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Practices to Awaken Your Compassion

Dr. Willa Blythe Baker + Dr. Jennifer Mascaro

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
6:30 PM–7:30 PM

What is compassion? In Buddhist sources compassion is often expressed as the wish that living beings may be free from suffering and its causes—a key to the meaning of life itself. We may think of compassion as a state of mind, but from the Buddhist and scientific perspectives, compassion is a state of the body that needs to be activated. Join Dr. Willa Blythe Baker and Dr. Jenny Mascaro in conversation as they investigate what happens in our brains, minds and bodies when compassion unfolds, and provide you tools in how to cultivate compassion as a way of being fully awake to the world.

About the Speakers

Willa Blythe Baker, PhD, is the founder and spiritual director of Natural Dharma Fellowship in Boston, MA, and its retreat center, Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, in Springfield, NH. She was authorized as a dharma teacher and lineage holder in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism after 12 years of monastic training and two consecutive three-year retreats. She has also practiced in the Shangpa and Nyingma lineages. She is editor, author, and translator (respectively) of three books: The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work (2012), Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You (2009), and Essence of Ambrosia (2005). Her articles and translations have appeared in Lion’s Roar, Buddhadharma, the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, the Tibet Journal, and other periodicals. In 2013 Baker completed a doctorate at Harvard University, and she was a visiting lecturer in Buddhist ministry from 2013 to 2017. At present, Willa writes, teaches, guides meditation retreats, and develops curriculum for lay Buddhists interested in cultivating a deep meditation practice in daily life. Her teaching interests include embodied mindfulness, non-dual awareness, and compassion.

Dr. Jennifer Mascaro holds a PhD in biological anthropology from Emory University. Her doctoral work examined the impact of compassion meditation on social cognition and brain function, and her postdoctoral work investigated the biological bases of paternal caregiving behavior. Dr. Mascaro’s current research program examines interventions that enhance social connectivity, and in so doing, impact health. Ongoing projects include longitudinal investigations of compassion and mindfulness meditation training for diverse populations including Emory Healthcare employees, medical and physician assistant students, patients with chronic pain, and veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

About Brainwave 2021: Awareness

In our hyperconnected world it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and distracted. This may seem like a modern problem, but the earliest Buddhist teachings sought to help followers awaken from similar states of disconnection. From the Buddhist perspective, the first step to awakening is cultivating awareness.

Through the lens of neuroscience and psychology, the Rubin Museum’s 2021 Brainwave program series will explore awareness with speakers from different walks of life and experiment with tools to reconnect with ourselves, our surroundings, and our communities. Pay what you wish to attend any of this year’s programs.

Lead support for Brainwave is provided by Science Sandbox, an initiative of Simons Foundation, and by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Major support is provided by Gerry Ohrstrom with program support provided by Cheryl Henson.


Suggested Ticket Price: $15

Pay what you wish to attend this program. A generous ticket purchase shows your support of the Museum and helps us develop future offerings

Find the Zoom link to connect to the program in your confirmation email. View our Frequently Asked Questions for more information or contact our Box Office at for assistance.