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.
By Teri Sivilli
In a widely shared article in The Guardian on April 29, 2015, Secret Aid Worker (S.A.W.) wrote of fears that the work “is affecting the aspect of my personality that made me want to become an aid worker in the first place: my compassion.”
While not downplaying the personal benefits of a satisfying career, the anonymous writer nevertheless voiced a fear that is all too common in this sector, though rarely discussed openly, in my experience: that we cannot be constantly exposed to the suffering of others and remain unaffected by it.
In more than one hundred comments on the essay, readers – many of them aid workers themselves – discussed their own experiences of working in humanitarian settings, both similar to and different from S.A.W.’s experience.
Few touched on the topic that I think deserves deeper investigation: the interconnected relationships among suffering, empathy and compassion.
First, for transparency, you should know that I manage a training program designed to build resilience among aid workers through the use of contemplative practices such as meditation and yoga. From that perspective, I’d like to offer a framework for understanding S.A.W.’s experiences that may be helpful for him/her, and for others.
S.A.W. talks about being desensitized to pain and suffering, and also notes that “You obviously cannot do your job if you just break down and cry all the time.” Very true. But what we’re learning now is there’s a middle way between those two responses.
Aid workers responding to short- or long-term humanitarian emergencies will experience some degree of stress. How much depends on the situation and their own coping resources.
From the essay, S.A.W. sounds like an empathic and self-reflective person. Emotions such as empathy are part of our make-up as humans; they connect us with others and provide valuable information about the world around us. The ability to recognize nuances in our emotions, and to name them correctly, empowers us to respond to the world appropriately.
As humans, we have the ability to mirror the emotions of others. This can give rise to true empathy, an ability to feel the distress of another person. But it can also lead to emotional contagion, in which we experience the suffering of another – both physiologically and psychologically – as if it were happening to us. This experience can lead us to become overwhelmed by the suffering of others.
I can only speculate here, because I don’t know S.A.W. But I wonder if, after many years of field work, this person has become worn down and overwhelmed, and if his or her natural and important empathy has turned to empathic distress. Distancing ourselves from suffering, as S.A.W. reports doing, is a natural response to empathic distress: overwhelmed by the pain of others, we want (and need) to protect ourselves.
For that reason, what is often called “compassion fatigue” is more rightly named “empathy fatigue.” Ironically, compassion is the solution, not the problem. Compassion is the wish for others to be free from their suffering, combined with the motivation to do what we can to relieve that suffering. Compassion must be enacted with wisdom, which gives us the discernment to understand and accept our own abilities and limitations in any situation.
Inherent to compassion is a move towards suffering, rather than away from it. You see, we can’t selectively shut out some emotions and remain open to others. When we shut down and cut off our ability to feel suffering, in an attempt to protect ourselves from feeling too much pain, we also diminish our ability to feel joy and happiness, and rob ourselves of connection to others.
While working in the field decades ago, one of our CBR training graduates had witnessed a horrific massacre. In an attempt to wall off the memory and cope with the trauma, he had become both physically and emotionally rigid. Ultimately, he was unable to continue working in the field and transferred to headquarters.
At the training, within the safe space created by the faculty, touched by the lovingkindness practices, this aid worker was able to release the deep grief he had carried these many years. With the pain came ease, and the first shaky steps towards genuine connection to others, along with greater trust in his abilities to handle the range of his emotional experiences. When we build and enhance our inherent compassion, we open our hearts to all of our experience, all of our shared humanity. It becomes possible for us to transform suffering, rather than be depleted by it.
In the CBR program, we emphasize compassion training for aid workers not just to help them cope with the inherent stress of their work, but also because it can improve their own health, well-being and happiness.
No one benefits when the sector loses an experienced, skilled person like S.A.W. for preventable reasons. The CBR faculty, many of them aid workers themselves, teach how to manage the challenges of aid work in a healthier and more constructive way. Aid workers who work effectively within their organizations and contribute their expertise working alongside those who confront tragedy in this world should not be defeated by burnout, overwhelm and exhaustion. They can learn how to cope with suffering, avoid burnout and thrive in their work.
