Retreats: “The Buddha Was a Person of Color” | Contemplative Care: “The Heart Must First Pump Blood to Itself” | Contemplative Teaching and Learning: Helping Teachers and Students Thrive | Climate, Mind and Behavior: Scaling Up CMB’s Work | Events: A Memorable Evening with Philip Glass | Organizational Growth: New Leadership| Meet Our Practitioners
August 31–September 2, the Institute will present “Living in the Light of Divine Sanity: A Retreat for People of Color” with Gina Sharpe. Made available at the Institute’s lowest rates to make it as accessible as we can, the retreat asks how we can break the spell of habit and cultural beliefs that drive separation rather than connection.
Focusing on the Buddhist teaching of the Brahma Viharas, also known as the Four Divine Emotions or the Four Divine Abodes, the practices taught in the retreat cultivate our natural inclination toward love rather than hatred, joy rather than envy for the happiness of others, compassion for suffering and balance in the presence of the natural vicissitudes of our human life. That is an experience from which everyone living in these stressful, technology-ridden times can benefit.
Gina Sharpe co-led the first retreats for people of color held at the Institute in 2003 and 2004, and described how she became convinced of the need for them in a 2004 interview in Tricycle magazine, “Does Race Matter in the Meditation Hall?” She discusses her current thinking about race and meditation in a new interview, posted here, in which she points out: “The Buddha was a person of color. Allegedly he came from a princely cast; and he was a social radical. He brought people of all castes together…. The idea that we are “all one” acknowledges the commonality of the human experience in the absolute sense. Nevertheless, in our relative world, there are distinctions and differences, whether race, color, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or other markers of identity…. We live in these distinctions every day. The idea that we can transcend and live into our absolute reality of non-distinction without going through these issues of difference is spiritually bypassing our humanness.”
Nov. 8-11: Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium
Nov. 29-Dec. 2: Sharon Salzberg and Sylvia Boorstein: The Four Boundless States
The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care describes the field contemplative care as “an approach to caregiving that incorporates mindfulness practice, compassionate action and moment-to-moment awareness while in relationship with the one being cared for. It is rooted in Buddhist practices of meditation and contemplation.” This November 8–11, Garrison Institute is partnering with NYZCCC to present the first-ever Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium, a major public conference offering experiential workshops, presentations, and panel discussions with leading experts in palliative, end-of-life and contemplative care.
Among the keynote speakers are Dr. Diane Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, and Dr. Michael Kearney, director of Palliative Care Service at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “The Symposium will bring needed attention to the essential requirement for human relationships in health care and healing,” said Meier. “This is in danger of being lost with computerization, telemedicine, and time and cost pressures on the health care system.” Speaking about the prevalence of burnout and compassion fatigue among physicians and nurses, Dr. Kearney said, “Self-care enables caregivers to care for their patients in a sustainable way with greater compassion, sensitivity, effectiveness and empathy. Remember, the heart must first pump blood to itself...”
Several upcoming retreats and events in our Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL) initiative offer educators opportunities to explore these dimensions of education further and to discover contemplative approaches that enhance teaching and learning. They include our Fifth Annual CARE for Teachers Summer Retreat August 10-15, our Joy of Teaching and Learning workshop/retreat September 21-23 and our annual education symposium, The Art and Science of Contemplative Teaching and Learning: Exploring Ways of Knowing November 16-18.
Researchers and educators are demonstrating the efficacy of contemplative teaching and learning practices in schools right now. In our 2011 annual report we profiled Donalda Chumney, principal of Jonas Bronck Academy, a middle school in the Bronx. She has brought many of her teaching staff with her to past CARE for Teachers trainings and to our CTL annual symposium, and she will bring teaching staff with her to the CARE for Teachers Summer Retreat again this year. She now implements CARE practices at her school, including breathing practices, tai chi and work/life balance measures. “We’ve had successful outcomes,” says Chumney, “including better quality interactions, decreased anxiety and conflict between colleagues and families, and the fact I haven’t heard anything about anyone wanting a different job.”
Dr. Adele Diamond, a pioneer in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, gave a presentation to a recent gathering Garrison Institute supporters in New York on child brain development and what makes children thrive. She overviewed research showing qualities that contemplative teaching and learning approaches can help develop in children -- creativity, flexibility, impulse control and others -- are key to learning. They help develop executive function and are powerful predictors of future success. “Counterintuitively,” says Dr. Diamond, “the most efficient and effective strategy for advancing academic achievement is not to focus only on academics, but to nurture all aspects of the child...”
