By Anders Ferguson, Partner

On May 12 I attended a private meeting led by the Dalai Lama and walked away heartened.

The Education of the Heart symposium at Erasmus University in Rotterdam brought together experts from education, science and business, including the Dalai Lama, to explore new ways of learning and knowing essential to creating a flourishing society and a sustainable economy. It was the fourth in a series of meetings about sustainability, mindfulness, learning and leadership with the Dalai Lama that I have had the honor of helping create since 1999.

The key takeaway of the event for me – which is aligned with the Dalai Lama’s thinking for the past 50 years – is that science is confirming the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Neuroscience is also confirming that our minds connect deeply with our emotional and social intelligence. We now know that as we talk with a colleague, our “two mind’s energies” are interconnecting.

Thinking Differently

Mindfulness and meditative practice give us the opportunity to think more deeply and creatively about both opportunities and problems.

What was fascinating to learn at the symposium was new research about how meditative practice can literally rewire our neural networks, allowing our mind to consider possibilities and innovations. We were reminded that while our brains may be like computers, our minds are literally integrators of energy and information. They are not constrained by the bones of our skulls.

Rather than defaulting to the same tired answers, meditative practice enables us to think differently. The Dalai Lama said:

“I feel this growing enthusiasm based on realizing that something is not satisfactory, wanting something to change. I think this is very good. We usually take things for granted and go on according to tradition, in spite of drawbacks. This is a real failure preventing progress. But this enthusiasm, saying something is wrong, is the first step toward transformation or some positive change. Then we need more discussions, more research, more experimentation. Then we will find new answers.”¹

Speakers cited numerous examples of how mindfulness was changing education in Europe and the U.S. The breadth of the successful experiments in schools in Holland was remarkable. For instance, Project MindLab: Understanding the Mind, Educating the Heart awakens young peoples’ compassion through mindfulness. It also inspires teachers to relearn the nature of teaching. As teachers learn to relax their minds and bodies, learning is better and the whole school is calmer.

Leaders from business, government and educational organizations attending the symposium agreed not only about the importance of approaching problems holistically, but also that we must up our game significantly.

They acknowledged that the approach we have been using isn’t working. In fact, our whole understanding of the mind, learning and hence education is basically incorrect to the point of being not grounded in modern science.

What It Means For Impact Investing

Our desire for a new approach to understanding ourselves is also an opportunity for sustainable and impact investing.

The Dalai Lama said our external world is a mirror image of our internal life. Impact investing is growing because inspired individuals are creating new solutions that deal with global problems, from climate change to clean water to gender equality.

The mindfulness of investors and their ability to understand their inner knowing and values inspires investors to finance original and enlightened ways to advance the human condition. This is the emergent and thrilling intersection of mindfulness and impact investing. Its transformative.

We clearly have a long way to go before mindfulness – let alone mindful investing – is a mainstream concept, but we’re headed down the right path.

In the meantime, mindfulness is unfolding alongside impact investing and nothing but positive social change is likely to occur as a result. As we come to understand and cultivate the “Sustainable Mind,” we really engage and manifest impact investing.

¹His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Designing an Economy that Works for Everyone. Irvine California, 2004. 2nd Spirit in Business Dialog (2nd of 4)