Our blog features breaking program and event updates from each of our initiatives. This year, the Garrison Institute celebrates 10 years of bringing together leading contemplative teachers, great scientific minds, and people working in the field for positive social change.
Please join us in our work to build a more compassionate, resilient future.
In this new Chronogram podcast, award-winning environmental journalist, blogger and author Andy Revkin talks about navigating the human-dominated age of “the Anthropocene,” and how to make intelligent choices in an age when just about whatever we do has environmental impacts. He’s the speaker at our Modern Earth Day dinner April 24, which features and supports local and sustainable food. Please join us!
Personal and social change are deeply connected. Contemplative practices nurture focus, empathy, mental and physical resilience, and strong social connections – all qualities that empower people to lead positive change in their workplaces and communities.
Many of the retreats we offer are designed to strengthen the connection between personal and social transformation. May 7–9, Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer leads “Disconnect to Connect,” a technology-free retreat exploring the cultivation of mindfulness, wisdom and compassion and how we live, work and connect in the digital age. Gordhamer notes the purpose is to enhance our “well-being, effective[ness] in our work, and useful[ness] to the world.”
May 6 – 8, Janice Marturano, a leader and progenitor of the mindfulness at work trend who has recently been featured in TIME Magazine and other major media, will teach a retreat for workers in the non-profit sector called “Leading Differently.” Supported by a grant from the Eileen Fisher Foundation, it explores practical uses of meditation to deal with work stress and pressures, enhance performance, and ultimately, help move issues.
June 27 – 29, Norman Fischer and Rachel Cowan lead “Training in Compassion – Cultivating a Tender Heart,” a retreat designed for first-time meditators that explores Tibetan compassion practices, connecting them to other traditions from Zen to Judaism, and emphasizing their “tangible benefits for personal and professional life, ranging from stress reduction to improved self-awareness, emotional connection and acceptance.”
August 1 – 3, Mirabai Bush and Gopi Kallayil lead a retreat on Google’s “Search Inside Yourself (SIY)” program. Bush and Kallayil developed the curriculum Google now uses for attention and mindfulness trainings that build the emotional intelligence skills for peak performance and effective leadership. SIY “helps professionals at all levels adapt, management teams evolve and leaders optimize their impact and influence.”
Last month the Institute and the Rubin Museum of Art co-presented a sold-out evening forum on “Mindfulness at Work” featuring luminaries Daniel Goleman, Janice Marturano and Sharon Salzberg, all of whom have new books on the subject. It was covered by Huffington Post and Rewireme.com, and we’ve just uploaded new video of their talks.
The Institute presents a rich variety of retreats and events that provide tools for positive personal and social change. They’re designed for people from all walks of life and all levels of familiarity with contemplative-based practices, from first-timers to experienced practitioners.
In the weeks and months ahead, we’re offering Contemplative-Based Resilience Trainings for humanitarian aid workers, a meditation retreat for LGBT community members, Dan Siegel on “Soul and Synapse,” Wisdom 2.0’s Soren Gordhamer on “Disconnect to Connect” (about living meaningful and engaged lives in the digital age), Tibetan Buddhist master Gelek Rimpoche on “Manjushri’s System of Blasting Through Ignorance,”compassion training with Norman Fischer and Rachel Cowan, and much more.
Check out our full calendar of retreats and events, and for more information or to discuss which ones might be right for you, contact our retreat adviser at retreatadviser@ garrisoninstitute.org or call 845-424-4800 x 108.
Join us this Earth Day, April 24 at 7pm, for our fifth annual Modern Earth Day Meal hosted by the Institute in collaboration with Fresh Company. It features a talk by environmental journalist and Dot Earth blogger Andy Revkin on “An Earth Day for the Age of Us” – a reference to our human-dominated era widely nicknamed “the Anthropocene.”
Over dinner Revkin will discuss how successful navigation of “the age of us” depends on humans getting comfortable with ourselves, familiar with our impacts and our faults, and spending less time shouting "woe is me" or "shame on you," and more time figuring out how to make intelligent, sustainable choices.
With that in mind, the menu combines local and imported foods and flavors, with many ingredients sourced from local growers and vendors. Dinner will be served in the Institute’s beautiful dining room, where we will gather at communal tables and enjoy a generous buffet. The Institute will donate a percentage of the $40 fee to Chef's Collaborative, an organization promoting sustainable cuisine.
The US building sector accounts for almost half (45%) of our greenhouse gas emissions and three-quarters (75%) of our electricity use. That makes the stakes of optimizing energy performance in the building sector roughly as high as the transportation or industrial sectors combined.
Beyond the physical plant, energy use in buildings is largely determined by the choices and behaviors of people occupying and managing them. Research shows that working with the human dimension of how a building performs can make an enormous difference. For example, giving office building occupants Web-based tracking tools can lead to a 15% reduction in individual energy usage.
