His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, spoke at the Overture Center for the Arts during part of his two-day visit to Madison. The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute sponsored the Dalai Lama’s Overture panel as a part of the Change Your Mind, Change The World tour, focused on a message that people’s minds can be trained just like muscles.
Although the Dalai Lama and a group of experts who came together for Wednesday morning’s panel, “Global Health and Sustainable Well-Being,” brought different perspectives to the session, each returned to the idea that an individual’s mental well-being can have a positive effect on his or her physical health, opening up the potential to create a global impact.
“More warm-heartedness [and] more sense of consideration of others’ well-being is the best way to achieve your own peace of mind,” the Dalai Lama said. “That way you get more healthy physically and healthy family.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Richard Davidson also noted the connection between happiness and physical health, citing a study that showed those who reported feeling a higher level of well-being experience lower health-care costs.
“I think this has very important implications for our global health,” said Davidson, who incorporates meditation into his scientific research.
The Dalai Lama lauded this exploration, encouraging new generations of researchers to build upon past generations’ work. He also said scientists must research beyond the superficial level to know reality.
“Some scientists do not accept the existence of mind, just brain and neuron,” he said.
Additionally, global-health expert and panelist Ilona Kickbusch said the definition of “health” by World Health Organization standards should include spiritual health.
The Buddhist leader elaborated on the two levels of spirituality, one of religion and the other a secular ethic.
“I always make the distinction: Buddhist psychology and Buddhist religion are two separate,” the Dalai Lama said.
Additionally, he emphasized education followed by a sense of responsibility for people to change their minds.
He applies the same method to issues such as what panelist Jonathan Patz, a climate-change expert, brought up when he asked how to bring attention to the need for places designed for humans, “like building cities for people instead of the automobile.”
“When we think of our own species, our own human species, we need to see ourselves in the context and dependence on healthy environments and a healthy planet,” Patz said.
UW-Madison sophomore Emily Torres said though most audience members were there to see the Dalai Lama, their attendance “got the word out” for issues the other panelists raised.
“Obviously seeing the Dalai Lama and hearing him speak was awesome,” Torres said, “but listening to the other panelists and hearing their point of view, when that’s not something I necessarily would have heard if he hadn’t been there, was really cool.”
Other panelists included health-care quality expert Don Berwick and labor economist Richard Layard, as well as moderator Daniel Goleman.
The Dalai Lama also said considering others’ well-being helps individuals avoid harmful emotions.
“[Considering] others’ well-being is [the] best way to get your own physical health,” said the 77-year-old leader of Tibetan Buddhism. “Fears, distrust, hatred, anger automatically reduce because you respect them. You love them.”