What is our History?

2012-2015: Origins

With the early roots of this project dating back as far as 2012, the concrete vision for a “CERN-inspired research infrastructure for Contemplative Science” was born in 2015 with the question:

How can the experience, expertise, and model of international scientific collaboration at CERN be merged with state-of-the-art research in the nascent interdisciplinary field of Contemplative Science, for mutual benefit as well as for the wider benefit of society, humanity, and all living beings?

That vision was initially discussed with researchers and colleagues in Europe and the US. Further inspiration came through the CERN-UN symposium “The CERN model, United Nations and global public goods: addressing global challenges” in the Palais des Nations at UNOG in Geneva, Switzerland (see a full recording of the event here).

2016: Early explorations

Key factors for collaboration?

In August 2016, the project and vision was publicly presented for the first time at the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI 2016) hosted by Mind & Life Europe at Chiemsee, Germany. Here the emphasis was placed on key factors that would be essential for a CERN-inspired contemplative collaborative culture and research infrastructure for Contemplative Science.

Project launch

In September 2016, the project was officially launched under the working title “Contemplative Collaboration” (CC). The Yoga Science Foundation, who had already been generously supporting the development of this vision (and Wolfgang’s career transition) for many years, continued to support the CC project as a client.

In November 2016, the project was presented at the International Symposium for Contemplative Science (ISCS 2016) hosted by the Mind & Life Institute in San Diego, California, USA.

2017: Extending the scope

Collaborative practices

In 2016 and 2017, visits to CERN and exchanges with colleagues, as well as trainings and workshops, helped expand the scope of the CC project. It now began to embrace themes such as organizational culture and development, collaborative decision-making, communication, and participatory practices and processes suitable for collaboration. The project’s emphasis began to shift towards the importance and role of practice: the actual cultivation, development and refinement of skills and traits that help enable individuals and groups to participate and engage in collaborative structures.

Workshop at CERN IdeaSquare

An interdisciplinary workshop on the theme of “Contemplative Collaboration” was co-facilitated with Nathalie Legros and hosted at the IdeaSquare innovation hub at CERN in May 2017, thanks to the support of Dr. Markus Nordberg. This workshop brought together for the first time particle physicists, contemplative neuroscientists, and other individuals working at NGOs and in the private sector, to explore the creative tension between competition and collaboration.

1st, 2nd, 3rd person perspectives

In subsequent project presentations at conferences in Europe and the US, the emphasis was placed on the interconnections between first-, second-, and third-person practices and principles that are essential for successful collaboration, specifically in the domain of Contemplative Science. The CC project was also shared during an “Art of Hosting” workshop at the European Forum Alpbach 2017 in Alpbach, Austria.

2018: Refining the vision

Collaboration and its challenges

Wolfgang’s growing enthusiasm for the vast potential – and recognition of the dire necessity – of “deep collaboration” in science and society was balanced by a humbling appreciation of how difficult collaboration can be “on the court”. This realization was largely shaped by several years of first-hand experience with values-aligned community-building and “integrated cooperation” with Leap Forward, whose members also provided invaluable support.

CSC manifesto

In 2018, a “manifesto” proposal was written to capture the current scope of the project – now being titled “Contemplative Scientific Collaboration” (CSC) –, to disseminate its vision, and to propose a possible roadmap and next steps towards further development and gradual implementation over the coming years and decades.

Further presentations of the CSC project were given at the Todi Week 2018 and 2019 in Italy, at international conferences and events by Mind & Life and Mind & Life Europe, and at universities in Austria.

2019+: Building community

2019: enActivists

In 2019, a group of researchers converged around the CSC vision and began to explore its practical applications. Together we experimented with augmenting, applying and evolving the proposed ideas, practices and forms in our regular meetings. At the same time, we leaned into providing mutual support for individual projects and challenges that each of us was engaging in academia and beyond.

At some point, we started calling ourselves “enActivists” – to highlight our enactive approach, our practical orientation, and our shared ambition to help transform our academic and research culture that we care deeply about. This group can be seen as a forerunner and catalyst for the Mindful Researchers initiative.

2020: Mindful Researchers

Since 2020, this collaborative impulse has been growing and branching into several initiatives, most notably the Mindful Researchers. This initiative emerged during the Mind & Life Europe Summer Research Institute (ESRI) in August 2020. It began with co-creating an abstract for the Mind & Life Contemplative Research Conference (CRC) in November 2020. This activity marked the beginning for our slowly growing collective of “Mindful Researchers” to engage in (1) further collaborative initiatives and (2) an ever deepening inquiry into concrete possibilities to merge our contemplative and academic lives. We also used the participatory decision-making method “Systemic Konsensing” to make collaborative choices, such as deciding on our most preferred communication platforms.

In December 2020, we held our first Listening Circle, merging the ancient practice of Council / Circle with our modern academic life. This format has become our first regular (monthly) community practice. Other formats and practices followed, such as Annika’s “Playful Academic” sessions and other community meetings which provide an intentional space for open conversation. Around this time, we started sharing a regular newsletter about the Mindful Researchers and our members’ activities, as well as Contemplative Science, Open Science, and academic culture.

2021: Mindful Researchers, evolving …

In January 2021, a small sub-group formed with the intention to design a first Mindful Researchers workshop. Embracing our practices of deep listening, contemplation, embodied inquiry, co-design, etc., we soon discovered that our purpose was not primarily the envisioned workshop, but rather to coalesce into a regular practice group (which we called “gardeners”) that would tend to our burgeoning collective of Mindful Researchers, e.g. by providing and holding spaces for ongoing shared practice, inquiry and deep conversation in our community. We continue to bring that same “modus operandi” to any joint activities, such as designing and co-facilitating presentations, as best we can.

Only a few months later, new developments are on the horizon as we are entering yet another new cycle of deep listening, contemplation, embodied inquiry, and co-design. How can we discover and best serve the actual needs of our community? Can and should we turn this ongoing and evolving inquiry into a research project of its own? What kinds of organizational structure might support these developments?

If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out, and feel free to join our events and conversations!

Would you like to follow us on our journey?

If you are interested in following our activities while remaining in a “witnessing mode” for the time being, please write us to subscribe to our newsletter. Stay tuned for updates!

Next steps

In the spirit and practice of humility, we do not know what the next moment will bring, but our intention compels us to look in the following directions:

  • to identify an „entrepreneurial partner“ who resonates with the vision and mission of the CSC (and ideally is a contemplative practitioner) – perhaps similar to the role that Adam Engle has played in the formation of the Mind & Life Institute – so that the project can grow sustaining wings of social entrepreneurship.
  • to host and co-facilitate participatory workshops, conferences, and networking meetings, to develop the CSC vision and mission statement through a process-oriented collaboration – in a spirit of generosity and curiosity that is rooted in epistemic and intellectual humility. We seek to create safe and empowering spaces for scientists and practitioners to explore „the unknown“ and discover what truly matters, what really is in the service of the whole, and how to collaborate toward accomplishing our emerging goals. 
  • to disseminate materials to share our emerging vision and its „minimal replicable seed“ across multi-media outlets – to “tell the CSC story” and to inspire others to share their stories with us.
  • to discover and invite like-heart-minded organizations to engage in a collaborative strategic partnership. A major milestone will be to actualize the first CSC model for collaboration (and later, a meta-collaboration among several “CSC-aligned nodes”). 

If you have any ideas or feedback, please let us know!