Our innovative Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) initiative brings new insights from social and behavioral sciences about effective ways to shift behavioral practices, decisions and operations to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions and achieve greater levels of environmental sustainability overall. The CMB learning network and the scope and scale of CMB’s innovative projects continue to expand rapidly. Much of the growth has been associated with CMB’s five regional hubs, in the Pacific Northwest, New York, the Rocky Mountain area (Denver), Charlotte, and a new CMB regional hub in Boston. Upcoming hub meetings include August 9 in Denver and September 6 in Boston.
Among CMB’s current projects is an ongoing initiative with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to design a "behavior wedge assessment tool" that will help city sustainability officers identify the most strategic and cost-effective opportunities for reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption through people-centered initiatives. It takes into consideration variations in regional climate, the built environment and technologies, practices and attitudes, to reveal the most promising opportunities in each region or state. On completion, it will enable sustainability professionals to target their limited funding for maximum carbon and energy savings.
The CMB program has already begun planning for the 2013 series of symposia. This year’s symposia will benefit from the expert management of Susan McKeever-Duys, who recently joined the CMB staff to coordinate all three of the national CMB events...
Amid a busy year of worldwide celebrations and events marking his 75th anniversary, on July 19 iconic composer and longtime supporter Philip Glass played a concert to benefit the Garrison Institute for a capacity crowd in our meditation hall. Glass’s performance of his own work was intimate and illuminating, both personal and fittingly, contemplative. He also brought composer/pianist Trevor Gureckis and mezzo Tara Hugo to perform songs he collaborated on with Alan Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen that thematized contemplation, with lyrics that blur the line between desire and devotion.
We couldn’t record this memorable concert for you, but you can hear Glass’s North County Public Radio interview about it in which he discusses his association with the Garrison Institute, his five-decade career, and his current and future work...
We’re proud to announce that after a rigorous executive search process, our board of trustees has unanimously chosen our next executive director, Robyn Brentano. We look forward to welcoming Robyn as our new ED when her term starts on September 4.
She’ll be coming to us from her current position as executive director of the Tibet Fund, which supports healthcare, education and refugee services for Tibetan people, and works to preserve Tibetan religion, culture and identity. Robyn has also held leadership positions with Healing the Divide and the Initiatives Foundation (two global charities founded by Richard Gere) and at the New York Association for New Americans (a non-profit refugee resettlement and immigrant services agency). She has a strong background in non-profit development, as well as in the arts.
Our thanks goes to our outgoing interim executive director Beth Schecter, an expert in organizational transition, who capably guided us through the past year. Her term ends August 31. Through her leadership and the work of our staff we are poised to take the Institute’s mission to the next level.
Meanwhile, internationally known environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken, and leading psychiatrist and author Dan Siegel were elected to our board of trustees this summer. After nine years of his guidance, Garrison Institute co-founder, Jonathan Rose’s term as board chair ended in July. He’ll remain on the board while Diana Rose, the Institute’s co-founder and founding president emerita, will serve as board chair for one year, with Peter Miscovich as chair-elect. Peter will serve this year as vice chair, then take over as board chair starting in July 2013.
The past year has been an eventful and important one in the Institute’s evolution. You can read a concise account of progress and growth in our programs, retreats, impacts and capacity, along with profiles of practitioners who are carrying our contemplative approach to social change out into the world, in our 2011 annual report.
Isabel Adon is a social worker in a children’s psychiatric hospital in New York City, who also volunteers in emergency rooms as a rape crisis advocate. These activities involve close contact with clients who have experienced trauma. Adon was introduced to contemplative practice, and later to Wellness training, at the Garrison Institute. Today she attends contemplative retreats regularly, and participates in a meditation group for people of color and an in-depth study group led by senior teachers. Establishing a contemplative practice transformed her relationship to her work. The following is excerpted from a recent profile of Adon in Shambhala Sun magazine...
Donalda Chumney is principal of Jonas Bronck Academy, Middle School 228 in the Bronx. 84% of its students are poor, 30% have special education needs, yet it excels in school environment and student academic progress measures (ranking 13th in New York City in 2009-2010). Chumney attended the 2011 CARE Summer Retreat for Teachers, then implemented CARE practices at school, and brought two-thirds of her teaching staff to attend our 2011 Education Symposium. She's coming back to the 2012 CARE Summer Retreat and urging colleagues to do likewise. She’ll also attend our Foundations of Contemplative Practice retreat. She offered these reflections on CARE...
Linda Mandolini is the executive director of Eden Housing, which builds and maintains high-quality affordable housing for very low, low and moderate- income families, including seniors, people with disabilities and the formerly homeless. She told us how the Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium inspired her approach to greening Eden’s 88 properties throughout California...