FESTIVAL OF MIND: Mindfulness: Past, Present & Future

VENUE: Lekdanling (London), 14 Collent Street, Greater London, England, E9 6SG - See Map

Friday 11th May 6:30pm - 8:00pm

with Ian Baker

‘Mindfulness Now: Where has it Come From; Where is it Going?

This presentation explores the origins of the modern mindfulness movement and its contemporary applications in classrooms, clinics, institutes, high-intensity sports activities, military training, yoga workshops … as well as within Buddhist communities. What relation do modern mindfulness techniques have with diverse traditional forms of Buddhist meditation, whether renunciate-based contemplative practices or Shaolin-style martial arts? Do current methods of breath-based, non-judgmental awareness techniques best serve our twenty-first century needs or can the incandescent, spacious presence, heart-fullness and fluent potential of the human body, mind, and spirit be better realized through more dynamic techniques and paradoxical orientations that free the mind from habitual patterns and limiting definitions?

Ian Baker is an anthropologist and author of seven books on Himalayan art, culture, medicine, and environment including ‘The Tibetan Art of Healing’, ‘The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple’, ‘The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place’, ‘Buddhas of the Celestial Gallery’, and the forthcoming ‘Tibetan Yoga: Secrets from the Source’. A graduate of Oxford University, Ian has lectured internationally on subjects pertaining to cross-cultural perceptions of medicine, meditation & healing and organizes international conferences and symposiums in the field of science and spirituality. He has additionally led numerous research expeditions into remote parts of the Himalayas and is a fellow of the Explorers Club, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Royal Society for Asian Affairs.

Saturday 12th May, 10.00am - 6.30pm


10:00: Registration

‘Welcome to the Festival’ Opening Comments with Julia Lawless (Shang Shung Institute UK Director)



10:30am - 11:00am:

‘Going Beyond Constraints: Mindfulness as a Relaxed Effortless Presence’ with Elio Guarisco

For several millennia ‘mindful presence’ has been the heart of the paths to self-discovery. Special methods for its implementation have been practiced and transmitted within the authentic and original Buddhist traditions in different ways.

These methods have inspired a wave of modern applications of Mindfulness within a secular context with infinite potentiality to benefit the lives of modern men and women. The Buddhist traditionalists view these modern applications with suspicion and criticism. Yet ‘mindful presence’ is fundamentally a wonderful universal source of direct knowledge that is neither spiritual nor secular. However, its practice can occasionally have some shortcomings, when it is applied in too tight or constrictive a manner. To avoid and recognize these possible pitfalls, it is crucial for the innate power and full scope of our ‘mindful presence’ to be allowed to unfold naturally. In this way, we can learn to re-orient a constrained type form of Mindfulness, towards that of simply being present in a relaxed effortless state.

Elio Guarisco is a Tibetan translator with extensive experience in this field, having translated many ancient Buddhist manuscripts directly from the Tibetan into Western languages, thereby making them accessible to a wider audience. He studied the theory and technique of mindfulness in the early seventies with the main contemporary teachers of this tradition, including Kalu Rinpoche, and has subsequently taught Mindfulness related techniques in Europe, China, US, South America, Taiwan, Malesia and Australia. He has participated as a speaker and organizer in many events on the various ways of transmitting knowledge, both in conferences as well as at private and public institutions. He is currently a lecturer on Tibetan Medicine at the Bicocca University in Milan.

11:00am - 11:30am:

‘Mindfulness: Origins, Perspectives, Challenges’
with Igor Berkhin

So-called ‘Mindfulness’ has its origins in Buddhist contemplative discipline and even though such practice still belongs to the domain of what we call ‘mind’, its final goal is to go beyond pre-programmed and conditioned mental functions to what (just to give it a name) is called the ‘primordially free nature of mind’. This is done through cultivating such mental factors as presence and awareness, but in the modern world the original goal is often lost in favor of such relative and temporary benefits as stress reduction or working efficacy etc., so there’s a danger of losing something greater and more far-reaching when we use mindfulness to just to expand the limits of our scope, instead of transcending them. 