The next CBR Training will be held August 3 – 7 at the Garrison Institute, in New York State, USA. I hope that S.A.W., and any readers who want to reconnect to the compassion that inspired their career, will join us.
Teri Sivilli is the program manager for the Garrison Institute’s CBR Project. After observing the persistent effects of the conflicts in Kosovo and Sri Lanka on the mental health of national staff and the affected populations, she became interested in the potential for contemplative-based interventions to heal chronic stress and trauma.
Last week, during “Mindful Lawyering: A Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals and Students” at the Garrison Institute, we caught up with retreat leader, poet, and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer. Earlier this week, Fischer participated in our event “Mindfulness and the Art of Aging,” as part of the “Garrison Talks at the JCC” series in Manhattan.
We spoke about mindfulness, Zen, and the relationship between personal and systems change.
This week it’s mindfulness for lawyers, next week it’s mindfulness for aging. What is it about mindfulness as a practice or idea that allows it to be useful in so many different contexts?
To be perfectly honest with you, I think the word is overused. For me, it’s not so much the mindfulness of being a lawyer or aging, but rather: Can you look more deeply and clearly at what you’re doing?
Can you do it in a way that is more thoughtful, more inclusive, and more interesting in the end? I do find that when you practice meditation—and when meditation is part of your way of accessing your experience—it gives you a different point of view.
Zen is often described as a goalless practice. Are there meaningful differences between practicing meditation with or without a goal?
Fundamentally, I think it’s the same, but semantic and stylistic differences can matter a lot. In part, I think, it’s more a matter of skillfully asking: Who’s the person who’s practicing this? And if I explain it to them this way, what will happen? If I explain it to them that way, what will happen? Sometimes a difference in semantics can make an enormous difference in the way a person practices or understands their practice.
You’ve been doing these retreats for a few years now. If I had to guess, I’d guess that lawyers are more likely to fall into the “goal” camp. Am I right?
Well, every lawyer is different. But, in general, yes. Legal education does train lawyers to master a set of techniques, skills and ideas. There is a strong element of performance in professional education in general. So, lawyers will be trained to look at something as a problem to be solved, and they’ll apply their analytical capacities to solve that problem.
But I think probably lawyers who are drawn to a retreat like this, see limitations in that perspective. There are advantages in it, clearly, and it’s not something that you need to abandon completely. You need that for your work. But if lawyers reflect on what they’re doing, they realize that there are other, softer skills that are really important. For example, emotional stability subtlety, steadfastness are really important for lawyers, because every legal issue involves interactions with people. Even if it’s one corporation suing another corporation, there are people involved. Your ability to understand where people are coming from and connect with people, is really important.
And then, as a lawyer, you have an emotional life. Sometimes the things that happen in legal matters cause the emotions to go reeling. There could be a great deal of stress or pressure, and it’s important to know how to manage that. I think lawyers recognize that beyond knowing the law, there are other, softer skills that are fundamental to be effective and sustaining a life as a lawyer.
I agree that these soft skills, such as emotional stability, are important. But at what point do you start to ask about the causes of the stress in the first place? Are there aspects of being a lawyer that are stressful because of the way the profession is set up? How does personal work tie into systems change?
We’ve always had aspirations to change the legal education system, to ensure these skills were taught in law schools, which they aren’t now. They barely even exist in law schools. Because of our work and this movement, some law schools are starting to teach these skills. We hope it continues.
But, for me, certainly in our legal work and other kinds of mindfulness work that I do, it’s really a both/and. We have to sustain this work. We have to take care of ourselves. We can’t burn ourselves out and do ourselves in. But, at the same time, you’re right, it’s not just about just taking care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves is not enough. We really have to figure out how to make the world a better place.
And, for lawyers, let’s make the law a better place. Law is important. Let’s make better laws. Let’s make law schools better. Let’s make the profession better. Let’s change the ethos of the profession.
