Since 2016 I have been involved in what I call "MindEnvironment" project to foster exchange and dialogue particularly between disciplines dedicated to mind study and practice and those disciplines addressing environmental and sustainability questions. This exchange is interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and intercultural - just like life and the challenges on the way to more sustainability themselves. Below you will find a selection of talks or events that I have either organized, co-organized or helped shape at Freiburg University, Vilm Island (BfN), IASS Potsdam or Mind & Life Europe since 2016. Page in development.

Source: B. Verplanken
Source: B. Verplanken

Prof. Dr. Bas Verplanken

Cracks in the wall

17.08.2021 | Mind & Life Europe` | Summer Research Institut (ESRI) 2021 | Online Event


Abstract: We are used to the assumption that we are driven by motivation and willpower. In other words, we are in control of what we think and do. However, we are not always as thoughtful as this assumption may suggest. We often do things 'on the automatic pilot' or 'by force of habit'. That can lock us in on behaviours that are unhealthy, unsafe or unsustainable, and as motivation and willpower are not in the driving seat, these are difficult to change.

However, sometimes we face life course events such as transition from school to work, moving house, starting a family, retirement, or external events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These are moments our worlds change and motivation and willpower have to take over. Such 'cracks in the wall' are opportunities for reflection, behaviour change and personal growth and may be starting points for building new, but healthy, safe and sustainable habits.


Reading materials

Habit and climate change
Psychology of Habit
On the nature of eco-anxiety: How constructive or unconstructive is habitual worry about global warming?

Dr. Sonja Geiger

From inner transformation to societal change

17.08.2021 | Mind & Life Europe` | Summer Research Institut (ESRI) 2021 | Online Event


Societal change is thought to happen on different levels of sociotechnical systems. On a micro-level, radical innovations brought about by individuals or groups can exert transformational pressures on regimes to reinforce societal changes. Research on mindfulness has revealed such innovative potentials on the micro-level, transforming thoughts and behaviors of people that are relevant for a sustainable development. These potentials comprise disruption of routines, stronger accordance of attitudes and behaviors, increased feeling of connectedness and compassion, declining importance of external accomplishments as material possessions and a heightened sense of physical and psychological well-being.

Evidence from a longitudinal studies show convincing evidence especially for the latter three areas of increased compassion, declining materialism and increased well-being. These areas relate to different value groups within Schwartz’s circumplex model of universal values and taken together indicate a potential shift of values toward a state of what could be called “sustainable happiness”. In our breakout session, I would like to discuss how these micro-level potentials for individual change could feed back into societal change.



Mindfulness and sustainability: correlation or causation?
Editorial: The Role of the Individual in the Great Transformation Toward Sustainability

Ven. Holger Yeshe

Compassion and the power of habits - a personal account

17.08.2021 | Mind & Life Europe` | Summer Research Institut (ESRI) 2021 | Online Event


Habits play themselves out in different ways in relation to meditation practice and life in general, and our personal experience is not a linear progression. We have ideals and hold views that lead us to adopt certain principles that are conducive or in contradiction to a harmonious relationship with our environment.
What emotions and habits fuel this and which views could be helpful to make a transformation possible? How to recognise and best deal with these sometimes opposing forces that allow for a balanced approach and the ability to sustain ideals that we set for ourselves?
We will investigate mind, mental states and habit formations from a buddhist perspective, illustrated by personal accounts. We will explore the qualities that we could cultivate in order to bring about such a transformation that takes into account the complexity of our human experience and the fundamental driving forces that govern it.

Source: H. Stark | From let to right: T. Ericson (author), H. Stark (author) and T. Bruhn (organizer)
Source: H. Stark | From let to right: T. Ericson (author), H. Stark (author) and T. Bruhn (organizer)

Dr. Hendrik Stark & Dr. Torgeir Ericson

What can we learn from contemplative Buddhist psychology for researching and facilitating sustainable development?
3 June 2019 | 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. | IASS Potsdam

In „Limits to Growth“ 1 the authors were in search for a world system that is sustainable and without sudden collapse, framing the quest for sustainability as a quest for security and thus as a quest to prevent or minimize “suffering”. Because this quest is highly complex and points to the roots of human culture, identity and behavior, some IPCC scenarios emphasize the importance of new values and a sense of collectivity to support the societal transformation towards sustainability 2 . In this talk / workshop we seek to place the traditional Buddhist worldview and particularly its core principle, dependent origination, in the context of individual behavior and the transformation towards sustainability. The Buddhist path represents an ultimately profound and practically applicable search for and path towards liberation from “suffering”. It locates the causes of our own experience and our environmentally relevant actions in our mind 3 , and in particular in our clarity of understanding the nature of our own existence and our ability to deal with the mind. During the talk / workshop, we carefully introduce this traditional view both theoretically and by means of short contemplative mindfulness practices 4 . We then try to establish links with classical Western theory of environmentally relevant behavior 5 . Eventually, we would be happy to consider and discuss together with participants what we might learn from Buddhist contemplative psychology for researching and implementing the sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

Dr. Thomas Bruhn | 26.01.2018

A Mindset for the Anthropocene -  How the challenges of sustainability urge us to engage in a conscious transformation of our mental models and inner qualities


Public talk | 26.01.2018 | 18:00 - 20:00 | Uni Freiburg | Hermann-Herder-Str. 5, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Hermann-Herder R 011


About: Dr. Thomas Bruhn is a physicist and sustainability researcher. At the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam he is leading the project AMA (A Mindset for the Anthropocene) and is conducting and investigating co-creative processes in the context of political decision making. Before joining the IASS in 2012 he did research on semiconductor nanostructures in Berlin, Rome and Marseille. He is also a trained facilitator and member of the thinktank 30 of the Club of Rome.


