Sustainability from the perspective of mindfulness and psychology - an introduction

Leitung und Konzeption: Dr. Hendrik Stark

Inhaltliche Beiträge: Dr. Hendrik Stark, Dr. Fynn-Mathis Trautwein, Dr. Torgeir Ericson

Yoga: Nina Pröpster

This four-day course has been offered and further developed since 2022 as a contribution to the sustainability certificate at the University of Freiburg. It was also designed and offered in the form of a student workshop in WS 22/23. The leacture workshop retreat can also be offered at other universities. If you are interested, please drop me an email.

Relevance students

A lot of attention is paid to technologies, political and financial instruments, or nature-based solutions. However, the culture-defining psychology of perspectives, behaviors and experiences relevant to sustainability is still a side issue in social discourse. The importance of attitudes that promote sustainability as a contribution to the social transformation towards sustainability is increasingly being addressed in scientific work. After all, all actions and decisions are driven by psychological processes and are not least dependent on the culture experienced and lived.


In this block event you will get an insight into fields of action and spheres of influence relevant to sustainability as well as into relevant theories and findings from the contemplative sciences and environmental and social psychology in the context of sustainability, including practical application exercises.


This theoretical knowledge and methodical skills are potentially relevant for students of all disciplines to strengthen their self-perception and world perception, scientific reflexivity, expand their range of methods and supplement their skills for personal and professional challenges in which mindfulness and reflection are required are. The practical units can also serve as support for your own health, resilience and personal development.

Photos: H. Stark


  1. Theory: Participants are familiar with scientifically relevant concepts and have initial background knowledge of the contemplative sciences (mindfulness and meditation) in the context of sustainability challenges as well as interfaces to classical environmental and social psychology and neuroscience.
  2. Practice: You master the basic methods of mindfulness and meditation practice, which you can continue to use beyond the course; they have first practical experience with first-person research methods.
  3. Knowledge and Application: You explore the practical meaning of the theories and concepts introduced under (1) through practical exercises of mindfulness, meditation and contemplation; In group exchanges, they combine their experiences with the theory they have learned for various private and social spheres of influence.
  4. Reflection and transfer: You have an initial understanding of the roles mindfulness, meditation, as well as neuroscience, environmental and social psychology can play for your personal and disciplinary backgrounds and issues.


The course offers you an introduction to relevant theories and practical applications on the subject of sustainability from the perspective of contemplative sciences, environmental and social psychology and neuroscience.


You will get to know the initial background and perspectives of the emerging contemplative sciences, in theory and in practical exercises in mindfulness and meditation. Together we will develop an initial approach to various facets of your experience in the context of your personal well-being and sustainability. Views and ways of thinking, emotions, values and norms "accompany" you consciously or unconsciously in private and professional situations. These mental or emotional factors potentially help determine what you pay attention to and how consciously you shape your life or professional activities, and how you appear in society. Through literature work and in group exchanges, they identify possible interesting interfaces between these mindfulness-based approaches and classic environmental and social psychological theories and findings. Your understanding will be enriched by relevant impulses from the neurosciences as well as by phenomenological methods and exercises for the first-person perspective.


We would like to inspire you to reflect on this knowledge and the experience we have gained for private and professional fields of application, so that you can get an idea of whether and how mindfulness and psychology can lead to the transformation towards more health and sustainability, especially in your life and in your discipline could support, and how to apply them there, e.g. to specific personal and academic issues.


  • Sustainability-related spheres of influence – how and where do we as individuals affect the environment and sustainability;
  • Introduction to the contemplative sciences in the context of sustainability, as well as their interfaces to neuroscience, environmental and social psychology, e.g. in the form of self, value and behavior theories;
  • Neuroscientific foundations of mindfulness;
  • Phenomenological methods and exercises for first-person perspective;
  • Buddhist psychology as the origin of much-researched secular mindfulness & meditation, e.g. constructive attitudes or conditioned arising/interdependence and their importance to self and sustainability;
  • Introduction to various practical exercises of mindfulness and meditation to support personal well-being and personal development, both from the secular, scientifically often studied program MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), as well as from its roots in traditional Buddhist practice originating (practices are accessible to associates/members of all faiths) and in the context of sustainability. These include mind-calming exercises, exercises to gain insight into self-concepts and the nature of existence, and exercises to support attitudes and emotions such as empathy, compassion, and kindness.
  • Reflection on possible applications of theoretical and practical content and methods in private, academic and professional spheres of influence

Required commitments

  1. Regular attendance at events
  2. Preparation of a reflection paper (approx. 3 pages, with key questions, submission by Sunday June 4th) and
  3. 20-minute presentation as a small group for the closing event on Friday, June 09, 2022, 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Where & when

Organizer: Freiburg Academy for University Continued Education (FRAUW), Center for Key Qualifications (ZfS)

Date, place: 17.05.2023 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | 18.-20. 06., 2023 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | 21.05.2023 9:30 a.m. – approx. 1:00 p.m

29.06.2023 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Zoom group presentations)

The times are meant as a first guideline and can be slightly adjusted again. In addition to these times, there is still time for the personal letter of reflection. | Location of the face-to-face event: Liefmannhaus