What does a both/and approach to personal and social change look like?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. How does change happen? When change happens in a way that isn’t organic—in a violent way, in a forceful way, in a disrespectful way—history shows that there is almost always backlash. So you end up having this euphoria for five minutes, and then whatever it was you opposed or defeated comes back. Except this time, it’s even stronger because of all the residual resentment that has been built up because it was just defeated.
That’s what happened in the ‘60s, in my view. We were very successful in the ‘60s in doing all kinds of things, but we’ve been paying for it ever since.
Well, because the right-wing movements felt left out in the ‘60s and were disrespected and unseen, when they had their opportunity, they reasserted themselves even more strongly. So the question is: How do you effect social change in such a way that you bring people along sufficiently and you minimize backlash? Or you marginalize backlash; you don't empower it.
How can you do that—especially if you truly believe that the other perspective, say the right-wing movements, is dangerous?
Well, you include the perspective. You don't act on it. You don't set a policy based on that perspective. But you bring the person to the table and you have a conversation that’s large enough to include that point of view.
I'm not suggesting that that’s the answer to everything, but when you bring a contemplative perspective to social change, you might come up with a different road map than one that’s only political. A political perspective only sees power. I think that leaves out a great deal of what’s important. A religious or spiritual perspective is much deeper and more holistic. It includes more and brings a different kind of emotional balance and understanding to social change.
We’re thrilled and honored to let you know that The Huffington Post is shining a spotlight on our work this month as part of their 10th anniversary.
The Huffington Post Next Ten campaign will help incredible causes that will shape the next decade. The Garrison Institute has been selected for “bringing mindfulness and meditation to the masses.” By tapping the power of contemplation, you can become a force for social change.
What is the Next Ten Campaign?
The Next Ten campaign celebrates the 10th year anniversary of The Huffington Post. To commemorate the anniversary, they are turning their focus toward the next 10 years, and looking at 10 areas they feel will be important in the next decade. In each of those areas, the Huffington Post has selected nonprofits that they believe are making real impact.
How can I help?
It would be very helpful if you could like and share the Garrison Institute’s posts on Facebook, share blog posts, or become a fundraiser through CrowdRise. By sharing and liking our posts you’re helping ensure that more people see them, and this will help tremendously.
If you have friends that might be willing to donate, you may want to become a fundraiser for the campaign. In order to be a fundraiser, you can set up a profile on our CrowdRise page and direct your friends, family, and network to it. Any gift amount is helpful, and appreciated!
To sweeten the deal, if you become a fundraiser and your team raises $1,000 or more we’ll welcome you as a guest for a personal retreat at the Garrison Institute!
Where can I do this?
You can find our Next Ten presence at the following:
Follow and use the hashtag #TheNextTen
"In the Spirit" recently interviewed Garrison Institute Executive Director, Robyn Brentano. During this in-depth discussion, Brentano explained how the Garrison Institute has been a pioneering force in spreading contemplative wisdom and practices throughout society. She highlighted the Institute's various programs that are helping to catalyze a seismic shift in society, as recognition of the benefits of contemplation continues to grow.
Want to learn more on mindfulness and other contemplative practices? Sign up for the Garrison Institute newsletter.
10 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation by The Garrison Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.garrisoninstitute.org/about-us/the-garrison-institute-blog/1999-10-steps-to-mindfulness-meditation.
Humanitarian aid is crucial and rewarding work often performed under highly stressful conditions. There is growing recognition of aid workers’ need for psychosocial support and skills to strengthen their resilience. Like the aid agencies working with us, the Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Project addresses the realities of the field with a humanitarian spirit, caring for aid workers just as they care for crisis-affected populations.
Aid workers not only work with trauma, they also live with it. Immersion in disrupted, difficult and dangerous environments exposes them to traumatic stress, along with their clients. In Syria, West Africa, Haiti and countless other conflict and disaster zones around the world, chronic stress, threat of harm, and constant exposure to others’ suffering take their toll on aid workers. Up to 30% report symptoms of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Exhaustion and burnout are occupational hazards. Aid organizations increasingly recognize their workers’ need for psychosocial support to help them cope and manage stress.
