Contemplative Studies Workshop

Self and Its Transformations
June 13-14, 2024 (14 hours), 10:00-17:00
Room 108, Peterson Hall, Department of Anthropology, 3460 rue McTavish
Montreal, QC, H3A 0E6

This two-day workshop will explore emerging topics in the field of Contemplative Studies. Faculty will present from diverse disciplinary perspectives including neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and religious studies. The focus this year will be on the concept of the self and its many transformations. We will explore the self as a multidimensional process and discuss how it may be dissolved, simulated, possessed, and transmitted through practices of  meditation, prayer, dreaming, and psychedelic ritual. Each day will include in-depth presentations from faculty along with ample time for group discussion. Together, we will consider ongoing debates in the field with a focus on tracing the dynamic relationships between individual experience, brain function, and the social and cultural contexts in which these practices are embedded and enacted.

Shapeshifting the Self: Buddhist Contemplative Technologies of Deity, Dream, and Illusion, presented by Michael Sheehy

This session explores Tibetan Buddhist contemplative practices designed to shape the self via techniques of imaginal simulation, dream, and illusion. The Buddhist model of selfhood is introduced along with the philosophy of emptiness, dream, and illusion to understand the malleability of subjectivity. With a basic understanding of the operations of selfhood within this mind-body-world complex, we discuss specific practices of self-transformation. Practices of imaginal simulation via deity yoga, dream yoga, and illusory form are presented to illustrate contemplative dynamics operative in shapeshifting the self. Analogs are made with findings in cultural psychology and the cognitive sciences and participants are introduced to conceptual and practical know-how learned from Tibetan meditation manuals.