That’s the topic of our Climate, Buildings and Behavior (CBB) symposia, where building professionals and experts explore how applying the latest research and field experience leads to behavioral changes that significantly reduce a building’s carbon footprint. Our new CCB synthesis report offers short summaries of takeaways from our 2013 CBB meeting and includes short descriptions and links to video of key presentations.
A leading neuroscientist, psychiatrist and New York Times bestselling author, Dan Siegel, M. D. is a member of our board and a key advisor and presenter for our education and climate change initiatives.
Siegel’s work advances the evidence-based view that the human mind is not just embodied inside the skull. Transcending the delusion that Einstein called the “skin encapsulated self,” the mind exists both within and between people. It’s a “me” and a “we.” In a keynote address at our education symposium, Siegel defined the mind as “an emergent process that arises from energy and information flow, both within you…and in your relationships with other people and the planet itself.”
In his recent Psychology Today blog “The Self is Not Defined by the Boundaries of Our Skin,” Siegel describes how the awareness of the self as interpersonal offers the benefits “of living authentically and cultivating connection with a deeper and wider sense of self.” “Imagine a world in which we cultivated empathic joy instead of aggressive competition," he writes. "We could offer the skills of insight, empathy, and integration—what I call ‘mindsight’—to develop the strength to feel other’s pain, mobilize collective resources to help relieve that distress, and all benefit."
That spiritual and scientific insight is potential game-changer for educators, caregivers, environmental advocates and anyone interested in achieving and imparting health and well-being, whether personal, organizational, social or planetary.
From April 25 – 27, Siegel will lead a public retreat at the Institute, called “Soul and Synapse,” on applying this insight. Over the weekend, Siegel will address these and other questions: “Why does feeling a part of ‘a larger whole’ matter so much? What are the scientific insights that reveal why a spiritual life is ‘good for you’? What does the science of spirituality reveal about how we can cultivate such well-being in our own lives?”
Last week a sold-out crowd attended our panel on "Mindfulness at Work" featuring Daniel Goleman, Sharon Salzberg, and Janice Marturano, moderated by David Gelles. The panel explored the many dimensions of mindfulness in the workplace. A video of the event, which was co-presented by the Garrison Institute and the Rubin Museum of Art, will be available soon. Meanwhile, you can read coverage of it in Huffington Post, which notes, “Mindfulness isn't just about relieving stress. Among the workers she talked to while researching her new book, Real Happiness at Work, Salzberg saw it as a ‘quest for resilience.’”
Contemplative practices are creating a culture shift and the Garrison Institute works to bring it to the professional fields that need it most. Recent articles highlight how aid workers are at risk for PTSD and how mindfulness-based approaches can benefit them. The Institute brings these benefits to aid workers through its Contemplative-Based Resilience Training (CBRT) program, which offers upcoming trainings at the Institute in April and in Ireland in May. In recent pieces in Devex.com and The Guardian, CBRT program manager Teri Sivill and CBRT faculty member Carla Uriarte describe aid workers' need for resilience and how CBRT can support them. We welcome your comments on these pieces.
Researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion, Altruism Research and Education used an open-source mapping tool to see how pro-social behaviors and acts of compassion and kindness affected people who witnessed them in a controlled experiment. After five days participants reported lower levels of depression, anger and stress, and higher levels of mindfulness, flourishing and compassion for others. Social scientists call this bounce “elevation,” after a 1771 description by Thomas Jefferson.
Please join us March 31 for a free public talk with Thomas Moore. Moore is the author of the bestselling Care of the Soul and 15 other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life. Moore’s new book A Religion of One’s Own is about creating a personal, authentic spiritual path that bridges the sacred and the secular. “I like situations where you can’t separate the two,” says Moore. He’ll explore that theme at the Garrison Institute in his talk and in a March 31–April 2 retreat he’s calling “The Orange Box” (hint: just do it). A former monk (also a musician, professor, and psychotherapist), he talks more about his upcoming visit to the Institute in this new interview in Chronogram entitled “Accounting for the Mysterious.”
This spring the Climate Mind and Behavior (CMB) program of the Garrison Institute, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, will convene a three-day by-invitation summit of local government service providers from around the country. The meeting will address how they can be most effective at helping municipalities take action on climate change.
The CMB program focuses on the human dimensions of resilience, working through both scientific and contemplative perspectives to build more aware, adaptive and resilient people and communities. Local governments have been at the forefront of climate change action for over a decade. Many dedicated public servants in small towns and large cities seek ways to build resilience and support the conditions for sustainability in their communities. In some cases, sustainability or climate teams work with a mandate from their mayor, and have sufficient funding to mount large-scale campaigns towards such goals as boosting recycling and composting, enhancing stormwater management, or increasing the use of renewable energy. In many other cases, the task of understanding local climate impacts and designing and implementing programs to address them falls to cash and time-constrained municipal workers who have plenty of will, but little capacity. That’s where technical service providers and the resources they create can help.
