Bringing wisdom into society
This conference held in Lerab Ling in May 2015 was a great success. It brought together some of the world’s most renowned meditation teachers and key figures in business, health and education to explore what happens when we get to know our minds. They explained the true purpose of meditation—and envisioned what the world would look like if we were able to bring mindfulness and awareness into every aspect of our lives.
Individual sessions as well as the entire event are now available as Video On Demand.
Last fall I had the amazing opportunity to travel to India to participate in the Science for Monks programme. Science for monks is a project that has been established by the Library for Tibetan Works and Archives to teach monastic graduates (mostly geshes) about Western science. They have created this programme at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Every year a group of monastic graduates from a wide range of monasteries all over India (this year even including some from Bhutan) travel to study together for a month and learn the basics of physics and neuroscience. The programme is mostly taught by faculty from the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco. However, towards the end of the programme, some scientists currently doing research are invited to share some of their latest findings. This is how I came in. I was requested to come to India to teach about my work on computational models of the mind and meditation. You can imagine I was pretty excited!
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend almost 2 months as a visiting scholar at the Mind & Life Visiting Scholar house in Amherst, Massachusetts. In this house, scientists come from all places in the world to work on projects related to contemplative science. I was there to work on a computational model of meditation practice. The aim of such a model is to build a bridge between western psychological theory and Buddhist psychological theory, and to derive testable predictions of the effects of meditation on cognition.
I attended the first European Mind & Life Summer Research Institute. These institutes are designed to bring together researchers, philosophers, practitioners, and clinicians to talk about how to engage in the science of contemplative practice. As pretty much all the previous Summer Research Institutes (that took place in the United States), this was quite an engaging and thought-provoking week.
On the last day of the conference, Monique de Knop shared her experience in being a top manager in the Belgian government. She dissected what wisdom in the workplace really means. Being wise it not necessarily always being gentle. Actually, it is most importantly being solid and stable. She explained how she developed her wisdom by first listening to spiritual teachings, using her meditation as a laboratory to get to know her mind, finding mental calm, contemplating actions, and the finally acting from that ethic. This personal ethic is really important in bringing wisdom in an organization, but in addition you can manifest it in your actions. When you see your workers as a potential to be developed, rather than a resource to be used, then work can be a place where you develop yourself.
With economic crises and various corporate scandals under our belt you may wonder whether meditation and human values actually exist in the workplace. Right now a group of people is investigating this question in Lerab Ling. I am participating as one of the speakers in the conference on Meditation and Human Values in the Workplace, and the first day I already learned a lot.
Do you start your work meetings with a couple of minutes of meditation?
This morning, I talked with a teacher who has just introduced meditation into her classroom. "The great thing is," she said, "that it gives me a break in the day. And the kids love it, they keep asking for more!"
Two months ago, she thought meditating at work was simply impossible. Then, after attending a three day training on how to integrate meditation in the classroom, she gained the confidence to simply give it a try. And now, she is even prepared to have her inspector sit through a meditation session in class next week!
Patrick Gaffney is one of the leading authorities on the contemplation and practice of compassion in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the Empathy and Compassion in Society conference in London in 2012. Patrick has kindly allowed us to reproduce the text of his talk here and you can also find the video of his talk below.
Patrick regularly teaches in Europe and the USA and will be leading a five-day retreat on Cultivating Compassion in Lerab Ling, near Montpellier, France, on 5-9 March 2013.
If you are interested in finding out more, please visit:
For the last month or so I have been reading Maureen Cooper’s fabulous new book, The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress Reducing Stress. Combining an authentically Buddhist approach with modern scientific discoveries, this book skillfully addresses one of the most beguiling symptoms of modern life: Stress.
Eating is a very touchy topic in our society (see also this recent article on WMRI). There are enormous social problems associated with addiction to food (listen for a discussion of this to Upaya's podcasts about Zen Brain). In fact, for many of us, food occupies a significant portion of our moment-to-moment thoughts. Can we bring some of our meditation wisdom to bear on this aspect of our lives?