134: Richard J. Davidson
Richard J. Davidson had an intuition early on that the mind was fundamental to human experience. As a child of the 60s he believed early on that “if we wanted to promote a different way of seeing the world, we needed to change our minds.”
At the same time that he began to dabble in meditation and mind training, Davidson also became a serious student and began a path that ultimately became his life’s work. He is the founder and chair of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As he explains it, the mission of the Center is to “cultivate well being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind.”
Davidson has been a longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, and in fact it was the Dalai Lama himself who encouraged and even challenged him to find a way to bring together his two interests (meditation and science) and communicate his findings. Time Magazine named Davidson one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006.
We met up recently at the Center for Healthy Minds in Madison to talk about his personal journey and how it intersects with his work, why he sees this as a crucial moment for humanity and what mind training can do to help, why “reality is a movie”, his relationship with the Dalai Lama and how that has informed his choices, what it means to meditate with compassion, and what jazz bassist Charles Mingus has to do with any of this.