.: Latest News
In late November I had the privilege of returning to Southern Methodist University in Dallas courtesy of the Memnosyne Foundation to share the fruits of my Interfaith Scholarship. You can follow that work HERE, where I hope to upload the slides soon.
This work also resulted in a scholarly publication, courtesy of Memnosyne and Josh Stanton & Stephanie Varnon-Hughes at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, which you can see here.
ACADEMIC & RESEARCH WORK
I've had a very busy first year of the doctoral program at Claremont Lincoln University. Here is a summary of 2012:
got my California driver's license and promptly took the money I squirreled away for a summer in India to buy a motorcycle, in order to give life here more mobility and time efficiency (bike is over 12 years old but in mint condition with only 3000 miles on it!); no doubt having spent 10 years in the roadless Himalayas inspired me too; due to the long time out of the USA I had to get my records in order via DSS etc to make my driver's license; quite the ordeal!
completed my spring semester of my doctoral program, with structural equation modeling statistics, neurobiology of decision-making, and divine feminine in Hinduism and Buddhism
got an institutional review board clearance to start taking data of breath rates and eeg signals during meditation using my new Nexus 10-channel neurofeedback system
presented a poster on my research interests at the first International Symposium of Contemplative Studies in Denver in April
attended program in Long Beach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit
attended an interfaith seminar in Boston at Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological Seminary in May
attended the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) as a research fellow in June at Garrison in NY
had a nice hiatus with my mom in CT
spent July in Dallas at Southern Methodist University at Perkins School of Theology c/o Memnosyne Foundation Interfaith Scholarship
went on retreat in France for 10 days for extensive "great accomplishing" ceremony (Drubchen) practice with His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa and monks and nuns from India and Nepal; this was my most fulfilling time for Buddhist practice this year
completed my fall semester of doctoral coursework in "trauma and recovery," "counseling of children and adolescents," and "third world feminist theology"
organized a Himalayan community reception of HH Gyalwang Drukpa at JFK airport and the Asia Center of New York for HHGD's participation in the UN general assembly
returned to Dallas, TX for follow-up presentation of my scholarship research from the summer, presenting on interreligious coalition-building
moved out of my student housing (tiny 1 room studio apt) for a nearby mountain location (~5500 ft)
bought a used clunker to handle the snow season in the mountains: 2006 Audi quattro with AWD for the snow but with 220,000 miles it is a geriatric high-performance race horse; I only need it for occasionally so hopefully with TLC it will last a few years without too much trouble
completed CPR c/o the Red Cross and am now certified to (attempt to) save lives!
As you can probably guess, with costs of moving and motoring purchases, I am quite broke now, but thrilled to have regained my serene contemplative lifestyle. It is by no means the remote Himalayas of my hermitage in Nepal, as I am only a bit over an hour outside LA, and just 20-30 minutes from my university in Claremont. But with no plans to install wireless internet access, (maybe I will get a dial-up phone line if/when my budget allows), and snow-covered mountain views, this beautiful natural barrier between me and the multi-media flux of modern life is not only preserving my meditation practices and studies but enabling them to flourish.
Much thanks goes to my various generous supporters for all of their help, without whom none of the past years' experiences would have been possible. Special mention is made of Ven Man Kuang Fashyr in Taiwan for sharing her mobile phone with me (and paying the bill), RdF Corporation, and Memnosyne Foundation, plus steady filling in the gaps from my Mom, aunt, and sister.
I completed a 'proof of principle' paper arguing for a Buddhist "practical theology" discipline, that is now under review at International Journal of Practical Theology. Stay tuned for the outcome!
I was able to get some tips from Richie Davidson at the MLSRI on my protocol, and look forward to having more research when my PhD coursework is over.I still need a few more sensors, in case anyone wants to sponsor one! (They run about USD$400 each! ouch!)
Interested readers can follow my meditation research HERE!
Readers familiar with meditation research will know that most of it is done taking "expert" meditators out of the traditional context into a lab, record observations of neurological functions, and report results in scientific journals advancing understanding of cognitive neuroscience and clinical stress reduction therapeutic regimens, for example.
While this is necessary, my research focuses on meditation within the practice contexts following traditional practice forms, in order to assist teachers and students of meditation practice in assessing the processes and long-term outcomes of their studies and practices. I am taking a more phenomenological, hermeneutic practical theology mixed methods approach, to describe and interpret te actual lived experience of Buddhist practice, in addition to the physiological processes. In the case of Vajrayana Buddhism, this specifically includes the behavioral physiological practices (ngundro, vase breathing, intensive and extensive mantra recitation practices), and cognitive and affective conceptual practices (analytical and absorption meditations on wisdom and compassion respectively, generall speaking), and more general practices such as mantra retreats and liturgical rituals (pujas). I am also interested in the general cases of observations of non-Buddhist contemplative practices, and neurophysiological conditions in clinical counseling assessment contexts (See Gottman's marriage counseling statistical findings for an example).
I did complete National Institute of Health-approved-CITI training for human subjects research, and obtained by Institutional Review Board (IRB) ethics clearance.
I will continue my clinical spiritual care training this year, being on schedule to serve in a chaplaincy internship this summer at University of Southern California Medical Center/LA County Hospital.
Unfortunatel, no financial aid is available for the extra costs required to complete this internship ($650 in tuition + $600 in commuting expenses), so this will all be coming out of my food budget. I'm now on the hook for $54,000 in student loan debt. (I'm told this isn't too bad for a doctoral student, but I still have about a year of clinical chaplaincy training, qualifying paper exams, and dissertation work still to go: about 3-4 years!)
Anyone who might help with this enormous challenge may start with even a tiny donation and make a contribution with everlasting value! Donors will be referenced in all published research, and lab equipment donors will have the lab named after them!