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Pioneers of mindfulness meditation gather in Santa Monica Nov. 15 for 'Joyful Spirit'

Pioneers of mindfulness meditation gather in Santa Monica Nov. 15 for 'Joyful Spirit'
At the Broad Stage event, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a University of Massachusetts Medical School professor emeritus who created a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, will be among those joining via video. (D Dipasupil / Getty Images)

A group of pioneering teachers of meditation in the United States are coming together to celebrate the explosion of interest in what they've been heralding as a fruitful way of life for decades.

They will take part on Nov. 15 in "Living With a Joyful Spirit and a Wise Heart," an event at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Actor Sandra Oh will be host of the proceedings, which will benefit InsightLA, a nonprofit mindfulness meditation organization.

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Trudy Goodman, founder of InsightLA, and internationally renowned meditation teacher Jack Kornfield will join Oh on stage, where they will be in conversation with — via live video connection — colleagues including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a proponent of meditation in education and other fields, and the influential writer and spiritual teacher Ram Dass, author of the hugely popular book "Be Here Now."

Among others who will appear by video are Jon Kabat-Zinn, the University of Massachusetts Medical School professor emeritus who created a mindfulness-based stress reduction program used around the world; psychologist Tara Brach, a Vipassana meditation teacher and author; and Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, who with Kornfield founded the Insight Meditation Society in 1976 in Massachusetts.

In 1965, Goldstein was in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer when he became interested in Buddhism. That study eventually led him to become among the first insight meditation teachers in the West. He and Salzberg are part of a group of Americans who traveled to Thailand, Burma, Tibet and other places in Asia and came back to this country to share what they had learned.

"We're all friends," Kornfield said, which means the event is something of a reunion — and a party. (Goodman and Kornfield turned 70 this year.)

What may seem like an explosion of interest in meditation is in part the result of scientific underpinnings to the theories these teachers and others have spread for decades. In recent years, thousands of studies and papers on the effectiveness of mindfulness training have been published. InsightLA and other organizations have brought mindfulness to veterans, schools, homeless shelters and other communities as well as offered courses and opportunities to meditate in groups.

Kornfield said he sees "a real longing" in society. People feel that they "have this modern life, but I need to stay connected to my heart, the Earth, to myself."

Oh, an InsightLA board member, said she's eager to hear from the "pioneers" in the field. They "have been practicing and sharing ... for decades now. And they are the elders. The opportunity to bring a group of these people together is mind-blowing for me."

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Information on 'Living With a Joyful Spirit and a Wise Heart'

"Living With a Joyful Spirit and a Wise Heart" with Trudy Goodman and Jack Kornfield, 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Tickets range from $270 to $700. For more information go to www.insightla.org.

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