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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama: Tickets on sale Saturday for 'spiritual dream team' in Vancouver

June 16, 2009

By Douglas Todd

Vancouver Sun

June 15, 2009


Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, listens at the "Wisdom and Compassion for Challenging Times" event in New York May 3, 2009.


Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, listens at the "Wisdom and Compassion for Challenging Times" event in New York May 3, 2009.

Photograph by: Reuters, .


Victor Chan calls them the “spiritual dream team.” Even though it’s a corny phrase, it’s true.


The spiritual, humanitarian and scientific leaders being brought to Vancouver in September by the city’s Dalai Lama Center, which Chan heads, add up to an international “who’s who” of teachers of wisdom and cutting-edge research.


Tickets go on sale Saturday for the Sept. 26-29 events featuring the Tibetan spiritual leader, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, scientist-monk Mathieu Ricard and spiritual authors Eckhart Tolle and Stephen Covey.


These big names in spirituality will be joined by three female Nobel Peace Prize winners — Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams and Jody Williams — as well as Nobel Physics Award recipient Murray Gell-Mann, a leader in quark and string theory.


Their discussions will be enhanced by a host of leading figures from science, psychotherapy, the arts, business and education. Among them will be the famous Blue Man Group, not to mention chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.


These leading lights are coming to Vancouver to help the public learn how to synthesize diverse forms of spirituality with creative social change: in short, make the world a happier place.


In conjunction with this rare festival of ideas and spirituality, the Dalai Lama will serve as the guest editor of The Vancouver Sun for the Saturday, Sept. 26 edition.


The special edition of The Sun will focus on the theme, Educating the Heart.


What does it mean, to educate the heart?


It doesn’t sound much like the kind of topic usually emphasized by newspapers, which are seen to focus more often on conflict, politics, crime, skeptical opinion, entertainment and number-crunching.


Educating the heart, however, is a simple way of describing an auspicious project, one intent on transforming the way that we look at education, science, society, politics, global conflict, the arts and business.


Educating the Heart is about enriching global society by including in our planning for the future broader perspectives than the proverbial “bottom line” of economics.


In many cases, the special Educating the heart edition of The Sun, and the events it highlights, will help to put flesh on the bones of the emerging concept of mindfulness.


The spiritual and intellectual extravaganza in Vancouver will explore how individuals and even nations can be improved through through developing this state of mind, which comes in many forms.


It is a state of consciousness increasingly being studied by scientists, including many who will be in Vancouver, such as psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, author of The Mindful Brain.


Even though mindfulness is a concept most commonly associated with Eastern-inspired meditation, Chan says mindfulness is also integral to Western-inspired spiritual contemplation, as well as to the arts, poetry, journalling, music and even so-called profane activities such as sports and business.


The Dalai Lama’s visit will begin with a Saturday, Sept. 26 invitation-only dialogue called Connecting for Change, which brings together 120 leaders from the corporate, philanthropic and civil society sectors.


The key public Educating the Heart events for which the public can now buy tickets begin Sunday, Sept 27. They include:


• The Dalai Lama; anti-apartheid activist Tutu; Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth; and Ricard, a French geneticist-turned Buddhist monk, will take part Sunday morning at the Chan Centre in a dialogue titled World peace through personal peace.


• Five Nobel Peace Prize laureates will then join in a Sunday afternoon conversation at the Chan Centre. They include the Dalai Lama, Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams, the latter two Roman Catholic Irish peace activists, and Jody Williams, an American campaigner against land mines.


• After a Monday break to mark Yom Kippur, Tuesday morning begins at the Orpheum with a discussion of “creativity and well-being.” It will include the Dalai Lama, Sir Ken Robinson, a prominent British educational reformer, Daniel Siegel, the Blue Man Group, Tolle, Gell-Mann and Ricard.


• Tuesday also features a session called Heart-mind education: Enhancing academic, social, and emotional competence. It includes the Dalai Lama, Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and noted UBC educators and research scientists Clyde Hertzman, Kim Schonert-Reichl, Adele Diamond and others.


• Later Tuesday, more than 16,000 students are expected to join in a high-energy, music-filled event called We Day. It’s a collaboration between the Dalai Lama Center and Free the Children, headed by Canadians Marc and Craig Kielburger. The Dalai Lama will join with the Kielburgers, Jane Goodall and actresses Jessical Biel and Mia Farrow.


• The Dalai Lama and Maria Shriver, an award-winning journalist who is married to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, will take part in a conversation Tuesday afternoon at the Orpheum.


To understand the significance of these events, it helps to know a little about ongoing scientific research into what makes individuals fulfilled and societies healthy.


In many ways, these “educating the heart” events reflect a new trend in scholarship: Scientists and psychotherapists rigorously researching ancient spiritual practices, measuring their benefits for humanity.


Matthieu Ricard is a prime example.


The French geneticist turned Buddhist monk has been dubbed by the British media “the happiest man in the world” because researchers have discovered when Ricard meditates, the parts of his brain associated with contentment become engaged to an unprecedented degree.


Ricard’s best-selling books include The Monk and the Philosopher, a dialogue with his father, a noted French philosopher named Jean-Francois Revel; and Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.


Many others taking part in the Vancouver dialogues, including Kim Schonert-Reichl and Daniel Siegel, have also been researching how people who practise mindfulness are able to increase their grades in schools and score higher on tests of self-confidence.


Despite celebrating the current popularity in North America of the benefits of “mindfulness,” Vancouver-based Chan, co-author with the Dalai Lama of The Wisdom of Forgiveness, doesn’t want to see it too narrowly.


He says many people are gaining the false impression that mindfulness is a state of consciousness associated only with Buddhism and other forms of Eastern meditation.


On the contrary, Chan says, mindfulness is mainly about “paying attention” to the world, without distraction, without succumbing to the North American mania for haste and multi-tasking.


Mindfulness can be part of everything from writing in one’s journal to slowly washing dishes, says Chan, who brought the Dalai Lama to Vancouver in 2004 for a series of events involving Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and others.


“You do not have to sit in the lotus position and say ‘Auuuum’ all the time to practise meditation or mindfulness,” Chan says.


A former tennis instructor, Chan says he was basically teaching mindfulness, or being in the flow, to his young tennis students when he was helping them learn how to concentrate on hitting the ball. The same kind of focus, he says, can be developed in golf, soccer drills or jogging.


Chan believes his daughters also practise mindfulness during their many creative activities, including when they’re playing the piano, drawing, making a film, practising martial arts or reciting or memorizing poetry.


“I would basically define ‘mindfulness’ as ‘paying attention,’”Chan said.


“It is a form of doing something simple over and over. It puts one in a state where he or she is focused, centred or grounded.”


Even in meditation, there are many forms of mindfulness, says Chan. As a Christian leader, Tutu has his own way of being mindful.


And even the Dalai Lama often practises, in essence, a Jewish-Christian form of mindfulness, Chan says, because the Tibetan leader often focuses on compassion during his daily hours of contemplation.


The exciting thing about contemporary research into various forms of mindfulness, Chan says, is that its benefits now are being scientifically validated.


It’s being proven, he says, that mindfulness can “reshape” the brain, leading not only to higher levels of achievement, but to inner happiness and greater compassion for others.

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