Presenters

  • Michel Bitbol
    Michel Bitbol Director - Research at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), France
    Michel Bitbol

    Born in 1954, Michel Bitbol was educated at several universities in Paris, where he received successively a M.D. in 1980, a Ph.D. in physics in 1985, and an “Habilitation”in philosophy in 1997. He first worked as a research scientist in biophysics from 1978 to 1990. From 1990 onwards, Bitbol turned to the philosophy of physics, where he developed a neo-Kantian approach. He edited texts by Erwin Schrödinger, and published books in French about quantum mechanics for which he received an award from the "Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques".

    A few years ago, Bitbol focused on the relations between the philosophy of quantum mechanics and the philosophy of mind and consciousness, working in close collaboration with Francisco Varela. He also has a long-term interest for the philosophy of the Madhyamika school, and learned some Sanskrit to have access to it.

    Website: Michel Bitbol

  • Jamie Bristow
    Jamie Bristow Director - Mindfulness Initiative, UK
    Jamie Bristow

    Jamie Bristow initially contributed to the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group's inquiry whilst he was Business Development Director at the digital mind-health platform, Headspace. He was then asked to take over as Director of the Mindfulness Initiative in spring 2015 to complete the production of the Mindful Nation UK report, orchestrate its launch and lead on the advocacy of its findings. He complements this work as a mindfulness teacher and consultant. In the past, Jamie has been a software developer, advertising executive, climate change campaigner and global brand director.

    Website: The Mindfulness Initiative

  • Rafael Ebner
    Rafael Ebner Yin Yoga teacher, Austria
    Rafael Ebner

    Rafael Ebner is a yoga teacher working independently in Vienna, Austria. He has previously worked as a lawyer and event-manager. He started out practicing Hatha Yoga in Vienna 1990, and explored the Ashtanga Yoga style as an avid practitioner for the next decade. In 1999, he received his first yoga teacher certification by David Swenson, and started teaching groups and individuals.

    Rafael’s first contact with Yin Yoga happened in 2005 and marked a distinct change in his yoga practice, a transition from the dynamic and powerful Ashtanga style to the gentle and subtle approach characteristic to Yin Yoga. In 2011 and 2012 he received training and certification by Paul Grilley and Bernie Clark, both leading proponents of Yin Yoga and since then practices and teaches this approach to yoga.

    In addition to teaching yoga, Rafael is part of the NGO "Hands with Hands" supporting self-sustainable help projects in Nepal, and is involved in several projects in the areas of meditation, self-exploration and alternative living.

    Website: Rafael Ebner

  • Heather Grabbe
    Heather Grabbe Director - Open Society European Policy Institute, Belgium
    Heather Grabbe

    Dr. Heather Grabbe is Director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, Brussels. As an academic and think-tanker, she has researched the EU’s influence on societies and political systems during post-communist transition and through EU foreign policy. In policy, she worked on the Balkans and Turkey as political advisor to a European Commissioner.

    She is now an advocate for democracy, justice, rights and the open society. Heather has written extensively about the EU and the interaction between politics and society, most recently on how populism and technology are affecting political behaviour. She spoke at TEDx Brussels 2018 about the importance of critical thinking and mindful engagement with information in the age of post-truth politics.

  • Roshi Joan Halifax
    Roshi Joan Halifax Abbot - Upaya Zen Center, USA
    Roshi Joan Halifax

    Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She received her Ph.D. in medical anthropology in 1973 and has lectured on the subject of death and dying at many academic institutions and medical centers around the world. She received a National Science Foundation Fellowship in Visual Anthropology, was an Honorary Research Fellow in Medical Ethnobotany at Harvard University, and was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress.

    From 1972-1975, she worked with psychiatrist Stanislav Grof at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center with dying cancer patients. She has continued to work with dying people and their families, and to teach health care professionals and family caregivers the psycho-social, ethical and spiritual aspects of care of the dying. She is Director of the Project on Being with Dying, and Founder of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She is also founder of the Nomads Clinic in Nepal.

    She studied for a decade with Zen Teacher Seung Sahn and was a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman.

