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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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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Elizabeth Gilbert faced down a premidlife crisis by doing what we all secretly dream of – running off for a year to find herself. She got more than she bargained for: she found herself, found love and got committed. Her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia resulted in the megabestselling and deeply beloved memoir Eat, Pray, Love, about her process of finding herself by leaving home. Eat, Pray, Love has spent over 200 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, is published in more than thirty languages and has sold over seven million copies. Her latest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, a somewhat sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, is also a New York Times Best Seller and is a meditation and contemplation of the institution of marriage from a multitude of historical and modern perspectives. It also chronicles how she made peace with marrying again. Gilbert also owns and runs the import shop Two Buttons in Frenchtown, New Jersey. WHY ATTEND: Learn why creative minds and suffering don't have to be linked. Learn how to still live a fulfilled life even if your great success is behind you. Learn a different way to think about creative genius. Learn about the meaning of marriage & relationships in the 21st century. Learn what it means to be a man; how they want to be seen. "Elizabeth Gilbert is everything you would love in a tour guide, of magical places she has traveled to both deep inside and across the oceans: she's wise, jaunty, human, ethereal, hilarious, heartbreaking, and God, does she pay great attention to the things that really matter." - Anne Lamott
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Everyone is born with an open heart, but we quickly learn to put conditions on our happiness—comparing ourselves to others, casting judgement, doubting ourselves, allowing fear or entitlement or self-righteousness to take hold—and slowly our hearts begin to close. We isolate ourselves, feeling alone, disconnected, and unheard; and in doing so we immobilize our spirit, stifle our authentic expression, and cut off our joy. "Life blossoms when we have the courage to not only accept but also learn from our mistakes and sorrows." Excerpt from Unbinding The Heart by Agapi Stassinopoulos "Every single person has a story that holds the truth of their heart, and those stories need to be heard. We need to tell our stories as much as we need to listen to others. And that is how our hearts unbind - with the simple message You matter. My heart hears yours. How would your life be if you lived with a heart fully open and free and you knew that your story mattered?" Excerpt from Trusting the Currents by Lynnda Pollio "My life as a busy New Yorker abruptly changed when I unexpectedly heard the mystical, elderly voice of Addie Mae Aubrey, a Southern, African American woman. Her first words, "It's not what happened to me that matters," began a spirited remembering of her teenage years in the late 1930s rural south and the hard learned wisdom Addie Mae asked me to share. As women from different times and different places, together we embarked on an uncommon journey that changed everything we would both become." Two different stories from two different women, yet delivering the same underlying message...You matter. Unbinding the Heart and Trusting the Currents reveal wise words about relationships, mothers and daughters, life and love and having an unshakable trust in the life you are living...and doing it all with a wide open heart. "No matter how dark or evil something seems, light and kindness and beauty can rise from it." - Lynnda Pollio
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In 2000, Janice Marturano a Fortune 200 senior executive, was tackling a major acquisition in a multi-billion dollar deal, juggling an overwhelming workload, an active family life, and at the same time was experiencing personal grief with the death of her parents. Overworked and overextended, Marturano was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Prodded by a friend to take some time off, she attended a meditation retreat. What she learned there would change the course of her career and her life. Janice shares the lessons in her new book, Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership, on how incorporating mindfulness principles in her daily life made her feel more focused at work and fully present at home. Mindfulness made such a positive impact in Janice's life and work, she begun sharing her training with fellow executives who rapidly saw its benefits and spread it through the company and beyond. Years of neuroscience research have shown the efficacy of mindfulness training, and Marturano’s own surveys of executives have proved its practical value. Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership is specifically geared to practicing mindful leadership in the workplace. This guide will help you better manage your calendars, meetings, to-do lists, strategic planning, and the interpersonal challenges of the workplace by offering specific exercises to face real-world situations in a mindful way. Whether you are leading a company, a team, a class, or a family this conversation will help you figure out how you can lead your lives with excellence. You will learn about the four attributes of a mindful leader: Clarity Focus Creativity Compassion "Janice Marturano is a widely-admired executive and a leader in a movement that is changing the shape of oour world through mindfulness and emotional intelligence. With this insightful book, leads of all shapes and sizes will not only become much more effective in every way, they will become happier." – Chade-Meng Tan, Google's Jolly Good Fellow and bestselling author of Search Inside Yourself
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Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 270 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began to wonder why vampires have such traction in our society. Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? This interest led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet which she pens in her latest book, Vampires Are Us: Understanding our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side. She discovered that in a culture that does not do death particularly well, we are obsessed with mortality. Adler writes, "Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived." She further writes "vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury". What does one value more and what does one value less with a short human life? Is the vampire's frozen 'life' sterile? Does life only mean something when it is part of a cycle of birth, growth, decay, death and the birth of new life? "Every society creates the vampire it needs," wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Adler's book explores how vampires have existed in cultures throughout history and how our obsession has continued to grow. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease seeping in through England's large ports. Dracula, an Eastern European monster was the perfect vehicle for those fears. But who are the vampires we need now? In the last four decades, going back to Dark Shadows, we have created a very different vampire: the conflicted, struggling-to-be-moral-despite-being-predators vampire. Spike and Angel, Stefan and Damon, Bill and Eric, the Cullens who are all struggling to be moral despite being predators, as are we. Perhaps our blood is oil, perhaps our prey is the planet. Perhaps vampires are us. "Every society creates the vampire it needs." - Nina Auerbach
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After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Nightline anchor, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes in his life. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out. We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in – but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness. He shares this journey in his new book: 10% HAPPIER: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story. 10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves us with a takeaway that could actually change our lives. “A compelling honest, delightfully interesting, and at times heartwarming story of one highly intelligent man’s life-changing journey toward a deeper understanding of what makes us our very best selves.” – Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself  
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