The Academi of Life regularly invites inspirational thought-leaders to share their wisdoms in enlightening Evenings in Conversation. These conversations touch on a range of life lessons, from neuroscience and spirituality, money and morality, commitment, happiness, and much more. Here, everyone has something to teach as well as learn- it’s all a part of conversation.

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Every person has a family member who is either: Mentally ill Autistic Deaf Transgendered Disabled Down's Syndrome A Criminal A Dwarf A Prodigy Conceived from rape "It's the family secret that everybody shares," says award-winning writer Andrew Solomon. No one has thought or written more about the dignity and worth of all human beings than Solomon. He spent eleven years interviewing hundreds of families, exploring how they grew stronger or fell apart while coping with raising children who were profoundly different. He wanted to understand and share how parents deal with raising a child who isn't what they expected him or her to be. What he discovered is revealed in twelve astonishingly acute, riveting and compassionate chapters of his latest book, Far From the Tree. In it, Solomon shares stories of children who have been heartbreakingly tragic victims of intense prejudices - and also stories of parents who have embraced their children's differences and tried to alter the world's understanding of their conditions. Solomon is a man who understands and has had experience with mental illness and depression and as a gay man, knows a bit about being rejected because you are 'different'. This phenomenally brilliant writer and master storyteller will help us understand the dignity and worth of all individuals, the unconditional love of parents for their children, and the desire for all humans to be valued as individuals. He will teach us how to love the people in our lives who are different -- no matter what! This conversation and fund-raising event is on Veterans Day. This day was chosen to also highlight and discuss the mental well-being of veterans returning from war. Across the country, nearly 60 million American live with mental illness and each day over 23 veterans commit suicide. These statistics are frightening and "sadly underscore the urgent need for a sustained, national effort to ensure all our vets get the care and support they deserve," says Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. A charitable donation will be made to Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America and National Alliance on Mental Illness from proceeds from the event. "People don't talk about mental health issues or mental illness because of the shame and brokenness surrounding the topic" - Rebecca Thiegs
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Addiction is an epidemic that's affecting all layers of American society. More than 100 people die from overdoses every day -- it's the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. -- more than traffic fatalities. Every family in America is impacted by this but do we truly understand the nature of this epidemic and the profile of drug users? We hold many stereotypes about what drug addiction is like, and what the users are like. Addiction can exist in people's lives that are very accomplished and very educated. The stereotypes usually don't match reality. Dr. Carl Hart, an Associate Professor in the departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University has written a book, High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, based on 22 years of research as a groundbreaking neuropsychopharmacologist about the science of drug addiction. He asks us to get our facts right about drugs and drug use and believes that dispelling some of the myths and stereotypes, may help us effectively fight our drug problems through re-education and effective drug policies. Did you know that: More than 20 million Americans use illegal drugs regularly 85% of drug users are not addicted Around half of all people with drug addictions are employed full time A huge proportion of people having difficulties with prescription drugs are women "Much of what we are doing in terms of drug education, treatment, and public policy is inconsistent with scientific data." – Dr. Carl Hart
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"Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness -- shut down one by one. An astonishing story." Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist. Her brother’s brain disorder and schizophrenia led Dr. Taylor to dedicate her career to studying severe mental illnesses. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. Dr. Taylor gave a presentation at the TED Conference, which has been watched by over ten million and has become the most viewed TED Talk to date. She was chosen as one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Dr. Taylor was the premiere guest on Oprah's Soul Series webcast and was interviewed by Oprah and Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She's now an artist as well as a scientist, creating anatomically correct stained-glass replicas of brains that are sold as fine art and also travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the "Singin' Scientist.” Dr. Taylor is an adjunct lecturer at the Indiana University School of Medicine. why attend: Learn how to get your brain to do what you want it to do. Learn who is who inside of you. Learn to access the right brain and improve the quality of your life. Learn new tools for your own personal empowerment. Experience a powerful story of the resilience of the human spirit. "How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career." - Jill Bolte Taylor
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Is there life after death? As ancient as time itself, the idea of an afterlife remains at the core of most religions and belief systems, as humans have sought to find meaning and purpose in their existence on this earth-if any at all. Yet, as the world advances and people become increasingly dependent on science and technology, this question has been further argued and debated, as the rationality of scientific theory seems to disprove the very existence of the supernatural realm. So the age old question remains: Is there life beyond our physical existence? And if so, is it possible to reconcile this "ancient" belief in an afterlife and the supernatural, with belief in the powers of science and medicine? According to Dr. Eben Alexander, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. Dr. Eben Alexander, a renowned neurosurgeon and former near-death experience skeptic, has examined these questions and more in his New York Times bestselling autobiography Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. In the book, Dr. Alexander captivates the reader with a real life account of his miraculous recovery from an inexplicable brain infection, and his even more astounding odyssey deep into the spiritual realm during the week that he spent comatose. This experience seems to defy medical explanation, but Dr. Alexander, who has spent the last two and half years reconciling his rich spiritual experience with his knowledge of modern science, will explore how his journey is remarkably consistent with contemporary scientific understanding. His story offers a crucial key to the understanding of reality and human consciousness and it will have a major effect on how we view spirituality, soul and the non-material realm. He will explain why the symbiotic relationship between science and spirituality is necessary for true health. Through this discussion, we will learn how to probe deeply into our consciousness, so that we can have the power to transcend the limitations of this physical-material realm. "This powerful story would be remarkable regardless of who went through the experience. That it happened to Dr. Alexander, a leading neurosurgeon, makes it revolutionary."
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