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Consciousness and Inner Reality

Participation in the 2nd Annual ISCR Event in Padova as a First-Person Perspective


by Maria Vaghi

From June 19 to June 23, 2024, the second annual event of the International Society for Contemplative Research (ISCR), in partnership withResearch Center Italian Buddhist Union, University of Padova, and Mind&Life Europe, was held in Padua.
The event brought together academics, researchers, leading experts, and professionals from around the world to explore and discuss the extensive field of scientific research in contemplative studies. It provided a unique opportunity for deepening interdisciplinary dialogue and exploring potential collaborations within the contemplative research community. Networking opportunities for further advancements in various fields of application were exceptional.
The program was intense yet balanced, making the days thoroughly enjoyable, featuring a mix of practical sessions, interdisciplinary panels, and theoretical discussions.

To mention just one overarching theme: there were numerous reports of scientific research focusing on mindfulness applications in a wide range of contexts, from medical to educational, social, and beyond. This once again confirms the value of practices that help direct attention inward and increase awareness in daily life, regardless of context. Their rootedness in the experience of every human being makes them applicable regardless of social background, culture, age, or other factors.

Alongside the reports and shared scientific research, there were also panels that guided participants towards broader reflections, deeply inspiring discussions, or profound experiential practices.
It's challenging to mention just a few examples, and I apologize in advance for the inevitable simplification, but I would like to highlight some moments that deeply impacted me (hence the play on the first-person "experience" in the title!).

In the panel Embodying Love, chaired by Laura Candiotto with Anne Klein, Christian Suhr, and Andreas Weber, there was simply poetry. The intensity of this moment provided every person in the room - if it hadn't already happened - the opportunity to let go of the grip we so often have on the demands of everyday life. The reflections that emerged allowed for stepping back, immersing oneself in the space of intuition, inspiration, and connection with beauty through a delicate and subtle feeling and deep thinking.

I also want to mention the highly motivational talk by Rhonda Magee Sitting in a house afire? On contemplative pedagogy and science in a time of social unrest. Rhonda Magee's energy reminded me of something dear to every practitioner: intention, motivation. What is the energy that drives each one in their own life? If it exists, if it is focused, unimaginable possibilities open up. I quote a phrase from her that her mother used to say: "Make a way out of no way".

One last detail I would like to highlight is the experience "Feeding your demons: An embodied practice, historical context, and contemporary research on turning towards and transforming difficult emotions" with Eve Ekman and the excellent Kate Greer Dickson who led the practice, which is based on the work of Lama Tsultrim Allione. I had already experienced this type of practice on other occasions, but Kate's remarkable ability to care for the audience was extraordinary. They both did well to remind us how each of us was simply giving ourselves the opportunity to approach our difficult emotions a little closer. The whole experience unfolded in great harmony and balance.

In addition to plenary sessions, numerous parallel sessions unfolded, and thus, not yet possessing extraordinary ubiquity skills, I couldn't attend every event.
However my take-home feeling from the event, which I particularly cherish about contexts like this, and to which even the MindScience Academy belongs, is precisely the idea of diversity, of contact (or rubbing as Amy Varela puts it). There are no untouchable themes (there was even a session on the neurophenomenology of jhana!), there are no separate parts observing each other and perhaps cautiously interacting. We all live in a mixed circularity of experiences, applications, tests, intuitions, and new experiences and tests in a continuum that nourishes the human being at any level.

To conclude, returning to the practicality of the ordinary, I feel compelled to say that the event underscored the growing importance of contemplative research in enhancing both individual and social well-being.

Don't miss the detailed program for all the speaker references.

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Consciousness and Inner Reality
Consciousness and Inner Reality