Contemplative Science & Technology

CCR Founder and President, B. Alan Wallace, discusses Contemplative Science and Contemplative Technology.

Galileo really initiated modern science by developing the appropriate technology for understanding the phenomena he wanted to understand, namely the sun, moon, stars and planets.

As with the telescope, similarly, in order to fathom the nature of the mind, its origins, its potentials, we need a telescope of the mind, and that is inwardly directed, highly refined attention.

The Center for Contemplative Research is an observatory for exploring the mind and its relationship with the natural world. Beginning with Galileo, the great scientists over the last 400 years have developed ever-increasingly sophisticated modes of observation, starting with Galileo and his telescope and other technologies, moving onto Newton with more sophisticated technologies, and on into the 20th century, with the increase of technology, the sophistication of observation – our understanding of the natural world has grown exponentially.

Similarly, in order to fathom, thoroughly comprehend the nature of the mind, the origins of the mind, the potentials of consciousness, we need the appropriate technology and ever increasingly sophisticated technology of Samadhi, highly focused concentration, directed inwards to explore the multiple dimensions of consciousness.

Here at the Center for Contemplative Research, our collective aspiration is to explore the inner resources of the mind, to fathom the nature of consciousness, but ever so importantly, to cast a bright light on the actual nature and ways of cultivating genuine well-being.

These are aspirations that we all share: the wish to flourish to reach our full potential. So, we invite you to join with us in our open-minded and rigorous exploration of the mind.

Alan Wallace

Research Observatories

CCR Retreatant, Jodie Lea, discusses the inner work of Research Observatories.

CCR is a contemplative observatory, similar to Galileo’s observatory. And at the observatory, we train the telescope of the mind through the training of Shamatha. And then by building the telescope of the mind, then we point it into the deep space of consciousness, as Galileo did, to discover dimensions of consciousness that have not been revealed as yet, because we haven’t had the technology. We haven’t built the technology. So, the technology is the technology of a focused, attentive mind.

And so, the first project is to build the telescope and that’s the 10 stages of attentional training: Achieve Shamata, and then turn that telescope again, in, to look at the dimensions of the mind and then report on what we’re observing and reporting from subjective experience, but also collaborating with other contemplatives to see where our reports are collaborative or what we’re reporting on is validated by other people having similar experiences.

And that’s the only way we can validate subjective experience. Actually, what we’re validating are reports from thousands of years of contemplative practice. It’s not like, I mean, we may be making new discoveries, but we’re also coming from the yogic tradition of ancient India, which has 2000 years of contemplative practice.

So, in a sense, maybe what we’re doing is we’re corroborating those ancient discoveries and saying, yes, modern people can corroborate what the yogis have been saying for thousands of years, what the Buddhist contemplatives have been saying. We are reporting what we’re experiencing and that is in alignment with what the tradition has reported.

And not only are we reporting what we’re experiencing, but we’re demonstrating skills, faculties. We’re answering the questions,

  • what does exceptional wellbeing look like?
  • what does exceptional mental health look like?
  • what does exceptional human happiness and flourishing actually look like?

And those are the big questions we need to find answers to globally. If we’re going to have any kind of sustainable mental health.

Jodie Leah

Contemplative Applications

CCR Resident Teacher, Doug Veenhof, discusses Contemplative Applications.

Compassion also can be measured. There are ways that people, and I think that anybody who does these practices and, especially if you are observing your mind continually, you become a very keen observer of your mind and your own mental states. And so, the frequency and intensity of mental afflictions, which—mental afflictions are just states of mind that destroy your peace.

So basically, having ill will or hostility for others, which is the enemy of empathy, the frequency of occurrence of those could be, and is very likely to be much greater at the beginning of a retreat as opposed to two months, three months, a year into it. And so, I think there will be a noticeable movement that is going to be observable both to first, second, and third person observers from mental afflictions and just feelings of distress and dis-ease to a movement towards serenity, peace, and towards empathy.

So, all of these things can be observed from, I think, all three perspectives. And then also you are going to have the increase of attention, qualities of attention; by reducing distraction and laxity, you will have building of greater empathy. And then I think something that people notice as they really eliminate excitation and distraction completely from their repertoire at stage four of Shamatha, is that you really begin to notice a very perceptible increase in bliss. And that is something that just begins to color your outlook.

Because empirically, ignorance and delusion are at the root of suffering. And so, it’s absolutely essential to know the world truly, and know the nature of the mind, truly, in order to develop this authentic happiness and to free ourselves from suffering, and to realize that the authentic sources of happiness are in discovering wisdom rather than in acquiring more and more things. And in destroying the planet as we’re doing that.

Knowing the nature of the mind truly, and knowing how the mind is a partner in creating reality, that is absolutely essential for the sort of cultural, societal, and ecological transformations that are going to be necessary for people to be flourishing in the next generation, rather than to be just trying to survive.

It’s a way that each individual can begin to solve world problems because the really fundamental wisdom that is required in order to really transform the crises that we find ourselves in right now are that we have to understand that they’re all rooted in delusion.

And unfortunately, the basic approach to the mind sciences right now is rooted in that delusion. And so, when we believe basically in naive realism, that the mind basically is totally separate from matter, or in fact, is derivative of matter, then that just contributes to this feeling of ennui and disconnection, and basically, that “pleasure” is the only pursuit that makes sense.

Doug Veenhof

Contemplative Renaissance

CCR Executive Director and Resident Teacher, Eva Natanya, discusses Contemplative Renaissance.

What we aspire to here is of a very different sort: it’s through actually practicing at the depths of each of those traditions. And each meditator will bring their own background, their own goals, their own faith tradition, or, shall I say, skeptical tradition, with them as they enter these practices. So that from the ground up or the heart out, we can engage in dialogue that’s not just about ideas. That’s not just about texts, but it’s about experience.

And it is through that experience and the dialogical factor between fellow meditators—not, in this case, a dialogue necessarily between meditators and scientists, but here, between a meditator grounded in the Sufi tradition, a meditator grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and a meditator grounded in a Christian tradition, sitting together and talking about their experience of the divine ground—that I think can produce an understanding first at a very individual level, hopefully, from there growing into seminars, colloquiums, and so on, a new kind of inter-religious dialogue that is not simply at the theoretical level and not simply sitting together in silence—as has been very well done, but kind of the “agree to disagree.”

We want to push deeper than that. To say, no, it’s not just the silence, because we know that even in verbal silence, a billion things can be going on in one’s mind and heart. We want a dialogue at the level of the spirit and to be translators of our experience, not between languages, but between entire religious paradigms.

And we do believe that through a practice so sustained and so single pointed, we can begin to replicate or parallel the experiences of the great mystics, of the great seers of the past, the great yogis of the past. And then we’re not talking based on theory. We’re not talking based on what others have written about and said, we’re talking experience to experience. And, that I can’t say is entirely unprecedented because we know that those kinds of encounters have been made between the great spiritual adepts even of the last century. But we’re trying to create an environment where that’s not just one rare individual who happens to be extraordinarily gifted in the spiritual life, but we’re actually cultivating it. And we know that when you cultivate a garden, the plants grow. And so, when you cultivate a garden of yogis of many different traditions, eventually the realizations will grow, and the heart-to-heart dialogue will grow.

Eve Natanya CCR