Inspired Thinking, Thoughtful Action
Today, the world needs more than just “change;” it needs transformation. Contemplation is key to discovering insights and innovations which lead to transformative action.
The Garrison Institute is part of an emerging field of innovative changemaking organizations working to apply the wisdom that arises from contemplation to new action strategies for transformative social and environmental change.
From climate change to racial and social injustice, deep, systemic problems require transformative solutions. Contemplation can help find and implement them. In contemplative or reflective mode, the mind shifts perspective from the illusion of a separate self to an awareness of our profound interconnectedness with each other and the planet. Grounded in that awareness, we can often put disparate elements together in new, illuminating ways, generating innovative insights into our most daunting challenges.
The Garrison Institute is about all of us. It’s about cultivating awareness of our interconnectedness as the basis of positive change. It’s about bringing disparate elements together, finding common ground, and taking collective action for the common good. It’s about leveraging the ability of contemplative practices to hone skills and insights, combining them with new learnings from science, and weaving them collaboratively into new strategies for social and environmental transformation.
The Institute is part of an emerging social field of innovative, changemaking organizations. It’s a field we helped start and continue to nurture, working to integrate contemplation, impactful action, and transformational change.
We offer ongoing learning hubs and exceptional opportunities for people and organizations working in this field to be in a supportive, empowering community. And we continue to advance the field through our own groundbreaking contemplative-based, secular programs in key social and environmental program initiatives: Contemplative Based Resilience, Pathways to Planetary Health, and Compassionate Leadership.
The Garrison Institute’s mission is to apply the skills and wisdom cultivated through contemplative practice, together with the insights emerging from science, to today’s urgent social and environmental challenges, leveraging transformational change and helping build a more compassionate, resilient future.
We envision a future in which contemplation is widely recognized and practiced as a pathway to social and environmental transformation. Contemplation infuses our actions with the awareness that we live in a relational world, where everyone and everything is connected and interdependent. Together with insights from science and ethics, this awareness will increasingly be cultivated and applied to changing behaviors and mindsets, shifting the current paradigm towards a holistic, interconnected one.
Meaningful change results from a complex interaction between evolving systems and evolving individuals. Contemplation opens fresh possibilities for personal insight, evolution, and transformation. It also affords insight into real-world problems, helping systems and societies evolve and transform.
We’re living in a time of growing anxiety and suffering amid political discord, racial and social injustice, violence, public health crises, and environmental threats and losses. But such crisis-ridden times are also opportunities, full of latent potential, crying out for positive, transformative solutions.
Insights emerging from science are increasingly intersecting with the insights from indigenous wisdom and contemplative traditions. They teach us that we aren’t separate, atomized, or selfish by nature. Everyone and everything is interconnected, non-dual, interdependent (which is a systems theory term) or “entangled” (which is a quantum physics term). Contemplation is the method human beings evolved to hone such an awareness, which can help us address today’s crises effectively and form the basis for a transformative action strategy.
Contemplative practices are not passive or theoretical; they are active and practical, and have real-world benefits. Scientific research shows that contemplation modulates fear and cultivates insight, intuition, empathy, and morality – qualities that can enable effective social and environmental change work, even in difficult times. The more pressing, intractable, or anxiety-producing the problem, the greater the need for contemplative perspectives to support innovation and implementation of solutions.
“Contemplation” comes from the Latin contemplio, which means to survey the land for a temple site or sacred space. Metaphorically, contemplation surveys the inner landscape for sacred space within, going inward to find quiet, calm, and focus. It helps the mind enter into a more integrated state, a kind of wakeful rest in which studies show “aha” moments and breakthrough insights can often occur.
Contemplation can help change agents of all kinds become more insightful, innovative, and effective. And it helps people working in especially challenging fields, from caregivers on the front lines of the pandemic to humanitarian workers in disaster zones, be more compassionate, self-caring, and resilient, so they don’t burn out or internalize trauma, and are able to thrive in their work.
The Garrison Institute is guided by the fundamental values of compassion, ethics, contemplative reflection, and evidence-based scientific rigor. From these we derive a commitment to justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability.
Sustainability is integral to all our operations. The Institute is committed to understanding, measuring, and minimizing its environmental footprint. Working with our staff and guests, we implement best practices for maintaining energy and water efficiency, serving sustainable food, eliminating toxic chemicals and pollution, and managing solid waste. Our 77,000 square foot facility has been retrofitted with renewable energy systems and other sustainability upgrades.
The Garrison Institute realizes that the vision, mission, and programming of the Institute is ambitious and noble. We are also committed to creating a workplace environment and culture that is worthy of that nobility. In other words, how we do things is as important to us as what we do. We intend to infuse the following values into our work and your stay at Garrison Institute.
To recognize the interdependence of all things and the compassionate action that flows from that recognition, we hold the following core values:
Contemplation: a central aspect of our life and work at Garrison Institute is to practice daily some form of contemplative discipline. This provides the space, strength, and openness of mind for true dialogue and inspired thinking.
Generosity: We practice generosity as the foundation of a spiritual life and the most direct expression of concern for other beings.
Patience: We practice patience with ourselves, with our coworkers, with all who come to Garrison Institute, and with the work itself.
Dedication: We commit ourselves to work wholeheartedly for the benefit of society and the natural world with sustained resolve.
Ethical Behavior: We reflect continually on the implications of our thought, words, and deeds; and seek to always realize what leads to well-being and what does not.
Wisdom: We cultivate the insight that comes from practicing all these values in order to cut through the fog of greed, hatred, and delusion; in ourselves and in our society.