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 and brains can be trained just like muscles.
Circled by journalist Arianna Huffington, two University of Wisconsin-Madison leading experts in mental health and a fellow Buddhist monk and scholar, His Holiness the Dalai Lama bowed down to a standing, applauding audience Wednesday afternoon before participating in a discussion titled “Conversations on Science, Happiness and Well-Being.”
The conversation among the renowned panelists, which took place at the Overture Center for the Arts, centered upon the healthy individual mind, which the Dalai Lama said has the potential to lead to mentally healthy families, communities and overall healthier societies.
“We need to think more holistically and compassionately,” the Dalai Lama said before the crowd. “A better world is a more compassionate world, a more peaceful world; and it is everybody’s responsibility.”
During the discussion, UW-Madison neuroscientist Richard Davidson outlined facts scientists have discovered about well-being in recent years, including that mental well-being is an acquired skill and one’s mind can be trained to be “well.”
He said mental well-being is inversely related to mind-wandering, adding research revealed 47 percent of the time, the average American “is not paying attention to what he or she is doing.”
“During these periods, people report they are mostly unhappy,” Davidson said. “Awareness makes people feel better, and then their overall well-being is higher.”
After Davidson made his remarks about mind-wandering, the Dalai Lama gave the audience a good laugh when he turned to Davidson to ask him what exactly “mind-wandering” meant. Davidson replied,“The concept is foreign to you because your mind is so steady!”
Additionally, His Holiness said human nature is gentle and positive, but because of the social environment we live in, which revolves around economic gain, positivity becomes dormant and aggressive nature becomes active.
He said we can change these societal attitudes by educating ourselves and others of mindfulness, peace and cooperation over competition.
“We can all have it every day,” the Dalai Lama said. “If you have the interest, the mind will go there.”