The Virtual Contemplative Mentors in Residence Program

The Program Description

The Brown University Virtual Contemplative Mentors in Residence Program will make tradition-based contemplative practices available to students and faculty at Brown University and several affiliated institutions.  Our Contemplative Mentors in Residence are all skilled practitioners in their respective traditions and also PhD-level scholars who have extensive experience teaching at institutions of higher education in Asia, North America and Europe. These practitioner-scholars are familiar with the Liberal Arts values typical of higher education and are thus able to suit their teaching to the academic environment. Too
often contemplative practices, if they are taught at all in higher education, are deracinated versions removed from their cultural origins.  Each of our Contemplative Mentors has extensive training in both the contexts and the methods of the practices they will be leading.

The Schedule

Our mentors will teach weekly in the noon hour Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 10 weeks during each term of the upcoming academic year.  The Fall Sessions start on September 21.

Mondays: Thai Śamatha (Concentrative) Meditation: Sarah Shaw
Wednesdays: Chinese Qigong Moving Meditation: Larson DiFiori
Fridays: Japanese Rinzai Zen Meditation: Masaki Matsubara

If you are interested in seeing what it's like to develop a consistent contemplative practice, we strongly recommend -- but do not require -- that you sign up for the entire 10-week period this semester. People are welcome to "shop" the first sessions during the week of September 21 and then decide. Send your decision to [email protected] with "Virtual Contemplative Mentors" in the subject line. Students incourses who are assigned to specific weeks of Contemplative Practice Sessions do not need to do this.

The Mentors

Sarah Shaw, PhD is a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and a member of the Faculty of OrienSarah ShawSarah Shawtal Studies, Universityof Oxford. She took her doctorate in English Literature at Manchester University, UK. After learning Pali and Sanskrit at Oxford University she now teaches Buddhist studies and history. She is also the Khyentse Foundation Reader in Buddhist Studies at the University of South Wales, UK, where she teaches an online MA in Buddhist Studies. Her research interests are in the South and Southeast Asian meditative traditions, Buddhist practice and chant, and the narrative genre of Jātaka stories. Recently she has been working on the role of receptive listening in Buddhist practice. Her most recent publication, Mindfulness: Where it Comes From and What it Means (Shambhala 2020), explores the history and uses of mindfulness from its ancient origins to the present day.

Larson DiFiori, PhD is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Religious Studies. He received a Masters in ChiLarson DiFioriLarson DiFiorinese Studies from the University of Oxford and a Doctorate in Religious Studies from Brown University. His current research focuses on the early intertextual uses of the Laozi, and what they tell us about the role the Laozi played in its surrounding intellectual and cultural environment. At Brown he has taught courses on Chinese Philosophy, the theory and history of Qigong and Taijiquan, and the Contemplative Foundations of Classical Daoism.


Rev. Masaki Matsubara, PhD is a Visiting Scholar in the East Asia Program at Cornell University and Masaki MatsubaraMasaki Matsubaraworks with the Johnson Museum of Art on projects for teaching Japanese religion. He is the Abbot of Butsumoji Zen Temple in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. He specializes in the history and practice of Modern / Contemporary Japanese Rinzai Zen. In addition to Cornell, Rev. Matsubara has taught at Stanford and Brown.