Talk: The discussions about how to achieve the transformation to sustainable lifestyles and society often seems to focus on the development of governance mechanisms and “green” technology. Complementary to these approaches it is increasingly discussed how an “inner” transformation of the human mind can or even must be a part of this path to sustainability. With increasing urgency we are challenged to reflect what it means to be human in the Anthropocene and what implications the current transformation has for the way we think and feel and what kind of relations we cultivate to each other, our environment and ourselves. In this seminar we would like to discuss recent findings about the potentials that lie in the cultivation of inner human qualities like mindfulness and compassion and their relevance for sustainability. The talk will invite into a reflection about the changing human-Earth relationship in the Anthropocene, the age in which humanity as a collective the dominant quasi-geological force in the Earth System. Also it will provide an overview on currently discussed approaches to “inner” transformation as discussed in a broad spectrum of disciplines and contexts from Earth System science to positive psychology, from neuroscience to sociology and spirituality. As an outlook, the presentation will introduce the platform AMA (A Mindset for the Anthropocene) of the IASS Potsdam that facilitates a transdisciplinary dialogue about the connection between sustainability and changing mindsets.

Source: M. Trautwein
Source: M. Trautwein

Dr. Fynn-Mathis Trautwein

Dezentralisierung des Selbst? Neurowissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse über die Wirksamkeit von Achtsamkeitsmeditation und deren Einfluss auf Identität und Sozialverhalten
4. - 7. Oktober 2017 | Tagung des Bundesamt für Naturschutz "Naturbewusstsein und Identität: Status Quo und Handlungsbedarf in Wissenschaft und Praxis" | Insel Vilm

Abstract: Der Beitrag gibt zunächst einen Überblick über den aktuellen Stand psychologischer, kognitions- und neurowissenschaftlicher Forschung zur Wirksamkeit von Achtsamkeitsmeditation und verwandten Meditationstechniken. In einem zweiten Schritt wird besonders auf jüngere Forschung zur Wirkung auf zwischenmenschliches Erleben und Verhalten eingegangen – inwiefern fördert Meditation Empathie und Altruismus? Abschließend werden Einflüsse von Meditation auf die Identität bzw. auf das Selbsterleben diskutiert und die These aufgestellt, dass eine reduzierte Zentrierung psychischer Prozesse auf das Selbst positiven Auswirkungen von Meditation auf das Sozial-, und potenziell auch auf Umweltverhalten, zugrunde liegt.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gebhard | Source: Carola Gruber
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gebhard | Source: Carola Gruber

Prof. Dr. Ullrich Gebhard

Äußere Landschaften und innere Landschaften: zur Bedeutung von Naturerfahrungen für die seelische Entwicklung
4. - 7. Oktober 2017 | Tagung des Bundesamt für Naturschutz "Naturbewusstsein und Identität: Status Quo und Handlungsbedarf in Wissenschaft und Praxis" | Insel Vilm

Abstract: Die Persönlichkeit des Menschen wird in den meisten psychologischen Schulen als das Ergebnis der Beziehung zu sich selbst und der Beziehung zu anderen Menschen verstanden. Die nichtmenschliche Umwelt — also Gegenstände, Pflanzen, Tiere, Natur, Landschaft, Bauten — spielen in einem solchen zweidimensionalen Persönlichkeitsmodell nur eine untergeordnete Rolle. In diesem Aufsatz wird die psychodynamische Bedeutung auch der nicht-menschlichen Umwelt reflektiert. Das Ziel ist die Etablierung eines dreidimensionalen Persönlichkeitsmodells, das die Bedeutung der menschlichen Umwelt ebenso berücksichtigt wie die der nicht-menschlichen Umwelt.
Ein entscheidender Grundgedanke ist, dass das Verhältnis von Mensch und nichtmenschlicher Umwelt, das Verhältnis von Mensch und Natur als ein Interaktionsgefüge gedacht werden muss, und nicht als ein Verhältnis des mehr oder weniger unverbundenen Gegenübers. Der Beziehungsaspekt wird besonders spürbar in Situationen, in denen wir Atmosphären erleben. In Atmosphären fließen Subjekt- und Objektanteile zusammen. Natur wird auf diese Weise zu einem Symbol von Aspekten des eigenen Selbst. Dieses Amalgam aus Erfahrung der äußeren Welt („äußere Landschaften“) und Erfahrung des eigenen Selbst („innere Landschaften“) und die sich dadurch eröffnende Resonanz wird als ein zentrales Moment postuliert. Dabei wird die besondere Bedeutung von Naturerfahrungen vor dem Hintergrund der Winnicott‘schen Theorie der Übergangsphänomene interpretiert.

Ina Praetorius | Source: Katja Niederöst
Ina Praetorius | Source: Katja Niederöst

Ina Praetorius

Von der Dichotomisierung der Menschheit zur geburtlichen Selbstwahrnehmung
4. - 7. Oktober 2017 | Tagung des Bundesamt für Naturschutz "Naturbewusstsein und Identität: Status Quo und Handlungsbedarf in Wissenschaft und Praxis" | Insel Vilm

Die westliche Welt lebt seit mehr als zwei Jahrtausenden mit einer dualistischen Weltsicht, die erstmals in der aristotelischen Metaphysik auf den geschlossenen Begriff gebracht wurde. Der als Mann gedachte „Mensch“ ist hier ober- und außerhalb einer als „schwach“, „stumm“ und „weiblich“ vorgestellten Natur (zu lat. nasci = geboren werden) angesiedelt und ausschließlich als „sterblich“ gedacht. Diese dualistische Weltsicht verliert heute zusehends an Wirkmacht und hinterlässt ein „postpatriarchales Durcheinander“. Um eine neue, zukunftsfähige symbolische Ordnung zu schaffen, ist es sinnvoll, die tabuisierte menschliche Anfänglichkeit neu zu denken: Geburtlichkeit. Geboren/geburtlich zu sein bedeutet, Natur und Kultur, abhängig und frei zugleich zu sein.

