David Nowakowski
Philosophical Advisor

David Nowakowski serves as a Philosophical Advisor for Merlin CCC.  David received his PhD in philosophy fromPrinceton University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Union College in Schenectady, NY. 

self-declared hermit and lover of philosophy and the great outdoors, David specializes in the history of philosophy in India and South Asia. His research in this area focuses on epistemology, mind, and metaphysics. The main theme of his work is to consider Indian intellectuals as deeply systematic thinkers, learning how to reason from the perspective of the philosophers in these traditions.  David is also well-versed in ancient Greek philosophy, and issues relating to food systems and the environment and has become increasingly interested in “philosophy as a way of life” over the past several years.  We are elated to be collaborating with David on our philosophy in the community activities, fellowships, and other Merlin projects. 

Justin Whitaker
Philosophical Advisor & Mindfulness Practitioner

Justin WhitakerJustin Whitaker serves as a Philosophical Advisor & Mindfulness Practitioner for Merlin CCC.  He is also an author, founder of Mindful Montana and a North America Correspondent for BuddhistDoor Global.

A Helena native who has lived and taught philosophy and religious studies in Missoula, England, India, and China, Justin is a Certified Meditation Teacher who successfully defended his Ph.D. in Buddhist Ethics at the University of London in January 2016. He holds an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Bristol and a B.A. (with some graduate work) in Philosophy at the University of Montana-Missoula.  We are thrilled to be collaborating with Justin on several philosophical adventures.

What is mindfulness?  The term today is well defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” The practice is in many ways universal, and certainly today it is taught and studied by Western scientists as a universal, secular exercise. On the other hand, the practices developed by Kabat-Zinn and others have their roots in a number of non-Western philosophical/religious traditions. Early Buddhist thought and Zen are two major sources for contemporary understandings of mindfulness.  In teaching a course or workshop on mindfulness, I split my attention on (1) explaining and discussing various scientific studies of mindfulness, (2) covering historical understandings and uses of the practice, and most importantly, (3) actual practices ranging from “eating” and “walking” meditations to periods of silent mindfulness of breathing and the cultivation of compassion.

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