Igor Berkin has been practicing Buddhist meditation for over 25 years and has been authorized to act as a meditation instructor by the prominent Tibetan Buddhist master, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. He has more than twelve years of experience teaching secular mindfulness to a broad range of audiences, including at universities, yoga centres, business organizations and within the IT industry. Besides the Tibetan tradition, he is also familiar with many Buddhist practices of China and Korea and was a Russian interpreter for many Buddhist teachers of various schools (Theravada, Zen, Geluk, Kagyu, Nyingma etc.) and has also translated several important Buddhist books into Russian. In 2012, he created an on-line course ‘28 days of Meditation’ for the Russian edition of Yoga Journal, as well teaching the ‘Basics of Meditation for Psychologists and Psychotherapists’ to the students of Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis. In 2016, he became one of the main organizers and speakers at the first international & interdisciplinary conference ‘Crystal Mind’ on mindfulness, awareness and secular meditation held in Russia. Today his work takes him to many part of the world, including Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, Switzerland and Israel.

11:30am - 12:00am:

Mindfulness in the Buddhist Tantras: Historical Challenges to Monastic-based Contemplative Practice & its Modern Manifestations’ with Ian Baker

This presentation explores the historical role of Buddhist mahāsiddhās, or realized adepts, in challenging monastic models of contemplative practice and existential engagement. As both progenitors and critics of Vajrayāna, or Tantric Buddhism, the songs of the mahāsiddhās introduced an expansive vision of Buddhist practice that encompassed activities that were overtly antithetical to monastic conventions and societal norms. What place does ‘mindfulness’ have within supposedly compassionately inspired acts of transgression involving sexuality and even the taking of life? What are we to make of the life stories and paradoxical poetry of mahāsiddhās who served as both courtesans and procurers, drank prodigious amounts of alcohol but never, we are told, became intoxicated? More importantly how do their hagiographies and tales of unbridled engagement with timeless concerns of love, death, and transcendence enlarge our ideas of ‘mindfulness’ in 21st century environments, whether corporate or psychotherapeutic or within avowed domains of religion and spirituality?

Ian Baker (see above)

12:00pm - 12:15pm
Tea Break


12:15pm - 1:30pm

Roundtable & Dicussion


1:30pm - 3:00pm
Lunch Break
3:00pm - 3:30pm

Mindfulness: The Attention Revolution’ with Paul Wielgus

In this talk, we will explore and explain why Mindfulness has become so popular over the last few decades on an international level. We will look at the global ‘distraction epidemic’ and examine its possible causes as well as assessing the potential benefits of mind training practice through cultivating attention and awareness. Finally we will also seek to demonstrate why Mindfulness can be of direct value both in the work place, as well as for individuals in their personal life, in order to develop resilience and well being, improve effectiveness, as well as cultivate positive relationships.

Paul Wielgus has over 23 years of practice experience in both the Tibetan and Theravada tradition and today is a teacher of basic Buddhism & Mindfulness (MBSR). His first career was in national and global marketing positions before spending over 5 years leading an international team delivering innovative culture change and L&D solutions on behalf of the board of a FTSE100 consumer business. He is passionate about the transformational power of mindfulness and since 1994 it has become a key part of his life and work particularly in his executive coach role. He now integrates Mindfulness into his work as a leadership coach and team facilitator. He works across a broad spectrum of sectors with international businesses, the public sector and NGO. These include Merck, KPMG, Virgin Atlantic, Environment Agency, Royal Mail and Cancer Research.

3:00pm - 3:30pm

'Yantra Yoga: Mindfulness in Movement' with Leo Isacchi

Yantra Yoga offers a unique approach to yoga practice and differs
from the more the widespread Hatha Yoga, in that it is done as a
sequence of movements harmoniously coordinated with breathing.
Traditionally known as the ‘Union of Sun and Moon’, it is a dynamic
series of trulkhor (movements) and tsalung (pranayamas) performed
in a state of mindfulness, thus enhancing physical health, energy and
mental balance. At a more profound level, it is an important practice
to integrate body, speech and mind into a state that is beyond our
normal dualistic concepts.