Gerhard Reese | Source. G. Reese
Gerhard Reese | Source. G. Reese

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Reese BfN

Globale Identität: Grundlagen, Befunde und Forschungsziele im Kontext von Naturbewusstsein

4. - 7. Oktober 2017 | Tagung des Bundesamt für Naturschutz "Naturbewusstsein und Identität: Status Quo und Handlungsbedarf in Wissenschaft und Praxis" | Insel Vilm


In diesem Beitrag soll zusammengefasst werden, inwiefern die gesamte Menschheit als eine Eigengruppe wahrgenommen werden kann, und ob dies Konsequenzen im Sinne nachhaltigen Verhaltens hat. Konkret wird zunächst das Konzept der sogenannten „globalen Identität“ vorgestellt und in die bestehende Theorie und Literatur eingeordnet. Daraufhin wird beschrieben, inwiefern eine globale Identität mit mehr Natur- und Umweltbewusstsein einhergehen kann und warum sie das möglicherweise tut. Schließlich sollen die Probleme und Herausforderungen, die das Konzept globaler Identität in sich trägt, erörtert werden.

H. Stark | Source: M. Matschke
H. Stark | Source: M. Matschke

Dr. Hendrik Stark

Buddhistische Psychologie: Das Prinzip des Bedingten Entstehens im Kontext von Identität und nachhaltiger Entwicklung
4. - 7. Oktober 2017 | Tagung des Bundesamt für Naturschutz "Naturbewusstsein und Identität: Status Quo und Handlungsbedarf in Wissenschaft und Praxis" | Insel Vilm

Abstract: Subtile Selbstzentriertheit und Begierde bedingen die Ausbeutung von Ressourcen und damit die Zerstörung der Umwelt auf direktem und indirektem Wege. Außerdem sind sie für effiziente lokale, nationale und internationale Bemühungen zum Schutz der Natur und Umwelt, sowie für die gesellschaftliche Transformation zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit kontraproduktiv. Aus diesem Grund können „äußere“, technische Lösungsansätze, also neue Technologien, Gesetze und Programme für solch tiefgreifende Herausforderungen wie Umweltzerstörung oder Klimawandel nur so gut sein, wie die Geisteshaltung und Motivation, unter der sie vorangetrieben werden. Da sich Selbstzentriertheit, Begierde und verwandte Geisteshaltungen meist unbewusst entwickeln und gewohnheitsmäßig wirken, bedingt die Transformation des Umweltverhaltens eine tiefgreifende Auseinandersetzung mit der individuellen und kollektiven Geisteshaltung. Das IPCC plädiert dafür, traditionelles Wissen und Erfahrung aufgrund deren ganzheitlicher Sichtweisen auf die Gemeinschaft und Umwelt bei der Gestaltung einer nachhaltigen Gesellschaft mit einzubeziehen.
Vor diesem Hintergrund soll in diesem Beitrag das Thema Natur- und Umweltschutz sowie Nachhaltigkeit aus Sichtweise der buddhistischen Psychologie vorgestellt werden. Dabei soll ein besonderes Augenmerk auf das Prinzip des Bedingten Entstehens/ der Interdependenz gelegt werden. Durch die Brille des bedingten Entstehens soll versucht werden, die Ursachen von Umweltzerstörung und Klimawandel bis zu ihrem Ursprung in der menschlichen Geisteshaltung nachzuvollziehen. Dabei soll besonders die menschliche Identität bzw. die illusorische Sichtweise des Selbst als etwas Losgelöstes von der Umwelt beleuchtet werden. Achtsamkeit und Bewusstheit werden als zentrale geistige Fähigkeiten zur unverfälschten Betrachtung dieses Selbst und seiner bedingten Existenz mit der Umwelt herausgearbeitet. Diese Einsicht in die Natur der eigenen Existenz ist letztendlich Grundlage für die Fähigkeit, zu unterscheiden, welche Handlungen der Gesamtheit aus Selbst und Umwelt förderlich sind und welche sich negativ darauf auswirken, also Leid für sich selbst oder andere verursachen. Aus buddhistischer Perspektive ist die Kultivierung von Achtsamkeit und Bewusstheit und die Einsicht in das bedingte Entstehen des Selbst die Basis einer universellen Ethik, und in weiterer Folge eine wichtige Grundvoraussetzung für den Erhalt der Natur, den Schutz der Umwelt und eine gesellschaftliche Transformation zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit.

Source: E.U. Weizsäcker
Source: E.U. Weizsäcker

Prof. Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker | 10.06.2016

Towards a Sustainable World Society: The Philosophical Crisis

Public talk | 10.06.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 200.


About: Dr. rer. nat. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker is an honorary professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany, lead-author of “Factor Five” and Co-President of the Club of Rome. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker will open the seminar series “Linking mind and environment” with his talk. Based on his book “Factor Five”, which mainly adresses technical solutions to the global crisis, he will emphasize the importance of also considering the inner dimension of sustainable living: our mind-setting. More information about the work of E. U. Weizsäcker can be found here.


