The Garrison Institute Blog

Impact 180Watch the videoOur 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.  

CBR Project in Rwanda

CBR Blog 1-1The Garrison Institute's Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Project recently held a four-day training from November 8 - 11 in the eastern province of Rwanda. Thirty-three national and international humanitarian aid workers from Mercy Corps attended the training, primarily those on the front lines of major conflicts in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

“Some participants arrived rigid and troubled by things they had experienced in the field,” CBR Faculty Member Carla Uriarte said. “The transformation that took place during the training was impressive.”

While most humanitarian aid workers enter the field for altruistic reasons, the suffering they encounter on a daily basis often leads to stress and burnout. This has a negative impact on the workers themselves, the organizations they represent, and the populations they serve. The CBR Project grew out of the need to provide support for humanitarian aid workers, by helping them develop coping strategies that they can use to continue performing their important work.

"We are committed to creating a space where humanitarian aid workers can draw on the compassion that brought them to this work in the first place," said Diana Rose, Project Director.

The CBR Project draws on the insight from aid practitioners and experts in psychology, trauma, meditation, and movement to create programs that support humanitarian aid professionals to build resilience. The training empowers individuals through teaching them contemplative-based mind, breath, and body practices.

CBR Blog 2

Most of the participants at the Rwanda training had not practiced meditation or yoga before but almost all left with enthusiasm and energy to bring these practices into their lives and their work.

"What is most important for me is that I truly believe that they left the training with more tools to not only cope but thrive in the field and their life in general," Uriarte said.

The Rwanda training was conducted in French and English, and had faculty from the U.S., Spain, and Switzerland. Our faculty included Hugh Byrne, Stephanie Kohler, Teri Sivilli, Carla Uriarte, and Maximilien Zimmermann.

During a coffee break on the morning of the final day, Sivilli sat with a man who had recently experienced a traumatic experience while in the field. She asked him how he was feeling.

"I am better," he said. “And I will continue to feel better and better.”

Read our White Paper on Contemplative-Based Resilience Training.

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The 2014 Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium: An Interview with Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison

Robyn Chodo Koshin

Robert Chodo Campbell, Koshin Paley Ellison, and Robyn Brentano speaking at the Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium (Photo by Marc Weiss)   

Earlier this month, the Garrison Institute and New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC) presented the second semi-annual Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium, an event designed to give practitioners tools to provide the most effective palliative and end-of-life care. The gathering encourages leading researchers, physicians, spiritual care providers, and patient advocates to learn from each other and grow as caregivers.

During a break at the symposium we sat down with Zen Buddhist priests and chaplains Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison, founders of NYZCCC, to discuss the increasing interest in end-of-life care, the importance of teaching contemplative care to physicians, and their partnership with the Garrison Institute.


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Andrew Zolli: The Big Picture - Building Resilience

At our 2014 Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium, resilience expert Andrew Zolli gave this keynote talk on the accelerating pace of disruptions in this century, and how the shocks with which we’re increasingly confronted, don’t fit into our normal planning horizons — so we’re constantly surprised.  But that doesn’t lock us into a dystopian future; with disruption also comes opportunity for positive change.  “How do we help people and systems recover, persist or even thrive amid disruption?” he asks. “This would be a design brief for the 21st century.”

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VIDEO: Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium

As our population ages, the increasing demand for palliative and end-of-life care takes a huge toll on doctors, patients and families. How can we bring contemplative care to both the patient and caregiver?

Along with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, we’re hosting our second biennial Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium on palliative and end-of-life care from November 6 - 9, 2014. Physicians, nurses, social workers and caregivers will learn how to  improve their well–being and deepen the "healing encounter".

This short video features some of the leading presenters and major themes of the 2014 symposium. You can also read about our 2012 symposium here

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Remembering Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

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Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with H.H. the Dalai Lama    

On July 3rd, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one of the Garrison Institute’s three spiritual advisers passed away, at home and in peace at the age of 89.

Rabbi Zalman Schechter had a voracious mind and an enormous heart. He was the ultimate integrator, deeply grounded in the Jewish Tradition that he was raised in, but endlessly weaving connections between all spiritual traditions. He was welcomed at Father Keating’s Snowmass Monastery, was an active member of the Sufi community, and for many years held the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa University. He was a scholar, a Rabbi and a Rebbe, a beatnik and a hippie, a prolific author and wonderful teacher.

Zalman was a living model of compassion, radiating kindness. Yet he also had discerning wisdom, and deeply perceived the economic, social and environmental issues of the times that he lived in. He taught "Tikkum Olam", that it was our responsibility to repair the fabric of the world.

Zalman was acutely aware of the aging process, and in his sixties, began talking about moving from “age-ing to sage-ing” (It was typical of Zalman to invent a new word like “sage-ing” in express his thoughts). His most recent book, The December Project, published just a few months ago, is about how to fully live the end of ones life, and to make peace with dying.

As one of the Garrison Institute’s three founding spiritual directors, along with Father Thomas Keating and Gelek Rimpoche, Zalman taught deep contemplative practices, developing a method of prayer he called “Davenology”, the art of davening. In his book with Joel Segel, Davening--A Guide for Meaningful Jewish Prayer he wrote: "We strive to make our prayers a vessel for our own experience — and yet, at the same time, to transcend all that heart and mind can grasp. We aim to be most truly ourselves, to stand in our fullness before the living God.”

