The Garrison Institute is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization located in Garrison, New York. Its stated mission is “applying the power of contemplation to social and environmental change, helping build a more compassionate, resilient future.” Drawing on current scientific research and contemplative practices, the Institute’s programs develop and disseminate contemplative-based methodologies designed to enhance resilience, leadership and effectiveness, especially in the fields of education, environmental/climate change, and trauma care. It holds contemplative retreats representing a wide range of traditions and practices, selected for their conduciveness to personal growth and positive social change.
The Garrison Institute was founded in 2003 by Jonathan F. P. Rose, founder and president of the sustainable development firm Jonathan Rose Companies, and Diana Calthorpe Rose. Its founding spiritual advisers, still serving today, are Gelek Rimpoche, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Father Thomas Keating. Inspired by the opportunity of rescuing a disused Capuchin monastery from real estate development and adapting it for a new use, the Institute’s founders set out to define and create a “monastery of the 21st century,” one whose work was socially engaged and relevant to contemporary issues, inclusive and accessible, scientifically valid and evidence-based.
The Garrison Institute held its first public retreats in 2003, including retreats with Gelek Rimpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, the first East Coast vipassana meditation retreat for people of color, and the First Conference of Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Centers in the Americas, addressed by the 14th Dalai Lama, who has taught at the Institute three times.
In subsequent years the Garrison Institute launched new, ongoing science- and contemplative-based social change initiatives in the fields of education, ecology and trauma care. Its retreat calendar has grown to over 70 retreats a year, representing Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other traditions and contemporary practices, as well as scientific and professional meetings such as the annual Mind and Life Summer Research Institute and Climate, Mind and Behavior symposia. At present writing, some 40,000 people have participated in retreats and programs held at the Institute. In addition, the Institute has established regional hubs around the United States and online learning communities for some of its programs.
The Garrison Institute is located an hour north of Manhattan, on the east bank of the Hudson River in the Hudson Highlands, across from West Point. The 93-acre site was formerly known as Glenclyffe, the 19th century estate of former New York Governor and U. S. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Mary built a 77,000 square foot stone and brick monastery and seminary on the parcel in 1923. The property was acquired by the Open Space Institute in 2001, which sold it to the Garrison Institute in 2003. The renovated facility now has sleeping and dining accommodations for 165 people, a meditation hall that seats 300, classrooms and meeting rooms, and geothermal heating and cooling.
The Garrison Institute has ongoing program initiatives in the fields of education, ecology, and trauma care:
The Contemplative Teaching and Learning Initiative (CTL) trains educators in secular contemplative techniques such as mindfulness meditation and yoga that can improve their well-being, resilience and performance. CTL holds national symposia and works to facilitate the growth of contemplative education in schools. CARE for Teachers (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) is a professional development program for K-12 educators, designed and piloted by the Institute. It trains teachers to manage their emotions, helping to alleviate stress and improve classroom learning environments. In his book A Mindful Nation, Congressman Tim Ryan profiled CARE and said, “We need to support our teachers with this kind of help.” The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences awarded two major grants to study the efficacy of CARE, one in 2009 to fund a two-year evaluation of CARE in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania elementary schools, and another in 2012 to fund a four-year study, now underway, of CARE’s impact on students and teachers in New York City elementary schools.
The Initiative on Transformational Ecology (ITE) draws on current scientific research in many disciplines and contemplative-based approaches to develop strategies for shifting patterns of thought and behavior toward positive impacts. Past ITE programs include the Hudson River Project, a series of place-based dialogues on environmentalism and religion, values and ethics; and the Satyagraha Project, which examined what the climate movement could learn from Gandhi and the lineage of non-violent thought. ITE’s current program, Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB), connects cognitive, social and behavioral sciences with climate, energy and sustainability interventions that produce behavior change. CMB holds national symposia on behavioral approaches to conserving energy and resources, convening leaders from many fields including behavioral and social scientists, neuroscientists, policymakers, sustainability directors, environmental advocates, building owners and managers, contemplatives and others to explore how “we can generate more pro-environmental and pro-social behaviors through better understanding of our innate cognitive makeup and how our brains function,” according to Congressman Ryan, who attended a CMB symposium in 2011. In addition to its national symposia held at the Garrison Institute, CMB translates and disseminates behavioral and social science research for application to climate interventions, works with partners on tools and demonstration projects, and maintains five regional hubs throughout the United States.
The Transforming Trauma Initiative (TTI) develops and pilots trainings in contemplative-based resilience skills for professionals working with people who experience trauma, loss or dislocation. TTI programs integrate contemplative methods such as meditation and yoga with psychosocial education on trauma to improve outcomes for service providers and their clients. Past TTI programs include the Wellness Project, which designed and delivered contemplative-based resilience training to domestic violence shelter workers, and Wellness International, a collaboration with the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a.k.a. “Front Line”) to design a workshop on managing stress and building resilience for human rights workers. Current TTI programs include the Buddhist Contemplative Care symposium, the first-ever, national-level public symposium on contemplative methodologies for palliative and end-of-life care, held in partnership with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care; and the Contemplative-Based Resilience Training (CBRT) Program. Framed by research conducted in collaboration with Emory University, CBRT designs contemplative-based trainings to teach ways of cultivating resilience to service providers in specific settings, such as aid workers who respond to natural disasters or humanitarian relief workers in post-conflict zones.
The Garrison Institute maintains a staff of about 35 employees, led by executive director Robyn Brentano. Teachers and presenters at the Garrison Institute have included Adyashanti, the Dalai Lama, Rajmohan Gandhi, Philip Glass, Daniel Goleman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Paul Hawken, Father Thomas Keating, Sharon Salzberg, Pete Seeger, Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, Peter Senge, Lama Surya Das, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and many others.