Talk: In addressing today’s crises, the Club of Rome, just as Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter entitled “Laudato Si”, emphasizes the spiritual and religious dimensions of our civilization. One new approach to the spiritual debate from inside the Club of Rome originates from David Korten in his recent Report to the Club of Rome called “Change the Story, Change the Future”. There he associates monotheistic religions with the “story” of the Distant Patriarch ruling humanity. Korten concludes that this story came with problematic side-effects, which coincided with the rise of technologies, the adoration of technical “miracles” and the rise of a ‘sacred’ character of money and markets. Now it is time for a new “story” of humankind and Mother Earth. Our new Report does not claim to have the right answers to all important questions. But the Club of Rome wants to stress that addressing today’s challenges will by necessity involve a spiritual dimension, a moral vantage point from which it is not acceptable to give selfishness and greed – for the purpose of technological progress or economic success - a positive value. Progress and success can just as well flourish in a civilization of solidarity, humility, and respect for Mother Earth and for future generations.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Source: Nicolas Messner
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Source: Nicolas Messner

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo | 20.06.2016

Interdependence Between Mind and Environmental Sustainability


20.06.2016 | 14:00 - 15:30 |Uni Freiburg |Tennenbacher Str. 4, D 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 200.


About: Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo is a renowned Buddhist teacher, popular worldwide for her warm, clear and down-to-earth presentaion of the Buddha-Dharma and its apllication in daily life. The inspiring story of her life, including 12 years of secluded retreat in an Himalayan cave, is the subject for the well-known biography, “Cave in the Snow” by Vicki Mackenzie. More information about her life and work can be found here.


Summary: During her short visit, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo will give a short talk (30 minutes) about the inter-connectedness between our mind and the environment from the Buddhist point of view. That is: In contrast to the common Western understanding, the Buddhist view and understanding assumes the world including all phenomena to exist in interdependence with our mind and consciousness. Therefore, with our thoughts, emotions and feelings - with our consciousness - we create and influence this world to the way it is. Along with this, Tenzin Palmo might also be talking about the three mind-poisons of ignorance (not knowing the truth of interdependent existence), greed (attachment) and hatred (aversion). Being habitual tendencies planted into our minds, these three poisons corrupt our common well-being as they limit our tolerance, wisdom, compassion, happiness and solidarity, all being fundamental aspects of a harmonious and sustainable living. Along with this knowledge Buddhism offers a suite of down-to-earth methods of how to familiarize with our minds to find well-being, contentment and Bodhicitta, the compassion-mind, that acts for the benefit of all living sentient beings. With her introduction, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo will stress the interdependent relationship of man and environment, as we can discover it from within. She might point out options for us to familiarize with our individual minds to transform ignorance, greed and hatred into happiness, contentment and compassion. Thereafter, we will have the oportunity for an open discussion.


A quote from Jetsumna:

"Samsara is not the planet,

the planet is perfectly in sync,

it’s the minds of the beings that inhabit the planet

that makes it samsara or nirvana.

When you enter nirvana you don’t suddenly disappear

you’re still living on the same planet

but the planet itself has transformed

because the mind has transformed.

It all depends on the mind,

everything depends on the mind."


V. Aversano-Dearborn, Source: V. Aversano-Dearborn
V. Aversano-Dearborn, Source: V. Aversano-Dearborn

Valentina Aversano-Dearborn | 08.12.2016

Spirituality, Economy and Sustainability: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Benedictine Sustainability Strategies


Public talk | 08.12.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400


About: From 2010 to 2012, Valentina Aversano-Dearborn and Sina Leipold, both social scientists, worked together in the research project “Dealing with the Divine Creation” at the working group for Transdisciplinary Systems Research at the institute for organic agriculture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU).  Today, Valentina is a researcher at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (Institute for Ecological Economics) and at BOKU in Vienna. Her research focus is on environmentally, socially and economically sustainable practices in society and economy. She is also co-founder and co-director of the Forum for Sustainable Visions in Action (www.forum-via.org, on twitter @Forum_ViA), an NGO that aims at being an incubator for new and existing visions for the future and a global platform for sustainable approaches to lifestyle, the economy and work.

Sina Leipold is head of the research group “Circulus” (www.circulus-project.de, on twitter @SinaLeipold) and lecturer of natural resource governance at the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg. Her main research interests lie in the domains of environmental and natural resource politics, sustainability transformations as well as policy analysis theories and methods, with a specific focus on discourse analysis.


Talk: The talk will highlight core insights from the 3-year research project “Dealing with the Divine Creation” that brought together researchers from 6 different disciplines with monks from Benedictine monasteries in Germany and Austria. Together, they examined the understandings and the practices of sustainability in Benedictine monastic life and work. “Are practices more sustainable in a place of spiritual practice? How do the core principles of the Benedictine Ethics relate to sustainable practices in Benedictine Monasteries?” These were the main research questions that guided the research team. The talk will share insights on this question by highlighting research on:

a) the unique strategies that monasteries developed in the field of sustainable economics and the ethical narratives behind them.

b) the transdisciplinary, reflexive and open research concept that ultimately allowed to see the differences of initial sustainability perspectives brought in by the researchers &/ and internal sustainability perspectives identified by the monks themselves.

Picture: A. W. Mues. Source: C. Liepe, Fotostudio Lichtblick, Bonn
Picture: A. W. Mues. Source: C. Liepe, Fotostudio Lichtblick, Bonn

Andreas Wilhelm Mues | 25.10.2016 | 4 pm

Society and Environment: Nature Awareness in Germany and the Role of Mindfulness


Public talk | 25.10.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400.


About: Andreas Wilhelm Mues (* 1981) is a Bonn based researcher in the fields of nature awareness, communication, nature conservation and ecology. He is holding Diploma degrees in biology and psychology. Andreas is working as a scientific officer for the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation since 2010: he is carrying out the Nature Awareness Studies of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation as well as research and communication projects on environmental ethics and religions. Andreas is also part of the staff of the Nees institute for Biodiversity of Plants, Bonn. His PhD-project at the Nees institute is focusing on plant-pollinator communication and interaction and its function for the shaping of plant biodiversity.


Talk: The ‘Nature Awareness Studies’ of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation are a series of comprehensive surveys on the relative importance of nature, biodiversity and nature conservation in our society, carried out every two years with over 2,000 respondents. The results provide an important basis for communicating matters of nature conservation, both in general and to specific target groups.

