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Mind and Its Potential Conference

written by Amanda Horne 3 January 2010

Amanda Horne is an executive coach and facilitator whose business theme is "Thriving People and Workplaces." She is an Authentic Happiness Coaching graduate and a founding member of Positive Workplace International. Full bio.

Amanda's articles are here.

Conference Venue - Sydney

Conference Venue

Mind and Its Potential conference, held in Sydney on 2-3 December 2009, was an “opportunity to hear the world’s top scientists, psychologists, and philosophers explain how to apply the new science of the brain in education, medicine, business and your life.” There were approximately thirty respected speakers including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Daniel Siegel, Martin Seligman, John Ratey, Baroness Susan Greenfield, Marc Hauser, Charlie Teo, B. Alan Wallace, and Paul Ekman. The content of this conference is designed to be accessible to everyone. All sessions were founded on research and were predominantly practical in nature. Topics included:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Changing your brain
  • Science of happiness
  • Young minds
  • Emotions and the brain
  • The science of the mind at work
  • When things go wrong

Speakers reinforced familiar lessons, such as ‘use it or lose it,’ neuroplasticity, the importance of stimulating environments and activities to keep the mind and brain healthy, and how exercise, mindfulness, and regular breaks are essential for mental well-being and health.

It’s a time for collaboration

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

The highlight of the conference was the two-and-a-half hour forum. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Martin Seligman, B. Allan Wallace and Marc Hauser were on stage together conversing about their areas of interest. They all agreed that it is a time of collaboration between Buddhist science and Western science, and that there is too much unnecessary distinction between eastern and western practices. The panel confirmed they have the same goals: understand what makes life worth living and find ways to help people thrive.

“When people are flourishing they are at peace.” (Martin Seligman)

A further shared view, and one that pervaded the whole conference, was the worthiness of pursuing meaning and purpose, particularly in ways that benefit individuals and communities.

“We should not be satisfied with being merely normal. How can we be exceptional and lead exceptionally meaningful lives?” (B. Alan Wallace)

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman suggested that those who work from a place of compassion and empathy, whose lives are oriented to the good, and who are ‘other-focused’, do more good in this world than damaging people do damage.

“Affection brings energy to take care of each other. We have the intelligence to utilize and emphasize this. Even if we don’t like someone we have to take care of each other; our human intelligence gives us the ability to enhance these possibilities.” (Dalai Lama)

You can hear the forum in three parts in the programs for the 5th, 12th and 19th December 2009 ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind series.


Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Naturally, a conference about the mind includes discussions of mindfulness and meditation. Popular with the audience were Dan Siegel, B. Allan Wallace, and Paul Ekman. Meditation and mindfulness help us manage our emotions and lengthen the time between impulse and action, but we need to practice them regularly. Mindfulness helps us with the integration of our mind and brain. The mind becomes resilient and coherent when focused attention changes the physical structure of the brain. We learn better, and our relationships are enhanced.


The Brain is a Social Organ
On the topic of interpersonal neurobiology, Dan Siegel is passionate. “The brain is the social organ of the body; learning is a profoundly social experience.” He suggests that relationships are the process that regulates the flow and sharing of energy. When you tune into the mind of another person, it impacts bodily regulation, attention attunement, emotional balance, flexibility, fear modulation, empathy, insight, morality and intuition. These are integrated functions which occur in the mid prefrontal cortex.

“With mindsight we are able to more clearly perceive the mind so that we can modify this inner flow toward integration. When we focus inward, we actually strengthen the circuits of not only insight, but of empathy and compassion as well.” (Dan Siegel)

We were left in no doubt about the importance of tending to our minds and taking care of our brains.

Visit of Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh courtesy of rajkumar1220
All the rest were taken at the conference and are used courtesy of Amanda Horne.

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1 comment

WJ 4 January 2010 - 5:05 am


Seligmans comment ““When people are flourishing they are at peace” is really interesting. It fits with my beliefs (and reseatch that I’ve seen) suggesting that calmness is the power positive emotion


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