Contemplating Corporate Culture

An interview with Mirabai Bush on bringing contemplation into the inner sanctum of American power, from Harvard University to Monsanto.Helen Tworkov

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A Brief History:


The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is founded as a not-for-profit educational organization. Mirabai Bush is named Executive Director.

Academic Program: Contemplative Practice Fellowships are funded through the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) and the Fetzer Institute, and administered by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and The Center.

Business Program: Second Monsanto Retreat, “Deep Thinking Skills,” led by Steven Smith (Vipassana Hawaii) for thirty-five executives and managers.

Environment Program: Steven Smith leads a retreat for sixteen members of the Green Group, CEOs of the major national environmental organizations.

Philanthropy: Co-sponsored by the Center, sixty philanthropists gather in Santa Fe for a contemplative meeting to explore the connection between philanthropy and spirituality.

Youth Program: Mirabai Bush and youth members of the Learning Tree in Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as George Mumford, participate in a Tibet House conference, “Peacemaking: The Power of Nonviolence,” led by Nobel Peace Prize laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rigoberta Menchu, and José Ramos-Horta.

Multifaith Panel: The Center coordinates and facilitates a daylong discussion and practice in Washington D.C. on contemplative practice with Sharon Salzberg, Rabbi Jonathan Oberman, and Father Thomas Keating.


Academic Program: The Fellows and the Academic Committee hold a contemplative retreat at Fetzer to discuss contemplation as pedagogy.

Business Program: Retreats for Monsanto as well as in-house meditation sessions. (continued on p. 87)

Environment Program: The Center holds an environmental retreat at Sundance, Utah, held jointly with NRPE and NCF Environment Program.

Contemplative Law: Joseph Goldstein of IMS leads a retreat for Yale Law School students and faculty on the interface of contemplation and law.

Philanthropy: The Center co-hosts a gathering on Philanthropy and Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona, on the nature of generosity and giving, philanthropy as a spiritual path, and programs that incorporate spiritual awareness.

The Center participates in both “Giver and the Gift,” a gathering of foundation executives at Fetzer, and a panel on visionary leadership at The Independent Sector meeting in Denver.

Media: The Center collaborates with Fetzer to bring together leading figures in print and broadcast media to experience contemplative practice.


Academic Program: The Center publishes “The Contemplative Practice Fellowship Program.”

Mirabai Bush and Joseph Goldstein speak on “Mindfulness and Education” at the University of Massachusetts.

Business Program: A group of Monsanto staff write a mission statement and organize weekly sittings, one and three-day residential retreats.

Mirabai and Steve Smith give a talk on “Mindfulness and Business” and lead meditation at Monsanto and at Searle Pharmaceuticals.

Law: A law retreat is held for Yale students and professors, senior partners from Hale and Dorr, and other lawyers and judges.

The Center participates in a panel discussion on “Spirituality and the Law” at the meeting of the American Bar Association.

Prison Program: The Center participates in “Contemplative Practice in Prison and Beyond,” a meeting initiated by the Prisons Working Group Project at Upaya in Santa Fe, NM. The National Network of Contemplative Prison Programs forms.

Youth Program: The Center supports the work of youth leaders at the following programs: Critical Times/Creative Choices at the Whidbey Island Institute, the Theosophical Conference on Youth and Environment, and Vallecitos GenNext Environmental Retreat


Academic Program: The Center leads discussion on contemplative topics at “Going Public with Spirituality in Work and Higher Education” at the University of Massachusetts.

The Center serves as advisor to UMass Chancellor David Scott’s initiative on contemplative studies in the university, including a lecture series with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Daniel Goleman, and others.

Environment Program: The Center leads a Virginia retreat for staff members of the Green Group with poet-activist Terry Tempest Williams.

Law Program: Law retreats are held for students and faculty from both Yale and Columbia Law School, as well as public interest and private practice lawyers, professors, judges, and students.

The Center begins the Contemplative Law Partnerships with a meeting at the Boston Bar Association.

Philanthropy: The Center co-sponsors The Philanthropy and the Inner Life Retreat in Hawaii, integrating meditation, yoga, and silence with Native Hawaiian spiritual practices.

Youth Program: The Center provides guidance and funds to three youth activists to lead workshops at Project Avery, a summer camp for children of incarcerated parents in California. ▼

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