One of the core building blocks of the surveys is the question of nature as a personal priority: the people in Germany demonstrate a strong appreciation of nature. In 2015, 94 percent of citizens take the view that nature is part and parcel of a good life. For 92 percent it means health and recreation, and 85 percent feel at home in the natural environment. Only 8 percent of citizens say that nature is alien to them.

While this holds true for the total average of the population in Germany, large differences emerge when results are differentiated and analyzed according to sociodemographic sub-groups and social milieus: it is mainly the socially advantaged milieus that have a particularly close relationship with nature while people belonging to socially weaker milieus often lack a sound relation to nature and only have limited access to its resources.

Is there a possibility that the concept of mindfulness might be helpful in bridging this gap and contribute towards social integration in society? Starting from this question, the public talk will discuss the relationship between mindfulness and nature awareness and present findings from psychological research. Recommendations for the communication with specific target groups will be given.

Photo: G. Walchner
Photo: G. Walchner

Gitta Walchner | 17.01.2018

The Mind Behind the Economy for the Common Good


Public talk | 17.01.2018 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau | Room 200


About: Gitta Walchner studied Theatre and business management and worked for 10 years as a business consultant. Today she is lecturer and auditor for the economy of the common good (“Gemeinwohlökonomie”). She lives in Freiburg, Germany.


Talk: If you ask people what really makes them happy, you get mostly the answer that the main point are good and fulfilling relationships with other people. And if you go deeper, you discover as principles of good relationships trust, empathy and equality. In these days we are used to think in economic terms, which denies those principles. The highest goal of business affairs is to maximise the profit. For that, you have to lower the costs and raise the price. Or in other terms: You try to give least and get most. This is the killing of good relationships and the killing of happiness for all stakeholders. And it is totally against the principles of our religious and humanistic traditions. Because economics have such an impact on our society as a whole – also on our relationship to our natural resources – we have to rethink very urgently the principles of our economic system of today. The economy for the common good represents a basic shift in targets, strategies, systems and evaluation instruments for exchanging our goods on a non-exploitative basis. The basis of these thoughts is the experience of unity in our consciousness, which contains all layers of existence. And this experience has to be lived in our daily life – „even“ in business, e.g. in the form of an economy for the common good.

Hinrich Mercker | Source: Karoline Wolf
Hinrich Mercker | Source: Karoline Wolf

Hinrich Mercker | 18.11.2016

How mindfulness based leadership can contribute to the creation of a more sustainable society


Workshop 18.11.2016 | 10 am – 5 pm | Waldhaus Freiburg |  Course fee is 25€ mainly required for room rent.


About: Hinrich Mercker works as coach, international facilitator and consultant on leadership development with multi-disciplinary teams and organizations across all sectors. His work is deeply inspired by Viktor E. Frankl, Thich Nhat Hanh and Otto Scharmer. Hinrich is alumni of MIT’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) and lectured at Berlin’s Free University as well as at the University of Potsdam. He can be reached at: www.merckerundmiketta.de


Workshop: Mindful leadership considers the actual purpose of leadership, which is sustainable development. As elaborated by Sara Parkin in her outstanding work on sustainability leadership (www.saraparkin.org/positive-deviance/), mindful leadership thereby recognizes the interconnectedness of both the problems and the solutions involved. Therefore, the workshop will introduce and focus on four keys to mindfulness-based leadership: Mindful communication (deep listening and mindful speech), awareness practises and reflection (individual journaling, dialogue walks and sharing in a circle), value consciousness and innovative and co-creative action. Experiencing these four practises the participants of the workshop will mobilise head, heart and hands. The tools, approaches and insights are based on Otto Scharmer’s Theory U (www.presencing.com) as well as on Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of Interbeing (www.plumvillage.org) and on Charles Eisenstein’s vision for transition (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjoxh4c2Dj0). The workshop will be held in an atmosphere of openness, presence, humour and playfulness and at the same time address the question how this spirit can be transferred and applied in real life challenges.


The workshop will take place at the Waldhaus Freiburg. Maximum 20 participants. Course fee is 25€ mainly required for room rent. If you are interested to attend the workshop please register here. There may be additional costs if you wish to attend a lunch at a restaurant nearby.

Britta Hölzel | Photo: M. Stobrawe
Britta Hölzel | Photo: M. Stobrawe

Britta Hölzel | 30.11.2016 | 4 pm

The Neuroscience of Mindfulness


Public talk | 30.11.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400.


About: Britta Hölzel, a professional psychologist and neuro scientist, is specialized to study the neuronal mechanism of mindfulness meditation using magnetic resonance imaging. She has conducted her work at the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, University of Gießen, the Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Technical Uiversity of Munich. Besides, Britta also is engaged as an instructor for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and as a Yoga teacher.


Talk: Mindfulness practice, i.e., non-judgmental awareness of present moment experiences, has received increasing interest in our society over the last decade. It is being applied in the treatment and prevention of psychiatric and somatic illnesses, for stress reduction and for the improvement of self regulation. In this presentation, we will discuss latest findings from neuroscience research that have demonstrated that mindfulness practice can lead to changes in the structure and function of brain regions that support attention and emotion regulation, and the perspective on self and others. These capacities, in turn, can influence the way we interact in the world. In order to generate new research questions, we want to discuss how contemplative practice might influence – via changes in physiological and psychological variables – our interaction with the environment and with other individuals/society.

