Episode 23:

The Risks of Meditation

In this episode David speaks with Willoughby Britton and Jared Lindahl, co-authors of the Varieties of Contemplative Experience (VCE) study—a landmark investigation into the nature of meditation-related difficulties, including trauma. They are two of the world’s experts in studying the difficulties people can encounter in meditation, as well as the factors that contribute to these experiences.

Willoughby Britton, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University Medical School, an Assistant Professor of Behavior and Social Sciences in Brown University’s School of Public Health and the Director of Brown’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. Willoughby’s clinical neuroscience research investigates the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and body in the treatment of mood disorders, trauma and other emotional disturbances. As a clinician, she has been trained as an instructor in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and has taught mindfulness to both clinical and non-clinical populations.

Jared Lindahl, Ph.D., is Visiting Assistant Professor in Brown University’s Department of Religious Studies and director of the humanities research track in the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab. Since 2014, Dr. Lindahl has been directing the data collection, qualitative analysis, and writing of papers for the Varieties of Contemplative Experience research project. Jared’s ongoing research examines contemplative practices in a range of contexts—from classical Greece, India, and Tibet to Buddhist modernism and the mindfulness movement in the United States—and attempts to integrate historical and textual studies of contemplative traditions with phenomenological and neurobiological approaches in order to investigate the relationship between contemplative practices, resultant experiences, and culturally situated appraisals of meaning and value.