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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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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Jeff Madrick has written a compelling book: Age of Greed a Publishers Weekly Top Ten pick for Spring 2011. Jeff Madrick makes clear in a narrative at once sweeping, fast-paced, and incisive, that the single-minded pursuit of huge personal wealth has been on the rise in the United States since the 1970s, led by a few individuals who have argued that self-interest guides society more effectively than community concerns. These stewards of American capitalism have insisted on the central and essential place of accumulated wealth through the booms, busts, and recessions of the last half century, giving rise to our current woes. Intense economic inequity and instability is the story of our age, and Jeff Madrick tells it with style, clarity, and an unerring command of his subject. What’s different about the book, is that unlike other recent treatments of the financial crisis, it traces the origins of the problem not to the Bush or Clinton or even Reagan years, but all the way to the late 1960s. The real scandal revealed by Madrick’s important book is not the well-known tales of dastards such as telecom analyst Jack Grubman or Internet stock promoter Frank Quattrone, but the more elusive and more consequential story of how the government came to abdicate this supreme responsibility.’ 'The Age of Greed is a fascinating and deeply disturbing tale of hypocrisy, corruption, and insatiable greed. But more than that, it’s a much-needed reminder of just how we got into the mess we’re in—a reminder that is greatly needed when we are still being told that greed is good'. - Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, The New York Review of Books "I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy." - Warren Buffett
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America is on the verge of losing yet another natural resource. In about ten years, three-quarters of American oldest generation will be gone. They will take with them lessons learned about living through illness, failure, poverty, loss and danger…and more basic things like lessons learned about work, love, parenting and growing old. Dr. Karl A. Pillemer, a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, created the Life Lessons Project in 2004, as a way of collecting practical advice from America’s elders. He knew that for the first time in history we humans have access to the accumulated wisdom of vast numbers of older people. Pillemer, spent five years interviewing hundreds of elderly Americans, and found himself startled by their candor, their insights, and yes, their wisdom. He has summarized their thoughts in a book titled, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. Their advice ranged from: How to be happy on a day-to-day basis The secrets to a successful marriage Tips on raising children Ways to have a fulfilling career Strategies for dealing with illness and loss The importance of long-term care How to grow old fearlessly and well His book has been getting a lot of buzz since released…it has hit a nerve! It’s been written and talked about on: CNN, PBS, Huffington Post, New York Times, The Daily Beast, Tampa Bay Times, Psychology Today, Blog Talk Radio and more. "My grandmother would strongly agree with much of the collected wisdom, particularly the adage that happiness is a choice and that a practice of gratitude is intrinsic to being happy. I can't wait to read the book!" -Chelsea Clinton
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