    A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and founder of Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, her work and practice for more than four decades has focused on engaged Buddhism. Her books include: The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav Grof); The Fruitful Darkness, A Journey Through Buddhist Practice; Simplicity in the Complex: A Buddhist Life in America; Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Wisdom in the Presence of Death; and her forthcoming, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

  • David Hykes
    David Hykes Founder - Harmonic Choir, UK
    David Hykes

    David Hykes is a visionary composer, singer, musician, recording artist, visual artist and teacher of contemplative music and meditation. He is founder of a contemplative music called Harmonic Chant and of the Harmonic Presence work, which blends music, meditation training and healing harmonization practices. A pioneer in new music, contemplative chant and healing sounds, he founded Harmonic Chant in New York in 1975, the year he also founded his legendary group, The Harmonic Choir, considered to be one of the world’s pre-eminent overtone ensembles.

    His 12 albums to date, including“Hearing Solar Winds,” one of the best-selling overtone albums of all time, are unique and subtle explorations of Harmonic Chant, Mantra, Sufi poetry and poetic texts, with instrumental accompaniment ranging from wind harp and Sufi nêy flute to tabla and zarb percussion, and even the gigantic bell in Boudhanath, Nepal.

    Website: Harmonic Presence

  • Chris Ruane
    Chris Ruane Member of Parliament, UK
    Chris Ruane

    Chris Ruane was the MP for the Vale of Clwyd for 18 years, until May 2015. He was a deputy head in a large primary school for 15 years prior to being MP. He introduced mindfulness to Parliament with Prof Richard Layard, Prof Mark Williams and Chris Cullen. He was Labour Co Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness before the election and was made Honorary President after the election.

    Chris currently serves as an Executive at The Mindfulness Initiative and as the International Parliamentary Officer. He has helped to establish mindfulness groups in the Dutch Parliament and Welsh Assembly and is currently advising advocates in the political systems of over 25 countries.

  • Tania Singer
    Tania Singer Director - Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Germany
    Tania Singer

    Tania Singer, Ph.D., is the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. After receiving her Ph.D. in Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, she became a Post-doctoral Fellow at the same institution. In 2006, she became an Assistant Professor at the University of Zurich and later became Inaugural Chair of Social Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics and Co-Director of the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research.

    Her research focuses on the foundations of human social behavior and on the neuronal, developmental, and hormonal mechanisms underlying social cognition and emotions. She investigates the psychological and neuroscientific effects of compassion and mental training on the brain, the mind, health, and cooperation, in longitudinal studies (The ReSource Project).

  • Wolf Singer
    Wolf Singer Founding Director - Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI), Germany
    Wolf Singer

    Wolf Singer, M.D., Ph.D., studied medicine at the Universities of Munich and Paris, received his M.D. from Ludwig-Maximilian-University and his Ph.D. from the Technical University of Munich. Until the mid eighties his research interests were focussed on the experience-dependent development of the cerebral cortex and on mechanism of the use-dependent synaptic plasticity. Subsequently, his research concentrated on the binding problem that arises from the distributed organization of the cerebral cortex. The hypothesis forwarded by Professor Singer is that the numerous and widely distributed subprocesses which constitute the basis of cognitive and executive functions are coordinated and bound together by the prcises temporal coordination of oscillatory neuronal activity. His work was honored with many scientific prizes and two Drs. Honoris causa.

    He is member of numerous national and international academies, including the Pontifical Academy of Science. He served as President of the European Neuroscience Association, as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Max Planck Society, and as member of numerous Advisory Boards of scientific organizations and editorial boards of journals.

  • David Steindl-Rast (tbc)
    David Steindl-Rast (tbc) Author and Benedictine monk, Austria
    David Steindl-Rast (tbc)

    David Steindl-Rast was born Franz Kuno Steindl-Rast on July 12, 1926, in Vienna, Austria, and spent his early years there and in a small village in the Alps. He spent all of his teen years under the Nazi occupation, was drafted into the army, but never went to the front lines. He eventually escaped and was hidden by his mother until the occupation ended. After the war, Franz studied art, anthropology, and psychology, receiving an MA from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and a PhD from the University of Vienna. In 1952 he followed his family who had emigrated to the United States. In 1953 he joined a newly founded Benedictine community in Elmira, NY, Mount Saviour Monastery, where he became “Brother David.” In 1958/59 Brother David was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University, where he also became the first Roman Catholic to hold the Thorpe Lectureship, following Bishop J.D.R. Robinson and Paul Tillich.

    After twelve years of monastic training and studies in philosophy and theology, Brother David was sent by his abbot to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, for which he received Vatican approval in 1967. His Zen teachers were Hakuun Yasutani Roshi, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and Eido Shimano Roshi. He co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies in 1968 and received the 1975 Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building bridges between religious traditions. Together with Thomas Merton, Brother David helped launch a renewal of religious life. From 1970 on, he became a leading figure in the House of Prayer movement, which affected some 200,000 members of religious orders in the United States and Canada. Since the 1970s Brother David has been a member of cultural historian William Irwin Thompson‘s Lindisfarne Association.”