Tho Ha Vinh, Source: Tho Ha Vinh
Tho Ha Vinh, Source: Tho Ha Vinh

Tho Ha Vinh | 14.02.2017

Gross National Happiness: An Alternative Development Paradigm


Public talk | 14.02.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau | Room 100


About: Tho Ha Vinh holds a Ph.D. in psychology and education from the University of Geneva. He is the Program Director at the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan (www.gnhcentrebhutan.org) and the founder and chairman of Eurasia Foundation, a humanitarian NGO (www.eurasia.org). Also, Tho Ha Vinh is a Buddhist teacher in the Tradition of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Previously, he has been serving as head of training, learning and development at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and has been working as a professor with several universities in Europe and Vietnam. Tho Ha Vinh published books and articles on curative education, engaged spirituality, intercultural dialogue, adult education and humanitarian action.


Talk: In the 1970s, the fourth King of Bhutan challenged the conventional and materialistic notions of development. He realized that the existing development paradigm based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measurement was narrowly focussing on endless economic growth despite limited resources on a finite planet. Above all, it did not consider the goal of all progress, which is to enhance the happiness of all people and the wellbeing of all life forms. Inspired by age-old Buddhist wisdom in the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan, the fourth King concluded that GDP was neither an equitable nor a meaningful measurement for human happiness, nor should it be the primary focus for governance. Thus, the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was born. Since that time this pioneering vision of GNH has guided Bhutan’s development and policy formation. Unique among the community of nations, it is a balanced ‘middle path’, in which equitable socio-economic development is integrated with environmental conservation, cultural promotion, and good governance. In this talk we will together explore the framework of GNH and outline examples of its implementation in specific areas such as education and business in Bhutan and abroad.

T. Ericson. Photo: T. Ericson
T. Ericson. Photo: T. Ericson

Torgeir Ericson | 23.02.2017

Mindfulness and Sustainability


Public talk | 23.02.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau | Room 400


About: Torgeir Ericson has had a life-long interest in the environmental and climate debate, with education, PhD and work all connected to this from the technical and engineering side. He is currently working as a scientist with the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. Also, Torgeir is interested in Buddhism, psychology and mindfulness. Based on his personal motivation and professional experience, he published a literature review on “Mindfulness and sustainability” together with B.G. Kjønstad and A. Barstad in ‘Ecological Economics’.


Talk: Ecosystems are under pressure due to high levels of material consumption. Subjective well-being sought through other means than material rewards could make an important contribution to sustainability. A wealth of research indicates that mindfulness contributes to subjective well-being by focusing the mind on the here and now, giving rise to stronger empathy and compassion, facilitating clarification of goals and values, and enabling people to avoid the “hedonic treadmill”. There is also a body of research that shows how subjective well-being, empathy, compassion, and non-materialistic/intrinsic values are associated with more sustainable behavior. Based on a review of the literature on these topics, we suggest that promoting mindfulness practice in schools, workplaces and elsewhere could be construed as a policy that pays a “double dividend” in that it could contribute both to more sustainable ways of life and to greater well-being.

C.M. Pfisterer, N. Mischkowski and M. Langer. Source: N. Mischkowski
C.M. Pfisterer, N. Mischkowski and M. Langer. Source: N. Mischkowski

Magdalena Langer, Niklas Mischkowski and Christoph M. Pfisterer | 20.07.2016

How to Become an Effective Change Maker for Sustainability? An Interactive Session About Visions and Success Factors.


20.07.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, D 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 200.


About: The session is based on the results of the 2016 FREIBURG FORUM ON ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE that took place in April at the University of Freiburg. Three students of the international Masters program Environmental Governance will guide participants through a one hour interactive session. Magdalena Langer is engaged in the field of environmental education and global learning. She is interested in community development and non-violent communication. Niklas Mischkowski is passionate about governance from hands-on nature protection to entrepreneurial activism. He is recently working on a sustainable business model paper, if not happily occupied with jazz and folk music. Christoph M. Pfisterer is working as a freelancer in the field of mobility transformations, recently for ICLEI - Local governments for sustainability and The Urban Idea GmbH. His Ashtanga Yoga practice helps him build peace of mind and body.


Session: "The quality of results in any kind of socio-economic system is a function of the awareness that people in the system are operating from“ (Scharmer, 2013). Popular sustainability change makers seem to have abundant energy! A vast pool of resources and awareness allows them to engage and impact society again and again. What are their success factors? The first part of the seminar session reveals insights from change makers from government, NGO, grassroots movements and international politics.

In the second part, we want to explore the deeper dimension of social action: What is the inner place we are operating from to install change towards sustainable societies? What is our vision to do so? These are underlying motives that inherently direct our presence and actions, but tend to be outside the range of our normal observation, attention, and awareness. Using the Presencing approach by MIT professor Otto Scharmer, participants of this seminar session will learn about self-dialogue and engage in exercises.

N. Suchant | Photo: N. Suchant
N. Suchant | Photo: N. Suchant

Noema Suchant | 27.04.2017

„WILDERNESS – Pedagogy: How to CONNECT WITH the (own) NATURE”


Public talk | 27.04.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau | Room 400


 About: Noema Suchant studied international cultural administration (http://www.isw-freiburg.de), after which she received a three-year education as a trainer in wilderness-pedagogy (www.wildniswissen.de). Amongst others, Noema has been working with WWF in nature and wilderness pedagogy, where she organizes and conducts holiday camps. Besides, she leads school trips and pedagogical forest excursions. Currently, Noema supervises also minor refugees in Freiburg, Germany. Noema spend a major part of her childhood ‘out in the woods’.


