My"Contemplative" Bio

The 20-Second Version

Nikki Mirghafori, PhD, is an Artificial Intelligence scientist and a Buddhist teacher. Nikki is a lineage holder in the Theravada tradition, empowered by the Burmese master Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw, as well as the Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Society.  She serves on the Teachers Council and Board of Directors at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA, as well as the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. She teaches Dharma internationally.  For almost three decades, Nikki has also been a researcher and inventor in AI, holding multiple patents and co-author of 40+ scientific research articles.  She has directed international research programs as the Principal Investigator, mentored post-docs and PhD students, taught graduate courses at UC Berkeley, and been a scientific advisor to Silicon Valley technology startups. 

The Minute+ Version

Nikki Mirghafori is of Persian heritage and immigrated to the US in her teens.  She was introduced to contemplative practices and yoga in the early 1980s, to meditation in 1991, and to Theravada Buddhism in 2003. She has practiced jhanas and a detailed analytical method of vipassana under the guidance of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who empowered her in 2008 and instructed her to teach.  


Nikki has practiced with other monastic teachers such as Bhikkhu Analayo, Ajahn Sucitto, U Tejaniya, and Tsoknyi Rimpoche (Dzogchen), as well as highly respected Western teachers, such as Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Guy Armstrong, Gil Fronsdal, and Steven Tainer (Chan).  She particularly appreciates and enjoys the depth of long retreat practice.


Nikki has studied at Stanford's CCARE and UCLA's MARC and is a Stanford-certified Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) instructor and UCLA-certified mindfulness MAPS facilitator.  


In addition to the Eastern first person perspective contemplative research, Nikki has studied the Western contemplative perspective through philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.  She spent four years as a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley's Psychology Department with the renowned psychologist, Professor Eleanor Rosch, the co-author of the seminal book The Embodied Mind .

In 2012 Nikki was invited by Jack Kornfield to join the 2013-2016 joint teacher training program of Spirit Rock/Insight Meditation Society/Insight Mediation Center, and was mentored by Gil Fronsdal and Guy Armstrong.  She was again empowered in 2016 as a Spirit Rock/IMS/IMC Retreat Teacher.

Nikki has taught silent meditation retreats with Western luminaries such as Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Guy Armstrong, Gil Fronsdal, and others on a variety of contemplative topics ranging from mindfulness and lovingkindness to death contemplation.  Nikki serves on the Teachers Council at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA, and is a teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA.  She serves on the Board of Directors of both organizations.


Her teaching includes lectures, classes, day longs, workshops, silent retreats on meditation and Buddhist contemplation in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally, by invitation.  She also offers guidance and individual mentoring to practitioners nationally.


Concurrent with her dharma practice and teaching, Nikki has been an Artificial Intelligence scientist and academic at a research institute affiliated with UC Berkeley.  She holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley.  She has had an active career as a scientist, with years of experience in managing research teams as the Principal Investigator, co-teaching graduate-level courses at UC Berkeley, mentoring post-docs and grad students, publishing scientific articles, presenting at international conferences, and serving as consultant for Silicon Valley technology startups.  She has authored many scientific articles and holds multiple patents.  See LinkedIn for more information.

A Longer Version?

See an interview conducted by Spirit Rock Meditation Center with Nikki in 2014.

© 2017 by Nikki Mirghafori, PhD. All Rights Reserved.

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