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.
Please join us March 31 for a free public talk with Thomas Moore. Moore is the author of the bestselling Care of the Soul and 15 other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life. Moore’s new book A Religion of One’s Own is about creating a personal, authentic spiritual path that bridges the sacred and the secular. “I like situations where you can’t separate the two,” says Moore. He’ll explore that theme at the Garrison Institute in his talk and in a March 31–April 2 retreat he’s calling “The Orange Box” (hint: just do it). A former monk (also a musician, professor, and psychotherapist), he talks more about his upcoming visit to the Institute in this new interview in Chronogram entitled “Accounting for the Mysterious.”
This spring the Climate Mind and Behavior (CMB) program of the Garrison Institute, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, will convene a three-day by-invitation summit of local government service providers from around the country. The meeting will address how they can be most effective at helping municipalities take action on climate change.
The CMB program focuses on the human dimensions of resilience, working through both scientific and contemplative perspectives to build more aware, adaptive and resilient people and communities. Local governments have been at the forefront of climate change action for over a decade. Many dedicated public servants in small towns and large cities seek ways to build resilience and support the conditions for sustainability in their communities. In some cases, sustainability or climate teams work with a mandate from their mayor, and have sufficient funding to mount large-scale campaigns towards such goals as boosting recycling and composting, enhancing stormwater management, or increasing the use of renewable energy. In many other cases, the task of understanding local climate impacts and designing and implementing programs to address them falls to cash and time-constrained municipal workers who have plenty of will, but little capacity. That’s where technical service providers and the resources they create can help.
Can contemplative practice support culture shifts in key social change fields like education and climate change? Our Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) and Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL) programs offer thoughtful monthly updates that connect the latest research and news from the field to the big-picture questions we’re all pondering. CMB director John McIlwain asked in a recent issue, “Is there an inherent conflict between the fundamental premises of our current culture and our relationship with the natural world? Can we evolve today’s culture to allow us to embrace nature with all of its wonders, its limitations and its fearful unpredictability?” To sign up for the CMB and/or CTL e-updates, please visit this visit this form and select your interests.
In Syria and many other conflict and disaster zones around the world, physical danger, chronic stress, burnout and constant exposure to others’ suffering are occupational hazards for aid workers. Our Contemplative Based Resilience Training (CBRT) program teaches contemplative skills that enhance their resilience, well-being and effectiveness in tough environments. We’re offering CBRT trainings to humanitarian and emergency international aid workers in New York in April and in West Cork, Ireland in May.
Together with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, in November we're presenting the second semi-annual Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium, "Communication and the Interpersonal Relationship Within Palliative and End of Life Care." It's a unique opportunity for doctors, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, chaplains and volunteers to explore contemplative skills that deepen their connection with patients and improve patient and self-care. Registration is open now.
Contemplative teaching and learning is growing fast as research expands and educators explore contemplative strategies in their work. Teachers are chronicling this firsthand in our "Coming to CARE" blog, including this entry by Susan Myers, who introduced yoga breathing into her art classes, which she calls "art breathing." This August we're offering a face-to-face opportunity for educators to learn effective contemplative tools and share their experiences at our Seventh Annual CARE Summer Retreat for Teachers. Registration is open; scholarships are available.
by Steve Kent
The world awoke to the news that Pete Seeger died last week, still somehow shocking and surreal even though he was 94. It never quite computed to imagine the future of this area without him and his wife Toshi, who died six months earlier. But now, suddenly, it’s here. Pete, whose Beacon, New York homestead where he lived for 65 years stands a couple of mountains north of us, was a generous friend of the Garrison Institute’s, performing at our opening ceremony in 2003, and at other times throughout our history.
In fact, he was a generous friend of organizations and people too numerous to count. His work and his guiding spirit pervade not only our part of the world, but our time in history, and his passing makes his gigantic presence if anything more deeply felt.