Can contemplative practice support culture shifts in key social change fields like education and climate change? Our Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) and Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL) programs offer thoughtful monthly updates that connect the latest research and news from the field to the big-picture questions we’re all pondering. CMB director John McIlwain asked in a recent issue, “Is there an inherent conflict between the fundamental premises of our current culture and our relationship with the natural world? Can we evolve today’s culture to allow us to embrace nature with all of its wonders, its limitations and its fearful unpredictability?” To sign up for the CMB and/or CTL e-updates, please visit this visit this form and select your interests.
In Syria and many other conflict and disaster zones around the world, physical danger, chronic stress, burnout and constant exposure to others’ suffering are occupational hazards for aid workers. Our Contemplative Based Resilience Training (CBRT) program teaches contemplative skills that enhance their resilience, well-being and effectiveness in tough environments. We’re offering CBRT trainings to humanitarian and emergency international aid workers in New York in April and in West Cork, Ireland in May.
Together with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, in November we're presenting the second semi-annual Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium, "Communication and the Interpersonal Relationship Within Palliative and End of Life Care." It's a unique opportunity for doctors, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, chaplains and volunteers to explore contemplative skills that deepen their connection with patients and improve patient and self-care. Registration is open now.
Contemplative teaching and learning is growing fast as research expands and educators explore contemplative strategies in their work. Teachers are chronicling this firsthand in our "Coming to CARE" blog, including this entry by Susan Myers, who introduced yoga breathing into her art classes, which she calls "art breathing." This August we're offering a face-to-face opportunity for educators to learn effective contemplative tools and share their experiences at our Seventh Annual CARE Summer Retreat for Teachers. Registration is open; scholarships are available.
by Steve Kent
The world awoke to the news that Pete Seeger died last week, still somehow shocking and surreal even though he was 94. It never quite computed to imagine the future of this area without him and his wife Toshi, who died six months earlier. But now, suddenly, it’s here. Pete, whose Beacon, New York homestead where he lived for 65 years stands a couple of mountains north of us, was a generous friend of the Garrison Institute’s, performing at our opening ceremony in 2003, and at other times throughout our history.
In fact, he was a generous friend of organizations and people too numerous to count. His work and his guiding spirit pervade not only our part of the world, but our time in history, and his passing makes his gigantic presence if anything more deeply felt.
In November 2013 we held a by-invitation contemplative retreat for activists entitled “Practicing Justice: Transformation for Social Change” curated by Zen teacher Rev. angel Kyodo williams and co-facilitated by Claudia Horwitz and Rusia Mohiuddin. Made possible by a grant from the Kalliopeia Foundation, it was one of a series of retreats which, starting in 2002, periodically convene activists to explore the intersection of contemplative/spiritual/transformational practice and social justice.
Participants told their stories, strengthened ties, renewed friendships and explored commonalities and differences, but the retreat was not a typical professional networking gathering. It was conducted on a deeply personal level, with a very spacious agenda allowing plenty of time for reflection and practice. It focused on inner work with the goal of strengthening outer work, bridging the gap between the public/social and private/individual aspects of transformational change.
“This exploration has become a movement in some ways,” says williams. “Today we speak of ‘turning tides’ and a ‘great shift in consciousness’ coming to inform the way we make change in the world. There’s a growing recognition that we need to be more specific and emphatic about justice itself. Justice isn’t just about entitlements – it’s about honoring inherent rights, readjusting and renegotiating our relationship to the Other, bringing people who are marginalized back into the center."
If you’re a full-time teacher at an accredited K-12 school, or enrolled in a M.Ed. program, here’s an opportunity to get funding to attend summer retreats at the Garrison Institute. The Hemera Foundation is offering Contemplative Fellowships to “support educators’ growth through contemplative practice in a retreat setting… cultivate mindfulness, compassion, personal wellbeing, and professional efficacy, and, in turn, embody and apply these qualities to promote positive school cultures.” Eligible retreats here include our Dzogchen retreat, July 11-19; Nonviolent Communication, July 19-26; Focusing Summer Institute, August 15-21; and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, August 22-28. More information and application materials are posted here. The application deadline is March 21, 2014.
We can easily spend 40% or 50% of our waking lives working at our jobs. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest potential benefits of contemplative practice are workplace benefits, including improved focus, productivity and ability to handle stress. There are two golden opportunities in March to learn how to tap that potential: One is an evening forum we’re co-presenting with the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan on March 10 featuring our board member Sharon Salzberg and colleagues Janice Marturano and Daniel Goleman. All three have new books that deal with mindfulness at work, which they’ll discuss and sign at the event. The other opportunity is a weekend retreat at the Garrison Institute on “Mindfulness at Work” March 7–9, led by Sharon and Janice.