Inner science describes the process of exploring your inner world using the scientific method and ideals. As the name “Mindlab” suggests, we regard our mind as a kind of laboratory and our content of consciousness as a stream of data that we can learn to better notice, observe and understand in order to become more mindful, compassionate and wise. We want to empower as many people as possible to undergo this transformation in the most systematic, reliable and pleasant way. An example of this project is the inner science course, an eight-week journey of deep scientific self-exploration. An important part of the inner science project is to create an inner science community consisting of individuals which explore themselves individually and collectively.
Inner science course
The inner science course emerged out of the university course Nicolas Endres taught at Humboldt-University about applying the scientific method directly to the mind. It is an eight-week program of deep self-exploration. It combines the wisdom and meditative techniques of the ancient contemplative traditions of Buddhism and Daoism with the insights of modern psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. The goal of the course is to explore our inner worlds in order to understand ourselves better and become more mindful, compassionate and wise. To do so we look at our own minds as a kind of laboratory and our stream of consciousness as data which we can observe, understand and ultimately transform. The course combines theory and practice and integrates the scientific method and ideals with an approach of secular spirituality and existential philosophy.
Inner science in schools and university
We are currently creating inner science curricula for both schools and university.
What do we want our children to learn most? Some answers that come to mind are the following: we want our children to learn how to get in touch with themselves, how to understand their thoughts and emotions, how to be with others, how to make decisions together, how to deal with conflict and give feedback, how to understand and communicate their boundaries, how to realise projects together, how to find out what they want to do and what are their unique gifts they want to bring to the world. The inner science curriculum in schools centres around these and related questions. At the moment we are designing a curriculum for secondary schools.
The project of creating an inner science university curriculum has already begun. In 2018 Nicolas Endres and Dr. Vera Ludwig taught an experimental inner science course at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt-University. The course was entitled: “Applying the scientific method directly to the mind – Introduction to the theory and practice of first-person methods”.
This was the official description of the course:
“Can we do science within the confines of our own minds? Is it possible to make reliable observations within subjectivity? Can we systematically reproduce mental states? And what are necessary prerequisites for doing subjective science? These and other questions build the foundation of this course. They will be explored in theory and, importantly, in practice. Each class consists of a lecture, an open discussion and the practice of first-person science.
In the theoretical part we will review the history and theory of first-person science from the perspective of Western psychology and phenomenology as well as from the viewpoint of Eastern philosophical traditions such as Buddhism. Important topics include the scientific method and ideals, introspection, meditation, attention, metacognition, mindfulness and the neuroscience of meditation. In the practical part we will engage with our own subjective data directly. We will adopt the scientific stance towards our own experience, seeing our own mind as a kind of laboratory which continuously provides us with a stream of observable data (e.g., thoughts and emotions). By practising two secular meditation techniques, we aim to systematically refine our attention, interoception, mindfulness and meta-cognition, with the goal of making richer, more fine-grained and more objective observations of our mental content. To ensure swift progress, students are expected to practice these techniques outside class for 20 min, 5 times a week. During the course, we will continuously gather and evaluate data as well as collect our insights regarding the functioning of the mind.”