Leonardo Isacchi is qualified yoga instructor who was authorized
by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu to teach Yantra Yoga in 2016. Apart from
teaching weekend sessions, Leo leads a weekly class of Yantra Yoga at
Lekdanling in East London. These classes are open to all, beginners as
well as more advanced practitioners. Leo believes that it is very
important for each person to learn a correct mindful approach and the
precise breathing techniques from the very start … as well as the more
dynamic aspects of the practice of Yantra Yoga. For this reason, he does
his best to follow each individual as closely as possible so that they can
gain the maximum benefit from the practice of Yantra.


4:00pm - 4:30pm

‘Buddhism meets Psychotherapy: The Karuna Approach to Mindfulness’ with Laura Donington

Buddhism has taken root in the West and is giving rise to new and diverse forms within the profoundly individualistic culture of our society. I would like to talk about the development of Core Process Psychotherapy, one of the more radical & creative forms that emerged through the bringing together of Buddhism & psychotherapy. I will draw on some of my own experience to reflect on what opens up when Buddhist understanding permeates this work, and some of the debates that have arisen from this. The Karuna Institute was established in the 1980s as one of the earliest attempts to develop a professional mindfulness-based psychotherapy training. The aim was to explore and develop ways of integrating the psychological and spiritual insights and practices of Buddhism with Western theory and practice of psychotherapy, with its understanding of early developmental processes and relational dynamics. Recognising the power of mindfulness and compassion practice to transform and heal how we experience ourselves in the world, the task was to develop a practical psychotherapy, rooted in contemplative practice, that would embody this understanding ... One of the challenges has been how to offer this spiritual dimension of the work in an idiom and mode of practice accessible to those who aren’t comfortable with a more ‘religious’ idiom, whilst honouring its roots in traditional Buddhism.

Laura Donington taught at the Karuna Institute for over 20 years as a senior tutor on the professional training in Core Process Psychotherapy, a mindfulness-based approach that is rooted in Buddhist understanding, integrated with Western developmental approaches. She also worked privately in London as a psychotherapist and supervisor, bringing a love of contemplative practice into her work. She is now semi-retired, enjoying being a grandmother, and living partly in Cheshire in beautiful countryside, whilst continuing to offer supervision in London and doing some occasional teaching.

4:30pm - 5:00pm

Lucid Dreaming: Mindfulness of Dream & Sleep’ with Charlie Morley

We sleep for a third of our lives.  Have you ever wondered how you might make better use of that time? In this talk, bestselling author and co-creator of ‘Mindfulness of Dream & Sleep’ , Charlie Morley shows us how to utilize that 30 year blackout to dream lucidly, sleep deeply and to train our minds to engage meditation, all while we’re sound asleep. By using the best of both Tibetan Buddhist and Western lucid dreaming techniques the ‘Mindfulness of Dream & Sleep’ approach offers a uniquely holistic approach to lucid dreaming with the aims of psychological growth, friendship with our psyches and nocturnal spiritual practice.

Charlie Morley is a bestselling Hay House author and teacher of lucid dreaming & shadow work. He was “authorised to teach” within the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche in 2008 and has since developed a holistic approach to dream work called Mindfulness of Dream & Sleep and written three books which have been translated into 11 languages.

He’s spoken at Cambridge University, the Innovation in Vajrayana Buddhism conference in Bhutan, is a regular expert panellist for The Guardian  and continues to teach on mindfulness retreats for armed forces veterans. 

For the past 9 years Charlie has run retreats and workshops in more than 20 countries and continues to teach internationally. He has lived at Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist Centre in London with his wife Jade for the past 7 years.

For info on workshops and retreats see www.charliemorley.com

Sunday 13th May, 10.00am - 4.30pm


11.00am – 1.00pm

Elio Guarisco - ‘Living with Mindfulness’

1.00 – 2.30pm LUNCH
2.30pm- 4.30pm

Igor Berkhin – ‘What is Mind?’


Lekdanling (London), 14 Collent Street, Greater London, England, E9 6SG - SEE MAP

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