Talk: During this talk, Noema will introduce the principle views and approaches of wilderness-pedagogy, which aims to establish a deeper communion between humans and nature. Also, Noema will share her experiences gained during extended and wakeful stays in and with nature. That is: Only a few hundred years ago, the so-called wilderness has been our common home. Like ‘primitive people’, hunters and gatherer, we were deeply connected with nature in all aspects of our life and beyond our modern imagination. This intimate connection with nature was an essential foundation for our human success in survival and livelihood. However, along with the successive evolution of our civilization and cultivation we have lost a large proportion of our original, fundamental and intuitive connection with nature. Today, many people still have a positive feeling towards nature. Many, however, use nature exclusively as scenery or playground for leisure and fun activities, while missing the plentiful lessons one can learn from it. If we are wakeful in and connect with nature, this can help us to pass beyond our preconceptions and better understand what plants and animals really are - and how they are. Eventually, this will help us to understand our own lives better, and it will make us aware of our intimate connection with and dependency of nature. This in turn will change our outlook in live towards more respect and care for the natural environment.Overall, the understanding gained from insights into wilderness pedagogy and its environmentally relevant psychological effects can help to inform education, science and politics on their way to achieve the international sustainable development goals. Thus, friends of nature, lectures and educators, multipliers of environmental education and all other people interested to reconnect with nature are all welcome.

S. Bamberg. Photo: S.Bamberg
S. Bamberg. Photo: S.Bamberg

Sebastian Bamberg | 01.03.2017

Environmental psychology and consumer behaviour


Public talk | 01.03.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 100


About: Dr Sebastian Bamberg is professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld, Germany. He is teaching psychology, amongst others with an emphasis on environmental psychology and empirical methods of evaluation of environmental attitudes and consumer behaviour.


 Talk: Meat consumption, heating, showering, and car use – all behaviours with strong environmental impact performed by individuals. One focus of environmental psychology is on exploring and understanding the psycho-social determinants of such behaviours. The hope is that a better understanding of these determinants enables scientists and practitioners to develop more effective intervention promoting a person’s decision for the more environmental friendly behavioural alternative. In this context environmental psychology was and is confronted with a host of challenging questions: Are humans mainly self-interested utility maximizers? Could be an appeal to moral belief effective? How do social and cultural norms influence environmentally relevant decisions? What is the role of automatically activated habits? Meta-analyses summarizing the results of studies empirically analysing these questions are presented as well as the results of experiments evaluating the behavioural effectiveness of intervention strategies systematically derived from these insights. The presentation will also discuss the fundamental question, whether targeting the individual consumer is an effective strategy. Frequently changing infrastructural and/or regulative frame conditions may be the more effective strategy. This idea is reflected by the growing psychological research on environmental collective action targeting the socio-ecological transformation of our societies.

Khenpo Samten | Source: H. Stark
Khenpo Samten | Source: H. Stark

Khenpo Samten | 11.08.2016 - 14.08.2016

Familiarizing with the Mind: A Basis for Sustainable Living


Retreat: 12:00 am 11.08.2016 to 12:00 am 14.08.2016 | Germany | Location: Schauinslandhaus of the University of Freiburg, further information here.


About: Venerable Khenpo Samten lives in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and teaches authentic meditation according to the Tibetan Vajrayana Tradition. Khenpo Samten finished a professional education in banking before he decided to devote his entire life to the study and practice of Buddhist meditation. During his education and training he spent six years with his teacher Khenpo Ramesh Negi Rinpoche in Northern India and Nepal.


Retreat: On our way towards a sustainable world society we need change or transformation both at the individual level and at the level of our society. But where can this change start? From within our minds. And how can this change start? By familiarizing with our minds. "Familiarizing with the mind" here means to become aware of the subconscious and self-made habitual concepts and believes, which determine our way of living, our perspectives, our efforts, our thinking, our ethics, our values and thus our relation to the environment. "Familiarizing with the mind" also means to become aware of our innermost wish for well-being, which we share with all living sentient beings and which is our principle yet often subconscious motivation for action. By establishing this kind of awareness and understanding, we naturally redefine our view or outlook in life, and along with it our motivations, priorities and efforts to take action for the benefit of our own lives, the society and the environment. Therefore, familiarity with the mind is exactly the quality where the inner dimension and outer dimension of sustainability meet.

 One way to familiarize with the mind is meditation, which comprises a set of rather simple methods of mind training. There are methods to pacify the mind and there are methods to understand the sources and nature of our feelings, emotions, thoughts and believes that determined our lives. Along with that Khenpo Samten will introduce some fundamental understandings or views, which arise when observing the mind: interdependence, impermanence and compassion. Together, these practices can help towards more inner clarity, contentment, solidarity and also intimacy with the environment. Together, view, meditation and conduct are the basis for change, wellbeing and sustainable living.

 These teachings are basically free from religious thoughts and should therefore be accessible to any interested person. We will have several meditation classes per day. In the mean time we can relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery of the Black Forest and make time for individual or group reflections. We will be served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Costs: Meditation teachings are free of charge. However, we will have to pay for food and accommodation. Students will receive a discount, with prices for dorm rooms at € 112.20 for accomodation for 3 nights, including breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a course fee to cover Khenpo Samtens accomodation (€ 20). Regular prices for dorms are € 156.10 and € 166.10 for single or double rooms (only few available). Any donations to contribute to Khenpo Samten's travel expenses or his work in general are welcome. Maximum 20 participants. If you wish to attend this retreat, please send us your definite application here. We will get back to you as soon as possible. The retreat will be held in English, but translation into German is possible on request.

Armin Lude | Source: Milan Lude
Armin Lude | Source: Milan Lude

Armin Lude | 9.11.2016

Educational pathways to education for sustainable development


Public talk | 09.11.2016 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau | Room 200.


About: Prof. Armin Lude is a professor for biology and education at Ludwigsburg University of Education ( www.ph-ludwigsburg.de/wp/lude/). His work and research focusses mainly on innovative approaches to environmental education and education for sustainable development (ESD; see www.biodiv2go.de) and practice handbooks such as „Nachhaltigkeit erleben“, „Wildnisbildung“ and „Startkapital Natur“.


