In this issue: People-Centered Climate Solutions | A Message from the Executive Director | Reflection: Paul Hawken | Building an Evidence Base for Mindfulness in Educational Settings | What Is Contemplative Care? | Garrison Institute Program Initiatives | Retreats at Garrison | Get Involved
The Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) Program is the only sustainability initiative of its kind. It connects new insights from social and behavioral sciences about the drivers of human behavior with new thinking on climate and energy solutions. CMB serves as the hub of a growing learning network connecting science, policy, regulation, and implementation to make people-centered solutions available to policymakers, building owners, sustainability managers, and community organizations.
This fall I joined the Garrison Institute as interim executive director and stepped into the midst of a dynamic, rapidly evolving organization. Recognition of and demand for our work is widespread and increasing, due partly to the depth and breadth of our board, staff, and programs, and partly to the relevance of our mission of applying the power of contemplation to social and environmental change. In this newsletter you’ll read about some recent milestones in the growth of our work, and in our collaborations with partners. For example:
We are expanding our retreats to serve more people and widen access to the benefits of contemplation. We’re offering a series of 2012 “gateway” retreats, including for first-timers establishing a contemplative practice, members of the LGBT community, people of color, and more (read more here).
This year our Wellness project will partner with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care to co-sponsor the first-ever Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium for researchers, physicians, spiritual care providers, and patient advocates working in palliative and end-of-life care (read more here).
Last month the US Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences announced a grant of nearly $3.5 million to fund a four-year study of our CARE for Teachers program, awarded to our partner institution Penn State University, with subawards to Garrison Institute and to Fordham University. We’re collaborating on a large, randomized controlled study measuring CARE’s impact on students and classrooms as well as teachers (read more here).
Our Climate, Mind and Behavior program held its third groundbreaking CMB symposium in February, generating influential ideas and sparking many exciting collaborations. I am also excited that CMB has produced a strategic roadmap, with funding from the Summit Foundation, which lays out how we will get from this high-energy national learning network to involving more people in climate solutions, sharing expertise, resources, and research locally and regionally (read more here).
These are all examples of how we’re on the threshold of faster institutional growth and greater impacts on society. As I work with the Institute to equip us to respond to all the new opportunities and requests in a nimble way, I’ve been impressed by its strong program leadership and the commitment, skills and experience of its board and staff. And I’m grateful for the many thousands of participants who make our work so collaborative and rewarding, and especially for the funders and supporters who make it possible. Together, we are doing something extraordinary: building a movement for contemplative-based social change that is truly catching on.
Beth L. Schecter, MPH, MBA
Interim Executive Director
Paul Hawken is an internationally known environmentalist, entrepreneur and author of such books as Blessed Unrest. He serves on the Garrison Institute’s Advisory Council, and on the steering committee of our Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) project. He has attended each annual CMB symposium and moderated two of them. At the 2010 symposium he gave an evening talk that has stuck with us, ranging from meditation and inner reality to the inexorable difficulties of the systemic problems of energy and climate change, and back again, finding hope and the possibility of great transformation in the contemplative’s grasp of reality and depth of intention.
For those of us who teach mindfulness in educational settings, building an evidence base for our work is critical. The word “mindfulness” is everywhere today, and mindfulness programs in educational settings are growing in popularity. But if this trend is to develop and grow as a movement, and not just fizzle out like a passing fad, it needs research.
I often get approached by people who have developed a mindfulness-based or contemplative program and want me to help them prove its efficacy. These conversations both hearten and dismay me. I’m heartened by the inspiration to help children and the ambition to build an evidence- based program. And I’m discouraged by the lack of wherewithal to do the necessary research, both in terms of financial resources and the knowledge needed for the developer/ researcher partnership to work.
The Garrison Institute hosts several retreats annually in the emerging field of contemplative care, which like our Wellness Project provides caregivers with contemplative-based tools for greater resilience and effectiveness in their important but demanding work.
For example we host retreats of the Rigpa Fellowship’s Spiritual Care Education Program, offering practical ways Buddhist teachings can benefit those facing illness or death, and their families and caregivers, and conducting retreats for healthcare professionals. We also host retreats of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC), the first Buddhist organization to offer fully accredited Buddhist chaplaincy training, whose partners include NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Hospice, and the New York Theological Seminary.
The Garrison Institute’s Program Initiatives apply contemplative wisdom in rigorous, evidence-based, practical ways to such fields as trauma care, K-12 education, and climate change. Each initiative is staffed by qualified professionals and works with leading scientists, researchers, and practitioners. To date over 3500 professionals have participated in 77 events in our initiative programs, making key contributions to the evolution of their fields, building collaborative networks, and impacting lives and society on an ever growing scale.
The Garrison Institute offers a non-sectarian, inclusive, authentically contemplative retreat setting that attracts a wide range of users. But it’s more than just a tranquil place to retreat to; it is a place to advance from, a place for deepening engagement with the world, and a powerful resource for personal growth and social transformation.
We offer over 60 retreats each year. Some are focused on contemplative practices such as meditation and reflection, exploring diverse wisdom traditions as well as contemporary ideas and practices. Others convene professionals in key social change fields, from caregivers to CEOs, focusing on transformational leadership or resiliency skills.
Like most innovation, the Garrison Institute’s work is intensely collaborative. None of it would be possible without your support. Every day the Institute has new opportunities to deepen its impact. Help us seize them. Your gift will fund scholarships to broaden access to our retreats, help disseminate our work more widely and enable us to keep pushing the boundaries of contemplative social change.