Inspired Thinking, Thoughtful Action
The Garrison Institute was founded on the belief that action in the world is more compassionate and more effective when infused with the wisdom and skill cultivated in contemplative practices. Overlooking the Hudson River in a beautifully renovated former Capuchin monastery, the Institute convenes and supports those who are exploring the wisdom, values and insight gained through contemplative practices to catalyze personal and social transformation.
The mission of the Garrison Institute is to demonstrate and disseminate the importance of contemplative practices and spiritually grounded values in building sustainable movements for a healthier, safer, and more compassionate world. Working collaboratively with practitioners in diverse fields, the Institute develops and hosts retreats and symposia, produces research and publications, and provides a hub for ongoing learning networks.
Contemplation – the practice of reflecting deeply – opens fresh possibilities for new thinking, and can be an indispensable part of the solution to today’s real-world, human-created problems, from an epidemic of psychological trauma to global climate change.
Einstein famously said we cannot solve problems with the mindset that created them.
“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive,” he wrote, arguing our survival depends on freeing ourselves from the “optical delusion” of separateness and “widen[ing] our circle of compassion.”
Many modern leaders and teachers, from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to the Dalai Lama, stress the urgency of our need to discover new ways of thinking and a new understanding of our interconnectedness. They also agree that the keys to the new mental models we must seek can be found in older ones. The world’s great wisdom traditions demonstrate the power of contemplative practice to look beyond delusions of separation, shift perspectives and unleash creative energies, and science increasingly bears them out
A decade ago brain researchers discovered the phenomenon of “neuroplasticity,” whereby the brain changes physiologically in contemplative practice – as little as eight weeks of meditation can stimulate new dendritic growth in the brain, at any time of life. This doesn’t just stimulate new ideas: it literally changes minds, actually building new structures and capacities in the brain. It redraws the architecture of thought in organic ways that allow individuals to evolve, and collective thought to shift and grow
Research shows that even in adversity, contemplative practitioners respond to the world around them with decreasing negativity, anxiety or aggression and increasing compassion, creativity and altruism. This experience can inspire individuals and transform societies, breaking through old obstacles to achieve systemic change.
The Garrison lnstitute’s programs develop rigorous, evidence-based ways to apply contemplative methodologies to key social change fields—such as education, ecology and humanitarian aid—redefining their core issues, connecting them to a larger context of systemic change.
Our rich calendar of retreats and programs presents contemplative teachers and ideas conducive to personal transformation and social change. We offer a unique, non-sectarian environment, sometimes described as a “monastery for the 21st century” or a “think and action tank,” where leaders and practitioners across diverse fields can meet, connect and collaborate. Spiritual leaders, policy makers, advocates, activists, scholars, scientists, funding partners, directors of organizations and concerned citizens are all actively engaged in our work.
Our goal is to cultivate new thought and leadership that can inspire large numbers of people by appealing not just to their minds, but also to their hearts. Grounding social action in the wisdom of contemplation is transformative.
We live in complicated times. As the world rapidly globalizes, subprime mortgages from Detroit are sold in Dubai. As the global climate rapidly changes, clear-cut forests in Borneo cause floods in Bangladesh. As the global population rises, so does the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest. The 21st century, with all its complexity and interdependence, presents us with both terrible vistas of suffering and terrific opportunities to build a positive future. Comprehending the emerging world, facing its challenges and seizing its opportunities, will require new ways of thinking.
Contemplation – broadly defined as the practice of deep reflection – nourishes and stimulates new patterns of thought and behavior. A contemplative mind recognizes interdependence and connectedness. It is open and present, with an expansive view that crosses disciplines and breaks silos.
Contemplation offers pathways to positive states of mind and positive shifts in behavior that arise from them, infusing our actions with compassion, connecting them with our values. Given the right applications, contemplative insights and approaches can be a fundamental part of the solution to today’s most pressing, real-world, human-created problems, from the global trauma epidemic to global climate change.
This is not only a matter of belief, but also of science. Recent research indicates contemplative practices can help modulate fear and cultivate insight, intuition, empathy and morality – qualities that ground civil society and animate effective social change work.
The Garrison Institute applies the power of contemplation to real-world problems, helping build a more resilient, compassionate society.
Founded in 2003, the Garrison Institute is a not-for-profit non-sectarian organization exploring the intersection of contemplation and engaged action in the world.
We envision increasingly mainstream use of contemplative methods to cultivate caring, insight and courage in individuals, as well as shifts in collective values and worldviews needed to achieve positive social change.
The G Woven in the center of the Auspicious Knot signifies the central role Garrison Institute plays in the application of contemplative traditions for the benefit of civil society. The Knot branches out of the G, as Garrison is a global center out of which wisdom and energy emanate.
“Today, in the first decade of the 21st century, science and spirituality have the potential to be closer than ever and to embark upon a collaborative endeavor that has far-reaching potential to help humanity meet the challenges before us.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama