Watch the Power and Care conference Talks

Watch the Mind and Life Power and Care Conference taking place in Brussels.
The schedule of talks (Brussels Timezone) for Saturday and Sunday is:
Session 3: Perspectives from spiritual and religious traditions
Time: 9:30-11:30am
Religious and spiritual institutions are influential forces that promote peace and compassion and are concerned with the cultivation of an ethical existence. Yet at the same time they wield vast power that has often been used for divisive and destructive purposes and are profoundly implicated in the economics and government of societies, past and present. How can the world’s religions transform themselves and channel their immense power in order to remain viable agents of positive change?Speakers: H.H. the Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D. (interpreter); Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D. (moderator); Pauline Tangiora, J.P., Q.S.O., Q.S.M.; Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D.; Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp; Brother Thierry-Marie Courau, o.p.; Alaa Murabit, M.D.

Session 4: Perspectives from economics and society
Time: 1:00-3:00pm
Politics and economics are the quintessential arenas for the expression of power in the social realm. Since political-economic reasoning dominates our social and cultural lives how can motivations belonging to the “care constellation” be introduced into economic thinking and therefore into the societal structures that regulate human relations? Indeed, there are other models and behaviors that can create equilibrium between these elements that determine so much of our daily existence.

Speakers: H.H. the Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D. (interpreter); Dr Uwe Jean Heuser (moderator); Prof. Dennis James Snower, Ph.D.; Prof. Sir Paul Collier; Dr Vandana Shiva; Theo Sowa; Jody Williams

Session 5: Personal commitment and global responsibility
Time: 9:30-11:30am
The issue of “empowerment” as a component of personal and collective engagement, and the concept of care as an expression of responsibility for our planet and its civilizations in times of strife, forced migration and homelessness, and distress at the individual and societal levels, will provide the focus for our final session. Power and care are two primary elements that may not, finally, be opposed but rather coexist as a condition of dynamic and constructive equilibrium.

Speakers: H.H. the Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D. (interpreter); Theo Sowa (moderator); Olafur Eliasson; Dr Scilla Elworthy; Frédéric Laloux; Prof. Dr Tania Singer

Understanding fear and hatred

Listen to a recent dialogue I had with psychiatrist Jose Calderon-Abbo about recent terrorist acts, our response to them, the mental and emotional suffering of the perpetrators and the role of cultivating compassionate recognition and wisdom in healing human harming.

Here is the link to the mp3 recording:

Bhikku Bodhi illuminates what mindfulness actually is and introduces conscientious compassion

If you wish to know what mindfulness actually is I humbly suggest watching this amazing interview with Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi on mindfulness and what he calls conscientious compassion. Bhante is a treasure in the Theravada Buddhist lineage. A longtime monk and gifted translator of the Pali texts, who since returning to America has been a thoughtful spokesperson for Engaged Buddhism. He continues to walk the path of ethical Buddhism uncompromisingly bringing his wisdom to bear upon such difficult topics as war, social/political injustice, human rights, climate change and class inequity. This is an interview you will not want to miss.

Richard Davidson and Thomas Insel discuss the brain, mental health & mindfulness


Listen to an edited version of Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and Professor Richard Davidson discussing neuronal changes from the use of mindfulness interventions for the treatment of anxiety and depression. This panel took place at DAVOS 2015 and the recording was created by Mike Hanley, the Director of Communications, Digital Content and Editing at the World Economic Forum.
No hype, just great information direct from the source.

Listen here:

A truly unusual, extraordinary conference experience

I had the great honor of presenting at this year’s Ahimsa Conference at CalPoly Pomona. Presenters from a wide range of disciplines—design, ecology studies, social reform, philosophy, integrative clinical applications and early education—shared insights and expertise. While it is true that the title was Compassion, Caring and Mindfulness every presentation was replete with a depth of expertise and creativity I rarely witness at such gatherings. It was as if everyone decided to be radically honest and push the edge. For that, we all had the founder of the Ahimsa Center, Professor Tara Sethia to thank. Her courage and vision I believe inspired each of the presenters to be radical.