In November 2013 we held a by-invitation contemplative retreat for activists entitled “Practicing Justice: Transformation for Social Change” curated by Zen teacher Rev. angel Kyodo williams and co-facilitated by Claudia Horwitz and Rusia Mohiuddin. Made possible by a grant from the Kalliopeia Foundation, it was one of a series of retreats which, starting in 2002, periodically convene activists to explore the intersection of contemplative/spiritual/transformational practice and social justice.
Participants told their stories, strengthened ties, renewed friendships and explored commonalities and differences, but the retreat was not a typical professional networking gathering. It was conducted on a deeply personal level, with a very spacious agenda allowing plenty of time for reflection and practice. It focused on inner work with the goal of strengthening outer work, bridging the gap between the public/social and private/individual aspects of transformational change.
“This exploration has become a movement in some ways,” says williams. “Today we speak of ‘turning tides’ and a ‘great shift in consciousness’ coming to inform the way we make change in the world. There’s a growing recognition that we need to be more specific and emphatic about justice itself. Justice isn’t just about entitlements – it’s about honoring inherent rights, readjusting and renegotiating our relationship to the Other, bringing people who are marginalized back into the center."
If you’re a full-time teacher at an accredited K-12 school, or enrolled in a M.Ed. program, here’s an opportunity to get funding to attend summer retreats at the Garrison Institute. The Hemera Foundation is offering Contemplative Fellowships to “support educators’ growth through contemplative practice in a retreat setting… cultivate mindfulness, compassion, personal wellbeing, and professional efficacy, and, in turn, embody and apply these qualities to promote positive school cultures.” Eligible retreats here include our Dzogchen retreat, July 11-19; Nonviolent Communication, July 19-26; Focusing Summer Institute, August 15-21; and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, August 22-28. More information and application materials are posted here. The application deadline is March 21, 2014.
We can easily spend 40% or 50% of our waking lives working at our jobs. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest potential benefits of contemplative practice are workplace benefits, including improved focus, productivity and ability to handle stress. There are two golden opportunities in March to learn how to tap that potential: One is an evening forum we’re co-presenting with the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan on March 10 featuring our board member Sharon Salzberg and colleagues Janice Marturano and Daniel Goleman. All three have new books that deal with mindfulness at work, which they’ll discuss and sign at the event. The other opportunity is a weekend retreat at the Garrison Institute on “Mindfulness at Work” March 7–9, led by Sharon and Janice.
Earlier this month we co-sponsored a launch event for Sharon Salzberg’s new book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace at ABC Carpet and Home in Manhattan. In this video of her talk, she offers her insights into making work less stressful and more meaningful and fulfilling, and she shares some favorite stories about learning to do it in her own work as a meditation teacher and writer. Two of the keys are cultivating a sense of mission which can animate any job, and “training” attention, compassion and care for oneself and others.
The Institute has been conducting a series of mindfulness retreats for LGBT people that have attracted hundreds in the past two years. April 17 – 20, 2014 we’ll present our third annual retreat for LGBT communities, entitled “The Beauty of Our Lives,” led by Larry Yang, Maddy Klein and La Sarmiento. “We do not have many chances,” Lang writes, “to support our social, cultural and political work with our spiritual journey. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught that ‘As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of Love.’ Our intentions are to invite our communities into the spiritual supports from which social transformation can benefit.” Yang reflects on his own experience as a gay man of color and a meditation practitioner and teacher in this video interview by the Garrison Institute.
