Monday, April 8, 2013

Next Step

would like to make a joyous announcement that I, Kelly Anne Non-Commitment Graves, after searching rejecting, and delaying going to graduate school have finally decided to commit to a graduate program.

This is a noteworthy and long overdue occasion, not only because this decision process has been so drawn out, but also that I will be in ONE place for TWO whole years! This is a big deal, considering how long and far stretching the road these past 6 years has been— from the East Coast, to a trans-American bike trip, to the deserts, jungles, cities and farmlands of 32 countries. I could not be more excited to announce that, amazingly, the road has finally led me to my own backyard. In the fall I will be attending graduate school at Colorado State University to earn a degree in Anthropology with a specialization in Health and Wellbeing.

Now. I know this may come as a real surprise to some of you, both as a school and a program. It certainly has come as a surprise to me. But rest assured, after a long decision process I feel like this is by far the best option for what I am moved to do. I will be working with Dr. Jeffrey Snodgrass, who conducts research in a field known as ‘neuroanthropology’ and looks at the relationship between religious experience, environment and the mind. We will be working with EEG/ERP data, but also (which is a very important but) the most appealing part of this program is that not only can I work at the level of brain activity, but will be using a mixed-methods approach, looking at 1st, 2nd and 3rd person analysis.

This may not carry weight for the average person reading this, but this is a really, really important thing! Rather than just looking at someone’s brain or performance on a cognitive test— something that, although helpful in meditation research over the past decade, is incredibly limited in scope— we will be using a mixed-methods approach to look at experience from more vivid mediums that may animate the data, including story, art and media, with first person narrative being of primary interest, rather than secondary or nonexistent.  This is super duper exciting, and a common theme that has surfaced in my work with monks and nuns in Sri Lanka and at the monastery where I am currently living: research about meditation is helpful because it acts as a “dharma gate” for those who would not usually approach contemplative practices, but its fruits are far greater than a merely materialistic point of view can point towards or that the dominate model of MBSR fully encapsulates.

The more I practice the more dramatic the shift I sense in my aims when conducting research around meditation. Rather than trying to validate meditation through scientific method (something that I and many others have nobly been striving to do and to some extent “accomplished”), I am more interested in sharing the transformation it has had on people as a source of inspiration for others to realize their own potential. This is a subtle difference, but I think a rather important one.

In terms of a thesis there are lots of ideas flipping around in the skillet of my brain, but one that is looking particularly tasty is the process of surrender and how it can connect us to the natural world and increase wellbeing. More on that in the next two years….

But overall moral of the story is HEY FOLKS I’M A COMIN’ HOME! Yay for Colorado, yay for mountains, yay for being close to family, and yay for have the opportunity to study something that I feel can truly help others. I am also going to be a TA and be able to start teaching, which is something I look forward to.  I am most likely going to be moving to Fort Collins in a month and a half, finishing up two more sesshins here and saying goodbye to this beautiful part of the world.

Any of you who will be in Colorado this summer, give me a shout out! I would love to see you. Also… I am looking for a plot of land to rent in the Fort Collins area (if that seems unnerving to you, then you probably know me well. Yet another wild idea is a’brewin’). But seriously, let me know.

Love, goodness and happiness to you all.



  1. Kelly! That sounds fantastic... so fantastic that I may apply for the same boat next year!!! ;)


  2. Hi Kelly. I'm waiting for your next post.