“I envision a day when mental exercise will be as much a part of our daily lives as physical exercise and personal hygiene.” —Richard Davidson
This week I spent each evening listening to Dr Richard J. Davidson, a world-renowned neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, envisioning a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world. In celebration of the center’s 10th anniversary, he had organized a series of virtual conversations with thought leaders, titled the World We Make (http://go.wisc.edu/twwm2020).
The free online series included (and replays are available):
The Plasticity of the Mind, Brain & Body
The Developing Mind
Well at Work-Strategies From Research to the Real-World
Resilient Minds, Resilient Planets
The capstone session shared insights by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
As I listened intently with my parents, I was filled with gratitude, left with so many messages of hope to act upon, even more to reflect upon, to understand and seek answers.
We are surrounded by so much uncertainty, so much unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, the civil and racial unrest escalates, and Mother Earth continues to remind us that we do not have much time left, especially if we do not pay attention to the environment. In the midst of all that, these conversations were healing, inspiring and hopeful. The speakers affirmed my strong belief that human kindness still prevails.
The conversations were open, honest and called each of us to reflect on our personal and professional lives, to ensure we align our lives and our living in ways that promote understanding, kindness and sustainability.
I was reminded of my visit to Madison in 2016, at a function also named “The World We Make,” by the Center of Healthy Minds. It was an occasion when His Holiness was physically present. What impressed me most was his genuine simplicity and humility. It was a true gift to witness the Holiness speak and meet Dr. Davidson and other members of the panel who were responding to questions from the audience.
One person asked His Holiness what he thought was the secret to world peace. I distinctly remember His Holiness looking down for a long while. He was attired in his customary red-orange robe, this time complemented by a ball cap gifted by his host.
After a silence he looked up and broke into laughter, eyes twinkling. Pointing at the member who had asked the question, he responded (I paraphrase), “I do not have the secret to world peace, you have. You take care of him, he takes care of her, she takes care of him and so on, going down the line of people in the row, and you have world peace.”
His conversation this year was similar. Just as humble and eloquent, his words had a sense of urgency. The Dalai Lama called for us to unite, to see beyond racial, religious or any other divides. He spoke about how much he misses being in the temple with the people. He reminded us that we do not care about our inner world; we take care of our physical health. He implored us to focus on our emotional heath, our emotional hygiene, explaining that developing emotional hygiene helps us discern between destructive and positive emotion. He reminded us of the need for education, especially on how to develop emotional hygiene, something that is the center’s mission (and they have made immense contributions, especially in schools).
Toward the end of the conversation, he said (I paraphrase), “Basically, not only human beings but even animals for their survival have a sense of closeness because of the basic nature of ‘we.’ The survival of social animals is entirely dependent on the community. Biologically, the self-centered I, I, I is very much against our basic nature. We should use the word we, we we instead of I, I, I. At the core we are the same.
What a weighty invitation for us all, paradoxically simple yet difficult to achieve. This starts with me!