Sara Lewis

Associate Professor, Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology Chair
Core Faculty


MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology - Core Faculty


PhD, Columbia University
MA, University of Chicago
BA, St. Lawrence University

Dr. Sara Lewis is an anthropologist of religion and medicine who is also trained as a psychotherapist. Her forthcoming book with Cornell University Press, “Spacious Minds: Trauma and Resilience in Tibetan Buddhism” investigates how Buddhist concepts of time, memory, and emotion frame recovery practices within the Tibetan diaspora. Her work has been supported by Fulbright, the Mind and Life Institute, and the Mellon Foundation. As a feminist and postcolonial scholar, Dr. Lewis looks forward to joining with Naropa students and new colleagues in exploring the dynamic—and challenging—intersections of social justice, engaged Buddhist activism, and contemplative care. 


For me, the most exciting aspect of contemplative education is watching students realize that helping others discover their basic goodness and basic sanity is the most enriching gift we can offer.


My research has been funded by a Mind & Life Institute Francisco Varela Award, Fulbright, the Society for Psychological Anthropology, and the Mellon Foundation. An article, "Trauma and the Making of Flexible Minds in the Tibetan Exile Community" was the winner of the Condon Prize for Psychological Anthropology.

Recent publications

My book, Spacious Minds: Trauma and Resilience in Tibetan Buddhism will be published in 2019 by Cornell University Press. Links to articles and other writing may be found here.


All of my work centers around coming to understand how individuals and communities cope with the vicissitudes of life--not in spite of suffering, but through it, and because of it. I believe there is potent and transformational power embedded in extreme states, death, and calamity if we know where to look. That power always brings us to compassion.

What book do you find yourself regularly pressing into the hands of students?

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

What's next?

I have embarked on a new transnational project funded by the Mind and Life Institute on death and rebirth within Tibetan Buddhist communities in India, Nepal, and New York. I encourage students interested in research to get in touch with me!