Reflections on January: A Journey of Contemplation and Renewal

Happy January! As we begin this new year, my contemplation has been around our time of extremes, of extraordinary possibility and the many individuals who are more inspired than ever to make significant culture changes and create a much more awakened, harmonious, and creative world and of the increase in fracturing, conflict, fear, and concern.

As I reflected on these two poles, I decided to take a couple weeks pause in order to fuel my inner resources, and focus with renewed steadfastness around the unique opportunities we face in our time and new openings for Inner Strength to uplift the lives of more students in a broader way.

I went to a few places that were deeply meaningful to me around the beginning of my mindfulness practice forty years ago, and I’ll share a little with you here in hopes that you’ll feel the inspiration too.

The holiday season turned out to be a fortuitous time for me to have a pause in the regular routine, both my mother and my mother-in-law passed away in the same week before the holidays. While they both had long lives well lived, their transition marked the end of one life stage and the beginning of a new one which I am still feeling into.

Before the year closed, we also had a wonderful gathering with our team, here are a few in our offices at the Inner Strength Holiday Party. What a great group of people!

In Bodh Gaya, northern India, I had the opportunity to attend teachings with the Dalai Lama, along with 50,000 other folks. It was moving to sit for hours in a sea of people, all focused on meditation and the secular ethics of clarity and care. While the teaching was meant to be about some very complex  philosophy, he changed his plan and instead spoke in depth about the simplest of ideas ones that have the power to transform our experience in profound ways if we truly engage with the implications.

“We are one human family, living on one earth. Recognize that we are all fundamentally interconnected and the same. Be kind to one another.”

From the possibility of universal access to education through AI bridging the gap and ending the “educational scarcity” model to the increase of loneliness and mental health issues among our youth, we are faced with potential and obstacles. Understanding and internalizing the reality of our interdependence and the power of kindness are keys to transforming our personal experience and the world .around us


From there, I returned to Delhi to meet with the Minister of Education and the Directors of the Happiness Curriculum. A daily 30-minute curriculum using mindfulness, narrative to explore secular ethics, and experiential learning on social-emotional skills that is taught in 1026 schools, reaching 1.7 million students. (!!!!!) They shared with me how they planned for scale and why their project has been so successful over the last five years.

The curriculum was designed between 2016-2018, and has been operating since 2018, with curriculum manuals for each grade. The practice of 6 sessions per week, every year from grades K-8 has led to research-backed change for students and their teachers. They feel more calm, confident, enthusiastic about learning, a sense of belonging, and a commitment to do well by school, family, and society. We discussed how they designed to scale and why Delhi uniquely has been able to roll out this program among all of its public schools.

I also got to visit one of their Teacher Training workshops, where they support 21,000 teachers to be able to guide these sessions. Teachers engaged enthusiastically with the material, exploring their own values and perceptions and practicing what it is like to express a different opinion or view and have it be accepted (particularly challenging in a system that is conditioned for rote memorization). I lugged home copies of each of the workbooks and look forward to learning in more depth how their methodology, written by 25 teachers and education experts works so well.


In Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I had connected with two old and dear friends, one who grew a Green Himalaya project over 25 years from picking up trash to 3 trucks, 25 employees, and about to be 2 locations, helping recycle plastics and restaurant organic matter, keeping this natural sanctuary clean. The other, now a teacher of philosophy in one of the pre-eminent Vedanta academies, a joy-filled and humble woman who was my close friend when I first started practicing mindfulness techniques in the 1980s. Walking along the river, past the cows and the souvenir shops was a visual and auditory feast and I spent some good hours meditating, reflecting on time passing and the endless present.


All a very good backdrop to my current exploration of the pros and cons of AI in education and the potential to infuse AI with the key practices and principles of mindfulness, emergent dialogue, social emotional strengths, and secular ethics. I am immersed in exploring the academic research on this and dialoging with some of the leaders in the field. I look forward to writing more about this in months to come.

As for this Spring, what teen programs are we looking forward to?

Inner Strength has some new key initiatives we are launching this Spring, read on below. And of course, we continue to strengthen and deepen our signature Teen Mindfulness Program in high schools around the city.

Wishing you a thoughtful and intentional entry into this year.


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