Monday, February 11, 2013


So yesterday I joined Dr. M. A. Greenstein and a few dozen of her closest friends to celebrate both her birthday and the launch of her latest enterprise, GGI, named in honor of her late father, Dr. George Greenstein, a pioneering orthopedic surgeon.  GGI is envisioned as "a think tank dedicated to delivering truly applied neuroscience into the hands of learners and leaders.  We design and generate programs for brain awareness, brain health, as well as new arts and neuroscience learning for diverse communities and organizations." Finding myself amongst a crowd of brilliant young people, I had been invited as one who seeks to explore the ground between meditation and the contemplation of art works, monitoring the relationship between the brain and what it sees.  

Once we had all settled down for the presentation after brunch, the first question, posed by the birthday girl herself, was this: "How many people here have a brain?"  Every hand in the room shot up enthusiastically.  Mine was slower than others.  My thoughts took a spontaneous side-track in the direction of Alice in Wonderland and that (to me!) memorable poem recited by Alice at the behest of the caterpillar.  For some reason, I have retained it in memory since childhood.  The first two verses go like this:
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
And your hair has become very white;
"And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
It's how I feel sometimes.  Well, a good deal of the time!  But yes, M.A., I confess that I do have a brain.  And, yes, I agree that perhaps the most interesting and hopeful work being done today concerns the brain--and the power of the human mind.  The way is being prepared, I dare to trust, for a great shift in human consciousness, much needed if we are to survive our own wanton destructiveness; and the more we can learn about the way our human consciousness works--and the ways in which we can modify its action--the greater the chances of our survival as a species. There is a mountain of current research on the structure and functioning of this delicate and complex organ that nestles within the protection of our skulls.  

Neuroscience has been generating a great deal of truly fascinating findings, and we were treated by some of these extraordinarily bright young people to an overview of some ongoing research projects.  What the indefatigable Dr. G is doing, as I understand it, is to create a forum--both actual and virtual--in which great minds can come together, share the results of their creative work in both arts and sciences, and find the common ground to work towards that future.  She believes in the limitless inventive power of the human brain, and in learning how that power can be unleashed to lead us toward a more peaceful, just and mutually beneficial world.  I'm particularly encouraged by her faith in children and their infinite potential, and by the emphasis she places on the role of creative education.

I personally come at this, obviously, not as a scientist.  But as a practicing meditator of some years experience, I have at least the glimmerings of an understanding of the reach and power of the mind.  I tend to make a distinction between brain and mind; I see brain as the engine of the vehicle we travel in, and mind as the whole vehicle, the road ahead--and the road behind--as well as the surrounding landscape and what lies beyond it.  Mind, as I see it, is that big.  My purpose is to familiarize myself ever more precisely with the potential of my own mind, and to learn how best to make it work for me, rather than in accordance with its own devices, and minds tend to do when left neglected.

I would certainly want to do what I can to further the goals that Dr. G has set for her institution, and one thing I can do is to spread word amongst my readers on The Buddha Diaries.  So this entry will alert you to an enterprise worthy of your interest and support, and hopefully stimulate your curiosity to know more.  Go here for further information about GGI; and be challenged here at    We certainly have much work to do, and fortunately we have the brains to do it.

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