Here are some samplings from my experiences:
Alan B. Wallace started the conference with a brilliant presentation on conative intelligence and its capacity to discern between hedonistic and eudemonic happiness as a catalyst for achieving greater freedom of will to bring about individuals and societies with greater capacity for caring compassion and mindfulness.

Two of America’s greatest industrial designers, Jeff Smith and Gianfranco Zaccai, presented on sustainable, caring projects and design initiatives that focus on human centered design.

Mark Malisa, offered a moving presentation on ubuntu, a way of living rooted in an African worldview that teaches the value of caring for human beings as it is applied in the caring for orphans in South Africa.

Shamini Jain, PhD offered current, well-designed research studies on several Biofield therapies for lessening symptoms for war veterans and cancer patients. What a joy it was to hear a bold, intelligent advocate for expanding Western clinical research definitions of “empirical evidence” and the development of additional first-person effect measures.

I presented on harnessing the innate wisdom and compassion of awareness to catalyze deep inquiry into the nature of human suffering in veterans struggling to heal the wounds of moral injury. The difficulty of this topic led to some very beautiful, challenging questions. Afterwards many participants expressed their gratitude for my willingness to embody awakened presence and open their minds to the suffering of those who willingly or unwillingly cause harm.

Jenny Phillips, the Director of “The Dhamma Brothers” gave an inspiring talk about the prisoners featured in this deeply moving film about bringing a 10-day Goenka vipassanā meditation course into a prison in Alabama. If you haven’t seen it yet do it!

Day Two started with a moving talk by James Doty, neurosurgeon and Director of CCARE at Stanford University. While he of course talked about the great work being done a CCARE, he then shared some of his challenging personal history in an effort to show that humans have extraordinary experiences, which science cannot yet explain, but which happen nonetheless. It was brave.

This was followed by a fantastic panel of a new generation of mindfulness/compassion innovators. The presentations focused on delivering these skills in early and teen educational settings, on men compassionately parenting their sons, and on delivering mindfulness and compassion skills among populations struggling with the effects of war.

Then LMU professor Christopher Key Chapple gave a beautiful talk on the Brahmavihāras followed by an inspiring presentation by the eminent UC Berkeley scholar Padmanabh S. Jaini on Aharya Tulsi’s shifting of Jainist monastic principles. It was amazing to hear a scholar insist over and over again that suffering has been with humans since the beginningless beginning, but that its ending is possible because such suffering is not endless.

Part Two Videos: A Dialogue with David Vago, PhD on the Clinical Relevance of Awakening

I recently recorded two rich and informative conversations with David Vago, PhD, associate psychologist in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and instructor at Harvard Medical School, focused on translating the Buddhist concept of “enlightenment” into modern clinical terms. David is currently involved in cutting edge neurobiological research on the awakened mind states that arise during various meditative practices. I have divided our second conversation into three videos featured below. You can also listen to Part Two in its entirety at:

This first of Part Two’s three videos focuses on S-ART, David’s neurobiological framework for describing the positive effects of meditation on self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence. Covered topics include: Perception and distorted self-perception; clarity and insight; reducing mental and emotional suffering.

The second of Part Two’s three videos covers not-self: Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna notions of awakening and not-self; secular mental training; different interventions for different psyches; selflessness/emptiness in psychotherapy; translating the dharma into neuropsychological terms, vedanā (craving and aversion); decentering.

This final Part Two video concludes our conversation on not-self: embodied cognition; aggregates and seeds of habit mind; other-centeredness and not-self; non-referential compassion; empathy fatigue; refuting self-compassion; clinical Tonglen practice; neurobiological evidence for not-self states; developmental model of awakening; dynamic responsiveness; neurotherapeutics.

Guaranteeing happiness from compassion training?