    For decades, Brother David divided his time between periods of hermit’s life and extensive lecture tours on five continents. On a two-month lecture tour in Australia, for example, he gave 140 lectures and traveled 12,000 miles within Australia without backtracking. His wide spectrum of audiences has included starving students in Zaire and faculty at Harvard and Columbia Universities, Buddhist monks and Sufi retreatants, Papago Indians and German intellectuals, New Age communes and Naval Cadets at Annapolis, missionaries on Polynesian islands and gatherings at the United Nations, Green Berets and participants at international peace conferences. Brother David has brought spiritual depth into the lives of countless people whom he touches through his lectures, his workshops, and his writings.

    He has contributed to a wide range of books and periodicals from the Encyclopedia Americana and The New Catholic Encyclopedia, to the New Age Journal and Parabola Magazine. His books have been translated into many languages. Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer and A Listening Heart have been reprinted and anthologized for more than two decades. Brother David co-authored Belonging to the Universe (winner of the 1992 American Book Award), a dialogue on new paradigm thinking in science and theology with physicist, Fritjof Capra. His dialogue with Buddhists produced The Ground We Share: Buddhist and Christian Practice, co-authored with Robert Aitken Roshi. His most recent books are Words of Common Sense for MInd, Body and Soul; Deeper than Words:  Living the Apostles’ Creed; 99 Blessings:  An Invitation to Life; The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life;  Faith beyond Belief: Spirituality for our Times; and his autobiography, i am through you so i.

    Website: Gratefulness.org

  • Katherine Weare
    Katherine Weare Professor of Education - University of Southhampton, UK
    Katherine Weare

    Katherine Weare (born 1950) is a Professor of Education at the University of Southampton, England. She was educated at the Grey Coat Hospital, Westminster, the University of Kent at Canterbury, Goldsmiths College, University of London and the Institute of Education, University of London. She began her career as a teacher of English and Drama in secondary schools, and moved into higher education at the age of 25. She has researched and written extensively on mental health, emotional wellbeing, emotional and social learning.

    In the 1980s she was a key player in the development of the Healthy School/Health Promoting School movement under the umbrella of the World Health Organisation and the European Union. In the 1990s she worked for the World Health Organisation in Eastern and Central Europe and Russia to develop work on social, emotional and health education in schools. She has helped various national and international agencies to develop their education and mental health services, including working with the European Union to develop work on preventing anxiety and depression in children and young people, and in creating an international database of effective mental health programmes for Europe.

    Since the year 2000 she has advised the English government Department for Children, Schools and Families on policy in the area of social and emotional learning (SEAL). Her report to the DCSF What Works in Promoting Children's Emotional and Social Competence was a significant catalyst in the development of the English programme “Primary SEAL”, a comprehensive approach to helping children develop their social and emotional skills, which can now be found in at least half the primary schools in England.She went on to be a key contributor to the writing and development of a parallel programme in secondary schools, “Secondary SEAL”.

    She is an honorary member of the Society of Public Health Medicine, and a board member of the international network INTERCAMHS (International alliance for child and mental health in schools). She is editor of the journal Health Education, published by Emerald Group Publishing, and on the editorial board of several mental health journals.

  • Gerald Wirth
    Gerald Wirth Director - Vienna Boys’ Choir, Austria
    Gerald Wirth

    Gerald Wirth got his first musical education at the Bruckner conservatory in Linz and with the Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben). He was band master of the Vienna Boys' Choir and choir director at the state theater Salzburg (Landestheater Salzburg). In 1991, he took over the direction of the Calgary Boys' Choir; further, he became musical director of the Calgary Civic Symphony and of the vocal ensemble Sangita. He was Associate Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. His main interest lies in the work with voices: in 1998, Wirth became deputy art director of the Vienna Boys' Choir and their art director in 2001; in 2013, he was further elected president of the association.

    Wirth holds international workshops about performance practice, choir management and phonation. Most of his compositions are vocal works. In 2003, he founded the wirth music academy in order to educate choir directors according to the Wirth method which combines classical music theory, consciousness for sound, training in listening, rhythm training and singing within a holistic approach.

    Website: Vienna Boys' Choir