But, as expressed in the Institute’s mission, he deeply believed that the fruit of that contemplative life should be connected to creating a compassionate society. We celebrate Zalman’s life, and work, and look forward to the continued growth of the seeds that he planted.

— Jonathan F. P. Rose

Read Zalman’s version of the Kaddish

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Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi Remembered by Rabbi Rachel B. Cowan

Zalman Schachter Shalomi

Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi    

Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, born in Poland in 1924, fled Nazi genocide and came to the United States when he was 17. Already learned in traditional Judaism, he had become a disciple of the leading Chabad rabbi and was sent as an emissary to bring Jewish mystical wisdom and orthodox practice to small town congregations and college campuses across America and Canada. He soon came to feel constrained by the limits of Orthodoxy and sought a new paradigm for Judaism that would speak to liberal Jews starved for meaning in their religious lives. He introduced radical changes: lively music, equal voices for women, integration of body, mind and spirit, joyful prayer services with changed and contemporary words, meditation and chanting. He valued progressive causes, and created a new system of kashrut that was based on ecological values rather than traditional religious laws. And above all he reached out to leaders of other faiths. He became deeply knowledgeable of Eastern religions and their practices as well as the teachings and practices of Sufi masters, and visited Father Thomas Merton at his monastery. He believed that in today's world, no religion can claim universal truth. Each depends on the others to evoke the wisdom necessary for the survival of the human species - each human created equally in the image of God.

He delighted in and treasured his relationship with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. In the above photograph of their meeting in Dharamsala, India you can see their intimacy. You can see Reb Zalman's essence: his joy, his intensity, his deep roots in traditional Judaism and his love of the Holy One whose light shone with such brightness through the eyes of the Dalai Lama.

In his last few years he devoted himself to passing on his wisdom and human legacy to his students, and to what he called The December Project, the spiritual preparation for dying with acceptance, blessing and joy. He left blessings for his family, his circle of friends and supporters and for those he saw as his spiritual heirs - the leaders of the next generation of religious teachers and guides.

Reb Zalman was a spiritual genius, a giant who walked ten steps in front of the rest of us. The Garrison Institute has been blessed by his counsel, and is blessed to carry on his work - bringing the wisdom of ancient traditions to bear in evolving, creative ways - on issues that have challenged humanity since our origins and are now more important than ever. 

— Rabbi Rachel B. Cowan, Trustee, Garrison Institute

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Beyond “The Mindful Revolution” Meme

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There has been a spate of mainstream media coverage of mindfulness over the past year, including a recent Time magazine cover story entitled “The Mindful Revolution.” It featured colleagues and collaborators of ours like Janice Marturano, a leader of the mindfulness-at-work trend, who teaches many retreats at the Garrison Institute and presented at our Mindfulness at Work forum last month; Richard Davidson, who is on the board of the Mind and Life Institute and attends its annual meeting here; Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program informs our contemplative education work, and Congressman Tim Ryan, whose Mindful Nation Foundation we recently hosted.

Prominent media coverage of the mindfulness trend is a great development, and a sign of the times. It focuses mostly on the idea that meditation offers practical, secular benefits for the health and well-being of individuals, and helps reduce stress and enhance performance at work. It’s well established in research and practice (MBSR dates back to the late 1970s, and by now has over 1000 instructors in 30 countries).


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Educating the Heart


Dr. Daniel J. Siegel    

In May, Garrison Institute International, the Flow Foundation and Erasmus University co-sponsored a fascinating conference in the Netherlands, “Education of the Heart: A Fundamental Change in Education and Didactics.” Held at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management and organized by our colleague Sander Tideman, an international sustainability and leadership advisor, featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama in dialog with our colleague Dr. Dan Siegel, a leading psychiatrist, bestselling author and trustee of the Institute. The conference involved hundreds of policymakers, scientists, business leaders, students, and educators in a discussion about the innovations in education and training that are needed to create a more compassionate and sustainable society.


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The Greater Good Gratitude Summit


Brother David Steindl-Rast and Jack Kornfield    

The Institute is grateful to be connecting with the The Greater Good Science Center of US Berkeley and co-sponsoring their Greater Good Gratitude Summit: A Day of Science, Stories and Inspiration, June 7 in Richmond, California. Among the presenters are contemplatives Jack Kornfield and Brother David Steindl-Rast, leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, and Olympic women’s swimming head coach Teri McKeever.

The GGSC’s mission, which aligns in many ways with ours, is to “study the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teach skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.” Part of that mission is a three-year project to study the “new science of gratitude” -- the practice of feeling and expressing thanks.  In our culture it’s easy to take things for granted, but when we do get in touch with gratitude, research indicates it can strengthen our sense of joy and social connection, our relationships, our ability to cope with adversity and even our immune systems.