I’d like to reflect upon part of a public event I attended last week that I found quite distressing. I feel it is worthy of commentary primarily because it exemplifies the misappropriation of compassion meditation in corporate and clinical settings. It is important to note that this exchange did not take place in a vacuum and was just another manifestation of a distorted ‘mindfulness mass delivery machine’.

Sadhguru was invited to engage in a public conversation at Stanford University with James Doty, MD, the Founder of CCARE (Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education). Much of the exchange centered on Sadhguru’s personal history, spiritual vision, and his organization’s charitable work. He is an interesting mix of mystic, businessman and spiritual teacher. Toward the end of their dialogue, Sadhguru suggested that the fastest way to change the world was to have the world’s 85 wealthiest individuals spend a weekend with him learning meditation. He claimed his meditation practices would open their minds to wisdom and turn their hearts toward the suffering masses, creating a wave of financial giving which could end poverty, hunger and the like. No matter what you may think of the validity of such a plan, it certainly was a bold statement to make before several hundred academics and clinicians.

In response, Dr. Doty rebutted with the following personal anecdote. He was presenting CCARE’s research at the Aspen Institute before an audience of the world’s top executives and other wealthy individuals. That night Dr. Doty attended a gathering at the home of an 80-year-old billionaire who was a holocaust survivor. As they conversed, his host pointed at his watch, revealed it cost $10,000 and then intimated that his life had centered upon accumulation of wealth and happiness had remained elusive. This is when Dr. Doty offered a deal to this man (presumably out of a desire to lessen his suffering, though he did not say so directly.) “If you pay me $100,000 a day for 10 days I will teach you meditation practices that are guaranteed to make you happy.” (This is the point at which shock and dismay arose in me.) Dr. Doty continued, “The man’s daughter overheard my offer and told her father she would gladly give up her entire inheritance to see him happy and he should do it. But in the end, he refused.”

Sadhguru immediately replied, “Why should he pay you? I would give him $100,000 a day to open his mind and heart to the truth.” Shortly thereafter I left feeling disheartened.

Much of my consternation revolved around the following concerns:

1)   CCARE’s compassion training program is based upon Lojong, Buddhist mind training. These traditional compassion practices are designed to train the mind-heart in selflessness, not happiness. All three Buddhist schools—Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna—share this basic understanding regarding the ‘goal’ of compassion meditation. Guaranteeing the delivery of happiness from compassion training is false advertising at best and deluded thinking at worst.

2)   Dr. Doty seems to have missed the real benefit of Buddhist compassion training: recognizing emptiness and the unconditioned contentment associated with awakening from the delusional grip of self-cherishing. This missed opportunity is another example of how the decontextualization of Buddhist mindfulness and compassion practices has diluted their effectiveness and hijacked their intention to cultivate wisdom, virtue and selflessness.

3)   $100,000 a day either taken or given to entice a suffering individual to awaken feels morally wrong if what one offers in return is purported to lead to wisdom and compassion. Additionally, his offer was callous and probably missed the likely source of this man’s suffering: his holocaust trauma. To know the full extent of human cruelty first-hand at such a young age could indeed lead to a life dedicated to self-sufficiency in all its forms and a loss of connection with basic human goodness. How could any man asking for $100,000 a day be trusted to offer anything of true and lasting value? In this instance, only an offer with no strings attached and promising nothing other than the Buddha’s own invitation of, “Don’t take my word, come see for yourself,” would reflect genuine trustworthiness and innate human goodness.

The good news is the rise of a serious movement to reunite modern mindfulness and compassion practices with core Buddhist philosophical, psychological and ethical principles. My book is part of this effort. A wonderful example of this trend is a newly released scholarly article in The Journal of Management Inquiry by Ron Purser and Joseph Milillo, which I highly recommend for its scholarship, critique and vision of a new ‘deepened-in’ mindfulness model. I invite you to take a look at it.