Twin events are headed to town to take place at Telluride’s Palm Theater and the historic Sheridan Opera House from July 18 – 22: The Telluride Institute’s Compassion Festival, “No Place like Home” and “The Science of Compassion,” a joint venture between the Institute and Stanford University’s  Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, (CCARE) Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, (CCARE) This year marks the third time the Telluride Institute and CCARE have partnered up to bring the science and practice of compassion to Telluride.

According to Wikipedia, a major Buddhist story tells of  the bodhisattva, Avalokiteśvara, who vowed never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from samsara. Despite strenuous effort, he realized that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of the masses, his head split into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing  Avalokiteśvara’s plight, gave him eleven heads, all the better to hear the cries of the suffering. Avalokiteśvara attempted to reach out to all those who need his aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha Buddha came to his aid, investing him with a thousand arms with which to better aid the suffering multitudes. Avalokiteśvara thus became the Buddha of Compassion.

Although we all stumble along in life with just one head and two arms, we can still make compassion/empathy/loving kindness a guiding force in how we live our lives.

“Compassion: No Place like Home” is a one and a half-day event which precedes  the conference, the largest gathering ever of like-minded scientists and others studying the mind/body relationship of compassionate living.

The festival brings together local decision makers, scientists, and native American leaders, opening with
a blessing by Blackfoot/Cree Elder Lorain Fox Davis and a keynote speech by Emiliana Simon-Thomas on Wednesday, July 18, at 8 pm, at the Sheridan Opera House.

Emiliana dazzled us last year with her clear insights as to how we are actually wired for compassionate actions. She is a scientist with a PhD, now the director of the Greater Good Science Center, Berkeley, CA, where she continues to study the underpinnings of positive and pro-social states such as compassion, as well as related acts of altruism. Her enthusiasm coupled with her ability to bring very complex scientific findings down to every day situations make for entertaining and inspiring listening.

Commissioner Art Goodtimes kicks off the next day, July 19 with a bang, performing the “Smokey the Bear Sutra.” If you haven’t heard Art work his magic, this is your chance. The morning is then devoted to several highly acclaimed scientists, who provide insights into their most recent research and how we can “bring compassion home.”

Lunch hour is filled with tasty lunch discussions, from “Feeding your Demons” with Debra Quayle-Travis from Tarmandala Center in Pagosa Springs to “Teaching Compassion in Schools” with Chuck Fisher and “Sand-painting,” with Dine medicine man Damien Jones, and more.

In the afternoon, Sheriff Bill Masters, representing the law and law enforcement, Elaine Fischer, long-time county commissioner, Pam Kircher, a doctor, hospice worker, and a Tai Chi practitioner from Durango join an environmentalist and an educator to discuss with us, the audience, how compassion affects their work and all of us, all the time. “How can we get better at compassion?” could well be the central question.

A very special treat tops off the day’s events: Cliff Saron, PhD, the fascinating keynote speaker from last year, and his wife Barbara Bogatin, cellist with the San Francisco Symphony, indulge us with “Tuning Your Instrument, the Buddha, the Brain and Bach.” Hold on to your seats.

Tickets for the Festival, plus a lot more information, can be obtained at, if you want to sign up to volunteer please send an e-mail to

Lastly, for a taste of last year’s festival, please check out the teaser on YouTube:

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