For those of you are are on Facebook, the following may well be old news. For that I apologize. Having said that given this is my personal blog, the following does have a more personal tone than the offical announcement over at the AICS website. Here’s a quote from the AICS to kick things off. From http://australianinstitute.org/announcement-new-aics-board-members/

It is with great pleasure that I welcome the following eminent professionals to our board of directors and advisory board. Each new board member brings a unique skill and focus to AICS. Thus giving the Insitute a wide set of skills and experiences to draw from. You can find more information on each board member including links to their websites here http://australianinstitute.org/board-of-directors/

The new board members are:

Professor Robert Thurman for those who have been in a cave meditating for the past 30 or so years is a Buddhist scholar of the highest order and the father of Hollywood actress Uma Thurman. As a side note—again this is problem not news to most of you—the name Uma is a Tibetan word meaning middle or central—as in the middle way—in Sanskrit the word is madhyama. Prof Thurman comes to us from Columbia university.

Professor Shaun Gallagher is Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Sciences, and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Simulation and Training, at the University of Central Florida. Shaun attended the Mind and Life conference on attention last year in Dharamsala. I first met Shaun and his wife at this conference. What can I say, I liked them right off the bat. Shaun is not a Buddhist or even a meditator (well, unless he has taken it up over the past 10 months). But is a highly respected westerner philosopher.

Then there is Diego Hangartner. Diego is the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Research Programs for the Mind and Life Institute. He is slated to take over from CEO Adam in the future. His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested that Diego take over the CEO role once Adam Engle steps down (which may take 20 years!). Diego has been associated with the Mind and Life Institute since the late 1990’s.. After encountering Buddhism, he then spent 11 years in Dharamsala, India, where he first learned Tibetan and then studied for 7 years at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics.

Then the Ama-la of Mind and Life Roshi Joan Halifax. Roshi Joan is the founder and director of a dharma center in New Mexico called the Upaya Institute. Upaya has some great podcasts from visiting scholar and neuroscienctists such as Richard Davidson. Joan, here is an acomplished dharma teacher, not to mention a medical anthropologist, social activist, and author. She holds a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology and has been on the faculty of Columbia University, University of Miami School of Medicine, and the New School for Social Research in New York. More than all that she is a very kindhearted person. For instance, when we met (again at the Mind and Life conference) she came up to me during a break and was genuinely interested in my work. Now, being interested in what I do, is not a cause for being a nice person, I could have been a complete boofhead (some would say I am) and she would have been just as interested. I have alot of time for Joan. Too me, it is a clear example of someone having developed loving-kindness.

Then  finally, there is Peter Boord Ph.D. Peter is a neuroscientist and dharma student from Vajrayana Institute in Sydney. He works for Brain Dynamics Center & is the Director of the World Happiness Forum. Peter’s EEG research has included: development and validation of algorithms for EEG analysis. Investigation of EEG spectral changes over the lifespan associated with changes in cerebral metabolic rate (what does that mean? Peter builds his own EEG machine, which, of course is great for AICS). Investigation of the timing (ERP latency) and location (LORETA) of threat stimuli compared to positive and neutral stimuli. Investigation of gamma phase synchrony associated with functional connectivity in temporo-amygdala networks. Investigation of phase-gradients in the EEG. Investigation of gamma phase synchrony changes in schizophrenia. And development of an algorithm for automatic ERP component identification.

I have no idea what all that means. Peter assures me, he does 🙂

So, as you can see AICS is progressing steadily. And also in the process of requesting these people to join (there will be more academics joining AICS, particularly from neuroscience, soon) the board, answering their many questions and so on, several very interesting emails—particularly between Diego and myself—took place. Ones that suggest an very intersting future for AICS.

I will end with this from Roshi Joan: “Can specific neuroscientific, cognitive, and affective scientific studies of experienced meditation practitioners serve to make meditation practice seem less “foreign” or esoteric, and therefore more personally approachable?” The answer is yes, and moreover, this question goes to the heart as to why the work of institutions such as the Mind and Life Institute and Santa Barbara Institute are so important. Buddhism and meditation doe not need the validation of science. It is clear to those in the tradition that meditation is effective as a diagnostic, therapeutic and liberative tool. Yet, for some, science yields “real” proof of its utility.

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