To address this need, the Garrison Institute created the Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Project. Grounded in cutting-edge research on human resilience and the humanitarian aid field, CBR training is an experiential skill-building program that teaches the “ABCs” of building resilience: awareness, balance and connection. It educates aid workers about the effects of chronic stress, gives them the cognitive tools to alleviate it. It draws on secular, non-religious contemplative techniques like meditation and yoga, which research shows have positive effects on brain activity, stress response, gene regulation and post-traumatic growth.
The CBR Project is demonstrating the efficacy of its trainings for workers in diverse settings and its potential to influence the culture of the aid field. As we work to extend the reach of the trainings, we’re also working to support the emergence of a new reality where fostering aid workers’ resilience and self-compassion is mission-critical to aid work. As the CBR Project Director Diana Rose said, "We are committed to creating a space where humanitarian aid workers can draw on the compassion that brought them to this work in first place."
For more information about The Contemplative-Based Resilience Project, Please contact:
Image: Courtesty of U.S. Department of Defense on Flickr
In 2014, the CBR Project held four resilience trainings on three continents, reaching humanitarian and emergency international aid workers deployed all over the world. After completing the trainings, participants told us the tools and theories they learned were of practical use for them, and would help them survive and thrive in their work.
In Rwanda, we provided CBR training for two teams of aid workers from the major aid agency, Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps is active in 40 countries, and 93% of its workers are nationals of the countries where they work. Working and living permanently in disrupted areas exposes them to unique stresses and risks. The Mercy Corps selected aid workers from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to take the resilience training.
“Some participants arrived rigid and troubled by things they had experienced in the field,” said CBR Faculty Member Carla Uriarte, who taught the psychosocial education component of the training. “The transformation that took place during the training was impressive.”
Most had never practiced meditation or yoga before, but they experienced their value in the training. Almost all left with enthusiasm and energy to bring these practices into their lives and their work.
“This training made sense, deep in my being,” a participant told us. “For a while I lost motivation in my work because of the stress I was exposed to. But I now understand how this training was useful for me. It permits me to breathe anew and take care of myself while doing humanitarian work.”
During a coffee break on the morning of the final day of the training, CBR Project Manager Teri Sivilli sat with a man who had recently had a traumatic experience in the field, and asked him how he was feeling. "I am better," he said. “And I will continue to feel better and better.”
A CBR Project training at the Garrison Institute in New York attracted international aid workers from ten countries. They had all been deployed in the field at least once and intended to re-deploy in the near future, and they were a highly diverse group representing very different cultures, belief systems and parts of the world. CBR’s integrative approach is designed to be effective for aid workers of all backgrounds and beliefs.
“The tools presented are very practical and will support my ability to respond to my environment,” said one participant. “I think I wanted to know that my experiences weren’t unique,” said another, “and I now definitely understand what happens [to me] during times of extreme stress and [how to take] preventative measures.”
In West Cork, Ireland, we trained European-based aid workers in a program that was organized to be effective for them while they were at home between deployments abroad. The training was held in Denchen Shying on the Beara Peninsula, one of the beauty spots of Ireland, and participants found it restorative in ways that surprised them.
“I feel nurtured on every level,” said one. “I am sure I will take a lot of this with me when I next go into the field.” After the training, another participant emailed us saying, “I started a new job …and I have been drowning in documents, meetings and all the little stresses of a new workplace….I actually credit the course with being one of the significant milestones on my journey back to full time work in the development sector.”
We also held a “train the trainers” program in New York for future CBR faculty who will help us scale up the CBR Project and extend the reach of CBR training to more aid workers. “I see so much potential and need for this type of training/work,” one trainee told us. “The work you do is amazing,” said another. “The love you put into this mission it is evident.”
For more information about The Contemplative-Based Resilience Project, Please contact:
The 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!