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Shambhala Sun | January 2012
THE MINDFUL SOCIETY
You'll find this article on page 73 of the magazine.

Meeting of the Mindful


Left: Jenny Lykken, Ali and Atman Smith. Right: Town hall panel: Congressman
Tim Ryan, Richie Davidson, Janice Marturano, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and moderator Tami Simon.

By BARRY BOYCE

Ali and Atman Smith and Andres Gonzales work in the Druid Hill area in Baltimore’s inner city. Through the Holistic Life Foundation, they teach yoga and reach at-risk children through hip-hop, dance, basketball, tutoring, organic gardening— whatever works. But on the first weekend of October, they were at the New York Society for Ethical Culture headquarters on Central Park West to take part in the Creating a Mindful Society gathering—the firstever conference devoted exclusively to how mindfulness is being applied across a broad spectrum of our society.

At the end of their presentation, Atman Smith reported on the progress of their first twenty students, a group they started working with nearly a decade ago. “We had the toughest cases in the school,” he said. “We’ve continued to work with them over the years and now they help us with the program. All of them graduated from high school. Nineteen of them are working or in college. None are incarcerated.” The audience rose in unison, applauding and cheering.

More than 500 people gathered on September 30 and October 1 for the conference—sponsored by The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society; the Omega Institute; Mindful.org; and Sounds True—and another 5,000 registered to take part through live streaming. It began on a Friday night with a keynote address by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

The next day, Richie Davidson, director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, talked about the evidence of mindfulness’ effectiveness. Janice Marturano, who recently created the Institute for Mindful Leadership, reported on how valuable it has been for leaders to synchronize their hearts and minds through mindfulness. Morning sessions focused on health and healing, what mindfulness means, and how mind–body practices are being used in schools and colleges, while the afternoon featured field reports from pioneers working in law, personal and organizational finance, the workplace, the military, and the inner city. The conference wrapped up that night with a town hall in which participants explored how to bring mindfulness and related practices into their lives and communities.


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