Talk: Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) delivers the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary for people to contribute to the creation of a sustainable society. For this, key issues of sustainability challanges such as climate change, biodiversity and consumption are actively integrated into teaching and learning. Education for Sustainable Development should also involve participatory teaching to motivate and empower learners to actively change their behaviour and take action for sustainable living. This talk will start with a brief history of different understandings of sustainability as a common basis for understanding and teaching Education for Sustainable Development. Thereafter, different available teaching approaches will be introduced and it will be pointed out how they intent to rise interest and motivation for sustainability behaviour within learners. Also, the practical implementation of Education for Sustainable Development and possible obstacles are discussed. Eventually, several examples of innovative practical ESD approaches are introduced, including simulation games, role plays and smartphone approaches.

K. Singh, Source: K. Singh
K. Singh, Source: K. Singh

Khushwant Singh | 18.01.2017 | 4pm

Voices from Religions on Sustainable Development


Public talk | NEW DATE: 18.01.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400.


About: Khushwant Singh was born in India and has been living in Germany since his childhood. He studied Ethnology, Educational Sciences and Social Anthropology with a focus on migration, intercultural issues and religion. Singh finished his M.A. in Heidelberg and M.Res. in London both with distinction. Since 2006 he has been working for German development cooperation in various positions. He was programme coordinator on international migration and know-how transfer, and then worked for the federal welcome initiative "Make it in Germany". Currently, he is an advisor on religion and development. In addition to his professional activities, Singh volunteers as the president of the Council of Religions Frankfurt and is one of the founding members. The council fosters dialogue between religions, political representatives and society as a whole, and is the largest interfaith body in Germany, bringing together delegates of nine religions. Additionally, Singh publishes articles on the Sikh Religion/Gurmat with a focus on spirituality, ethics, behavioral change, sustainability and the global challenges we face today.


Talk: In his talk, Khushwant Singh will present key findings of the book "Voices from Religions on Sustainable Development", published by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The idea for this book took shape during UN consultations on development and faith in July 2015 in New York. Since religion is sometimes seen as a hindrance to development and peace, the book project aimed to demonstrate that religion can be part of the solution to the global challenges we face. It brings together the multifaceted wisdom of religions and indigenous traditions on sustainable development. More than 25 inspiring followers, theologians, practitioners and academics from the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Indigenous traditions, Islam, Judaism, and the Sikh Religion share their spiritual and religious insights on the five dimensions of the new Agenda 2030: Planet, People, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. Without claiming any form of representative authority, their contributions increase our knowledge of religions and describe how religious actors promote development. The book demonstrates that common spiritual values are at the heart of all religious and indigenous traditions – and that bringing these virtues to life can contribute to overcoming environmental destruction, poverty, forced migration, corruption, terror, discrimination and injustice. Further information: www.giz.de/Werte-und-Religion | www.partner-religion-development.org

Matthias Braeunig. source: M. Braeunig.
Matthias Braeunig. source: M. Braeunig.

Matthias Braeunig | 24.05.2017

A Cybernetic Approach to 'the Environment'


Public talk | 24.05.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400


About: Matthias Braeunig (Dipl. Phys) has trained as physicist and graduated from the Free University Berlin. He currently works as researcher and co-organizer of teachers' coaching groups, a federal health promotion program for school teachers, at the Department for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the Medical Center of the University of Freiburg. In the 1990s he founded the Atelier für "ökologische Bildung" for the further development of "InnerEcology".


 Talk: Cybernetics is a general theory of circular causal and feedback systems, with broad applications ranging from the natural sciences and the humanities, from ecology to economics and the social sciences. It's vision has inspired many modern schools of thought to reach beyond materialistic and objectivist notions of reality. According to cybernetics the environment is an indeterminate space of possibility in which we can act under certain constraints: Its objects are created as dynamic patterns of perceptions and fitting behaviors, in constant co-evolution with the observer. In this light, sustainability is not just a question of how we deal with natural resources, but entails a more fundamental challenge, to re-consider our role as observer or user of 'the environment'. This talk will explore the view of circularity and its application to an ecology of the mind.

Minh Tam Luong and Sarah Gouda | 17.05.2017

What can mindfulness offer modern schools? A mixed-methods study on the effects of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention in school settings


Public talk | 17.05.2017 | 16:00 - 17:30 | Uni Freiburg | Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany | Herderbau, Room 400


About: Minh Tam Luong and Sarah Gouda are psychologists and researchers at the University Medical Center in Freiburg who are keenly interested in the benefits and applications of mindfulness meditation, a meditation tradition that has its origins in Buddhist philosophy and practice. As part of their PhD studies, they have been involved with a project that delivered a secular mindfulness-based intervention to students and teachers at three individual schools throughout the past four years. The project was part of the larger Collaborative Research Center 1015 ‘Otium/Leisure: Concepts, Spaces, Figures’, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).


Talk: The long forgotten etymology of the word “school” can be traced back to the ancient Greek “scholé”, which refers to a state wherein one is liberated from all pressures and free to pursue self-determined, fulfilling interests and activities. This inspiring origin notwithstanding, modern schools are often a major stress source for students and teachers alike. Amidst pressure to perform and an ever mounting emphasis on achievement and efficiency, the present project introduced a school embedded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course spanning eight weeks, as a way to decelerate, de-stress and enrich the daily lives of teachers and students. In a mixed-method, controlled waitlist approach, the effects and processes induced by this intervention among 73 students (grade 11) and 90 teachers were explored and critically evaluated. Aside from promising benefits in areas of mental health and social-emotional competencies, findings include central implications for the limits of embedded mindfulness-based interventions and implementational considerations. In this talk, we will present the rationale, components and impact of the project and share our findings and conclusions about the potential benefits that both individuals as well as the larger educational context may derive from a more mindful attitude and climate. We hope to interactively debate implications of the presented results, including possible consequences for a more conscious, environmentally sustainable attitude.