Convening scientists, educators and members of the public, the Gratitude Summit will review the latest findings from research in accessible, relevant terms, and explore the role gratitude plays in health and happiness, and how to cultivate it in ourselves, our children, schools, workplaces, homes, and communities.  Speakers will share practices for boosting gratitude in diverse contexts, “from kitchen tables to clinics to boardrooms to mobile devices.”  You’ll find the agenda, speakers’ bios and other information here.

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From New York to West Cork, Retreats that Change the World

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Rachel Cowan and Norman Fischer    

Contemplative practice has many personal benefits and cultivates qualities such as resilience, compassion and altruism that enable positive social change. We offer a wide range of retreats with a social change focus for everyone from first-time meditators to artists to professionals in specific fields.

Below are few examples.  For a full list of upcoming retreats, visit our calendar.

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.”

June 23- 27 and  August 29 – September 2, Singer/songwriter Dar Williams will lead  “Writing a Song That Matters” workshops for anyone who wants to write a song that counts and find ways to say what needs saying.  It covers songwriting tricks, courting inspiration, and discussions of why we write songs in the first place -- all in a safe, inclusive environment.

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.”

August 8 – 13, Educators are invited to attend our Seventh Annual CARE for Teachers Summer Retreat. CARE is a professional development program using mindfulness, yoga and other contemplative techniques to help teachers handle stress and improve learning environments. It has attracted international attention as powerful tool for changing the culture of education. In addition to the first-ever CARE for Teachers retreat we’re offering in Australia in June, educators from across the US and around the world attend the CARE for Teachers summer retreat held at the Garrison Institute in New York in August. CEU credits are available.   

 View more upcoming retreats and events… 

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VIDEO: Thomas Moore on Religion and Spirituality


Thomas Moore    

We recently hosted a retreat and public talk by Thomas Moore, bestselling author of Care of the Soul and 14 other books, including his latest, A Religion of One’s Own. In this interview he describes about how he has come to understand distinctions between religion and spirituality, soul and spirit, and how to infuse them into daily life.

Watch the video…

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We Welcome Andrew Zolli


Andrew Zolli    

We’re delighted to announce that Andrew Zolli, founder of the global innovation network PopTech and author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, has joined the Institute's Advisory Council. He’s a thought leader in the truest sense of the term, a thinker and practical innovator who is deepening our understanding of resilience and how to build it. His work informs all of the Garrison Institute's work, especially the Climate Mind and Behavior symposia and our Contemplative Based Resilience Training program. For a taste of his writing, check out his blog “The Verbs of Resilience.”

Learn more…

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PODCAST: Earth Day in the Age of Us

Revkin-Portrait-145In 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!

Listen to the podcast...

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Bridging Personal and Social Change

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.”

 View more upcoming retreats and events… 

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VIDEO: Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness-at-Work-Video-400Last 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, and we’ve just uploaded new video of their talks.

Watch the video...

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Upcoming Retreat Highlights

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@ or call 845-424-4800 x 108.

Browse our calendar…

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April 24: Earth Day Dinner with Andy Revkin

food  water buffet line r1Join 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.

Learn more…

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Deepening Feedback Loops: Our CBB Synthesis Report

CBBReport 2013-400The 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. 

Browse the report…

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Soul and Synapse: The Integrated Self

dan-siegel-160A 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?”

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Mindfulness at Work


Daniel Goleman at the Rubin Museum of Art    

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.’”

Read the article…

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More Articles...

  1. The Resilience of Aid Workers
  2. Compassion Is Contagious
  3. Accounting for the Mysterious: Thomas Moore at the Garrison Institute
  4. Helping Municipalities Build Climate Resilience
  5. Contemplation and Culture Shift
  6. Resilience Tools for Aid Workers
  7. Communication and Tools for Caregivers
  8. Pete Seeger, Quite Early Morning
  9. Finding Justice Within
  10. Scholarships for Educators
  11. Mindfulness and Focused Engagement in the Workplace
  12. Video: Sharon Salzberg on Happiness at Work
  13. MLK, LGBT and “The Beauty of Our Lives”
  14. Hope for the Future of Climate Change
  15. The Power of Aspiration (video)
  16. Contemplative Education for Teacher Educators
  17. Who Aids the Aid Workers?
  18. Contemplative Care
  19. Disconnect to Connect
  20. Metta Data: New Research on How Compassion Works
  21. Contemplative Political Philosophy
  22. Upcoming Retreats: Work, Technology, Science and the Soul
  23. A Musical Feast: “In the Spirit”
  24. Congratulations to Attendees of the 2030 Faith in America Challenge
  25. Our 10th Anniversary Concert: Thank You from the Garrison Institute
  26. Breaking Research: Contemplation and CARE in Schools
  27. Inoculating Aid Workers Against Trauma and Stress (video)
  28. Contemplating Social Justice
  29. Building Awareness at the 2013 Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium
  30. Collaborators and Innovators: Alice Kennedy
  31. Tickets on Sale for “In the Spirit” Benefit Concert October 24
  32. Collaborators and Innovators: Tad Pace
  33. Incorporating Mindfulness Training Into Teacher Education
  34. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche at the Garrison Institute
  35. Bringing Our CARE for Teachers Training to More Educators

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to build a more compassionate,
resilient future

Retreats and Events Calendar