpersonal practices based on Insight Dialogue.

    The Power of Presence and Mutuality - Insight Dialogue with Venerable Anopama
    "Prepare for a meeting with the unknown: open-hearted, curious and awake".

    What happens when we pause and attune to not-knowing? What happens when mindfulness of one person meets the mindfulness of another? How is experience co-created? What can we see together which we cannot see alone?

    The session will offer an introduction to Insight Dialogue, a relational meditation practice designed to help us be awake in our everyday lives. It brings together meditative awareness, wisdom teachings and the power of relationship, to support the development of liberating insight and compassion while investigating present moment experience. It’s efficacy, seen over two decades of practice, lies in the power of relationship to amplify and accelerate the development of both, mindfulness and stillness of mind.

    We will explore how we can be fully present in ourselves and with others by the power of embodied listening and speaking, meeting the unknown.

    This session is scheduled for Thursday evening 13th, in the optional meditation practice slot.

At ESRI contemplative practice is a core element we engage in to deepen our own felt experience gained through such techniques.
Familiarising ourselves with the qualities of mindfulness/awareness enables us to settle our minds and look directly at our inner experience. Through cultivation of our innate qualities of love, compassion, wisdom and joy we gain insight using analytical meditation which investigates and directly examines our experience and perceptions. 
We will offer short presentations that highlight key elements of meditation along with direct quotes from meditation masters to contemplate and incorporate in guided daily meditation sessions. A half practice day dedicated to contemplative techniques provides the possibility of some space from our usual habits so we can take our understanding and experience deeper.

We look forward to sharing this day of meditation with you all.  Some of you may be new to meditation, some may have been meditating for quite a while. Regardless of your experience - a beginner’s mind is your best resource.

On the afternoon of the Contemplative day we will have the honour for Mingyur Rinpoche to give us a teaching on meditation. For the bio of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, please see under 'Faculty'.

Preparation for the meditation sessions at ESRI 2020
- Comfortable seat or chair
- Comfortable clothing
- Blanket
- Cushion(s) to adjust position if needed

While there are no specific needs for creating a meditation space, the following suggestions might offer some inspiration as creating a soothing space in your home designated to quiet time and meditation will help you to feel calm and focused in your practice. Keep in mind as it often applies, one does not need much, less is very often more :)  … but we suggest at all times to shut off your phones.

1. Choose a space that feels good.
2. Make it comfortable.
3. Consider the lighting.
4. Bring nature into your space.
5. Personalize your space maybe with a candle or a beautiful aroma.

Planning Committee 2020

  • Catherine  Bastien-Ventura
    Catherine Bastien-Ventura National center for scientific research (CNRS) Paris - France
    Catherine Bastien-Ventura

    Trained as a biologist in toxicology and pharmacology, Catherine Bastien-Ventura is a research engineer at the national center for scientific research (CNRS) in Paris, France.  After 10 years of research in the field of cancerology (Institute Gustave Roussy, Villejuif), she has been teaching and managing research projects in the field of environment and sustainable development for public actors and private companies (Rhodia, Schneider Electric, Hutchinson). Working for the French Ministry of Environment she was a research project manager within the research and foresight department, dealing with different types of pollution. After this position for almost ten years, at the interface of research and public policies, she joined the headquarter of CNRS, working for the Institute devoted to environment and sustainable development where she has been in charge of a cooperation program with China on environmental issues. Meanwhile, she also was the project manager for the Frontiers of Sciences programs with Japan and Taiwan.

    She is currently the international cooperation officer for French research networks dealing with area studies throughout Asia, Africa, Middle East and Muslim World. 

    Catherine Bastien-Ventura is also a Mind & Life Europe Association member.

  • Luisa Damiano
    Luisa Damiano Philosophy of Science at University of Messina - Italy
    Luisa Damiano

    Luisa Damiano (Ph.D. in Epistemology of Complex Systems) is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Messina (Italy), where she coordinates the Research Group on Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial (RG-ESA).

    Her main research fields are: Epistemology of the Sciences of Complex Systems; Epistemology of the Cognitive Sciences and Philosophy of Mind, with a focus on Cognitive Extension, Minimal Cognition, Inter-subjective Cognition, Embodiment and Enaction; Philosophy of Biology, with a focus on Self-organization, Autopoiesis, Minimal Life, Origins of Life; Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial, with a focus on the Synthetic Modeling of Life and Cognition, in particular in Synthetic Biology and in Cognitive, Developmental and Social Robotics.

    On these topics she wrote many articles, published two books (Unità in dialogo, Mondadori, Milano 2009; Living with robots, with P. Dumouchel, Harvard University Press, 2017) and co-edited several journal special issues. Her philosophical exploration of the above mentioned domains of contemporary science is based on ongoing collaborations with scientific teams (e.g., University of Salento, Italy, and ELSI, Japan, SB-AI Project; Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Kyoto, Japan, Artificial Empathy Project).

  • Nathalie Legros
    Nathalie Legros Space Engineer, Mediator and EU Organisational Development consultant - Belgium
    Nathalie Legros

    Nathalie Legros is a Space Engineer, Mediator and EU Organisational Development consultant. She worked as programme officer for the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA). In 2011, inspired by her own long-term practice of meditation, she introduced the 'Silence Pause’, a space for inner reflection. Over the years, this bottom-up initiative has grown and developed within the European Commission. 

    Nathalie Legros is a member of the Mind & Life Europe Association.

  • Cornelius  Pietzner
    Cornelius Pietzner Mind & Life Europe - Switzerland
    Cornelius Pietzner

    Cornelius Pietzner, present MLE Managing Director, has served Mind & Life Europe on the Board of Directors for many years and formerly also as Co Director. He has served as Chief Executive Officer of Alterra Impact Finance GmbH, an impact investment firm in Switzerland. He is President of the Alterra Foundation, a Swiss charitable foundation that supports transformation initiatives related to a human-centered economy. He was Chief Financial Officer on the Executive Board at the Goetheanum, General Anthroposophical Society, Switzerland with affiliates in 90 countries. He has had leading roles in social impact enterprises, financial management, philanthropy and investments.

    Cornelius Pietzner serves as Trustee/Advisory Board on a number of organisations and foundations in the USA and Europe. He received his degree in Political Science from Williams College, Mass. and was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

  • Mathis  Trautwein
    Mathis Trautwein University Medical Center Freiburg - Germany
    Mathis Trautwein

    Towards the end of my psychology studies, I started to explore the world of contemplative practice, but also learnd about phenomenological philosophy. Being intrigued by the parallels of these traditions, I was captivated when I realized that they had been introduced to the empirical science of the mind by Francisco Varela and his colleagues. Their work thus opened a path for my academic trajectory.

    After finishing my psychology studies, I completed a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in the lab of Dr. Tania Singer, where I contributed to the ReSource project, a large-scale longitudinal mental training study. Subsequently, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Aviva Berkovich-Ohana at the University of Haifa. Here we explored the experience of self-boundary dissolution during meditation using the neurophenomenological approach. These different stages allowed me to gain experience in EEG, MEG and fMRI methodologies as well as first-person methods, such as the microphenomenological interview.

    In my current work at the University Medical Center Freiburg in the lab of Prof. Stefan Schmidt, I expand on this research. Here the aims include building a formal embodied and enactive model of meditative practice, explore how self/non-self boundaries act as a guiding principle in attention and social cognition and contribute to the synthesis of first-person and third-person as well as scientific and contemplative perspectives.

  • Holger Yeshe
    Holger Yeshe Tergar Meditation Community
    Holger Yeshe

    Please see the bio under 'Faculty'.