Climate change is not a problem that can be ‘fixed;’ it’s more like a long-term health issue that must be managed. And it’s anything but a monolith, affecting diverse communities in diverse ways. Shifting to a zero carbon society is necessary but not sufficient. Many different forms of civic engagement, mitigating and adapting are needed to create a less energy-intensive, more hopeful future where fortified social networks make diverse communities more resilient. That’s the gist of a new report on our 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior symposium, which convened over 100 experts working on climate change and sustainability issues. The report synthesizes their presentations, discussions and insights into a fresh, positive vision of what our future can be. Variation and Diversity in Sustainability and Climate Work: 2013 Climate, Mind and Behavior Synthesis Report
In his keynote presentation to our Climate, Buildings and Behavior symposium in October, leading organizational thinker Peter Senge offers a distillation of his insights into the most important factors in achieving meaningful change for the environment or in any sphere of life. They include positive aspirations instead of negative admonitions (“the power of aspiration is much greater than the power of desperation”), the desire and vision to bring into being and develop something new (like building a cathedral, or raising a child) and networks of relationships with collaborators engaged in “collective, creative process.” Whatever kind of personal or social change work you’re engaged in, you’ll take away actionable insights from this accessible and profound talk.
Nearly one hundred teacher educators and teacher leaders from across the US and Canada, and from as far away as Israel and Colombia, participated the Garrison Institute’s Contemplative Teaching and Learning (CTL) Initiative’s annual symposium. Held in late November with generous support from the 1440 Foundation and Lostand Foundation, this year’s meeting was entitled “Mindfulness in Education: Promoting the Social and Emotional Competencies of Educators.” It was a rich exploration of how mindfulness and other contemplative practices might be used to transform teacher education, and by extension, public education.
Images from disaster zones, like these pictures showing the devastation Typhoon Haiyan left in its wake, convey an inkling of how overwhelming and traumatic daily life inside the disaster zone can be. Aid workers on the ground share the stresses of these environments, which raise their own risk for depression, anxiety and burnout, even as they work to meet the needs of disaster victims. A 2012 study of anxiety and depression among aid workers by the Centers for Disease Control and this Guardian article describing stress-related burnout among aid workers illustrate the risks of doing this important and courageous work.
We’ve announced the date and set the agenda for a much-anticipated second installment of our semi-annual Buddhist Contemplative Care (BCC) Symposium, to be held at the Institute November 6-9, 2014. A joint project of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC) and the Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Transforming Trauma, the BCC Symposium showcases contemplative-based approaches to end-of-life and palliative care. NYZCCC delivers contemplative care through major providers in New York, and is the first and only organization to offer fully accredited Buddhist chaplaincy training. It defines “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.”
With demand for palliative and end-of-life care exploding as technology advances and the population ages, and with attrition rates for palliative and end-of-life nurses and physicians ranging from 30 – 50%, caregivers need contemplative care, just as patients do. Contemplative skills can help them stay present and maintain empathy and effectiveness despite caring for many dying patients. Such skills are rarely taught in medical or nursing schools, but they can be learned and taught. The Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium offers practitioners tools and insights for providing the most effective palliative and end-of-life care possible.
Wisdom 2.0 is a conference and events series, a book, a social media conversation and a movement for purposeful engagement in business and life, addressing what its organizers call “the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.” According to Wired magazine, Wisdom 2.0 events are gatherings "where the technology and contemplative communities ... hash out the best ways to incorporate these tools into our lives—and keep them from taking over." They are attended by business leaders, technology experts, innovators, digital natives and contemplative practitioners.
Tania Singer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, is a founder of the field of social neuroscience, a branch of neurosciences which seeks to understand how biological systems relate to social processes and behavior. Enormously influential in that field, she’s also a meditation practitioner, and her recent work focuses on researching compassion and meditation in ways that will gain wider credibility with scientists. She’s studying the distinct ways compassion functions in the brain, how people can be trained to hone compassion, and how that can condition pro-social behavior. Featured in a recent article in the journal Science, Singer’s ReSource Project uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for a “compassion signature” in the brain.
Our new Contemplative Teaching and Learning blog series, “Coming to Care: Collecting Stories for Teachers by Teachers” has attracted inspiring posts from K-12 teachers, university professors, teacher educators and others about their discoveries as they foundand applied contemplative approaches to education. Washington and Lee University political philosophy professor Eduardo Velasquez describes how as a student he became fascinated with the Western philosophical tradition of contemplatio.