Rank #1: Brené Brown — Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart
“When we’re our best selves with each other, I don’t think that’s what’s possible between people; I believe that’s what’s true between people.” A wise thinker and writer, and a sought out teacher by leaders in many fields, Brené Brown is turning her attention ever more to how we walked into the crisis of our life together and how we can move beyond it. Our belonging to one another across every social divide, she says, can never be lost. But it can be forgotten.
Feb 08 2018
Rank #2: Martin Sheen — Spirituality of Imagination
The renowned actor as you’ve never heard him before. He has appeared in over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now. He’s best known on television as President Bartlet in The West Wing. But Martin Sheen, born and still legally named Ramón Estévez, has had another lesser-known life as a spiritual seeker and activist. He returned to a deep and joyful Catholic faith after a crisis at the height of his fame in mid-life. He’s been arrested over 60 times in vigils and protests. “Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”
Jun 22 2017
Rank #3: Bessel van der Kolk — How Trauma Lodges in the Body
Human memory is a sensory experience, says psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through his longtime research and innovation in trauma treatment, he shares what he’s learning about how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety. What he’s learning speaks to a resilience we can all cultivate in the face of the overwhelming events — which, after all, make up the drama of culture, of news, and of life.
Mar 09 2017
Rank #4: Paulo Coelho — The Alchemy of Pilgrimage
The Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho is best known for his book “The Alchemist” — which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 400 weeks. His fable-like stories turn life, love, writing, and reading into pilgrimage. In a rare conversation, we meet the man behind the writings and explore what he’s touched in modern people.
Aug 04 2016
Rank #5: The Soul in Depression
We’re fluent in the languages of psychology and medication, but the word “depression” does not do justice to this human experience. Depression is also spiritual territory. It is a shadow side of human vitality and as such teaches us about vitality. And what if depression is possible for the same reason that love is possible?
Mar 22 2018
Rank #6: James Martin — Finding God in All Things
Before Pope Francis, James Martin was perhaps the best-loved Jesuit in American life. He’s followed the calling of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, to “find God in all things” — and in 21st-century forms. To delve into Fr. Martin’s way of being in the world is to discover the “spiritual exercises” St. Ignatius designed to be accessible to everyone more than six centuries ago. Also his thoughts on the “un-taming” Christmas.
Dec 01 2016
Rank #7: David Isay — Listening as an Act of Love
“The soul is contained in the human voice,” says David Isay, founder of StoryCorps. He sees the StoryCorps booth — a setting where two people ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask each other — as a sacred space. He shares his wisdom about listening as an act of love, and how eliciting and capturing our stories is a way of insisting that every life matters.
May 12 2016
Rank #8: Louis Newman — The Refreshing Practice of Repentance
The High Holy Days create an annual ritual of repentance, both individual and collective. Louis Newman, who has explored repentance as an ethicist and a person in recovery, opens this up as a refreshing practice for every life, even beyond the lifetime of those to whom we would make amends.
Sep 17 2015
Rank #9: This Is Your Brain on Sex
Anthropologist Helen Fisher explores the biological workings of our intimate passions, the brew of chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters that make the thrilling and sometimes treacherous realms of love and sex. In the research she does for match.com and her TED Talks that have been viewed by millions of people, she wields science as an entertaining, if sobering, lens on what feel like the most meaningful encounters of our lives. In this deeply personal conversation, she shows how it is possible to take on this knowledge as a form of wisdom and power.
Apr 05 2018
Rank #10: Ellen Langer — Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness
Her unconventional studies have long suggested what neuroscience is now revealing: Our experiences are formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. Naming something play rather than work — or exercise rather than labor — can mean the difference between delight and drudgery, fatigue or weight loss. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery, but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are in control. Ellen Langer says mindfulness is achievable without meditation or yoga. She defines it as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”
Nov 02 2017
Rank #11: Adam Grant — Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work
The organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who many know from his New York Times columns, describes three orientations of which we are all capable: the givers, the takers, and the matchers. These influence whether organizations are joyful or toxic for human beings. His studies are dispelling a conventional wisdom that selfish takers are the most likely to succeed professionally. And he is wise about practicing generosity in organizational life — what he calls making “microloans of our knowledge, our skills, our connections to other people” — in a way that is transformative for others, ourselves, and our places of work.
Oct 22 2015
Rank #12: Elizabeth Gilbert — Choosing Curiosity Over Fear
Her name is synonymous with her fantastically best-selling memoir “Eat Pray Love.” But through the disorienting process of becoming a celebrity, Elizabeth Gilbert has also reflected deeply on the gift and challenge of inhabiting a creative life. Creativity, as she defines it, is about choosing curiosity over fear — not to be confused with the more familiar trope to “follow your passion,” but rather as something accessible to us all and good for our life together.
May 24 2018
Rank #13: Esther Perel — The Erotic Is an Antidote to Death
Therapist Esther Perel has changed our discourse about sexuality and coupledom with her TED talks, books, and singular podcast, “Where Should We Begin?”, in which listeners are invited into emotionally raw therapy sessions she conducts with couples she’s never met before. For Perel, eroticism is a key ingredient to life — and it’s more than just a description of sexuality. “It is about how people connect to this quality of aliveness, of vibrancy, of vitality, of renewal,” she says. “It is actually a spiritual, mystical experience of life.”
Esther Perel has a private couples and family therapy practice in New York. She is executive producer and host of the podcast “Where Should We Begin?” She has also given two TED talks and is the author of the books “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” and “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.”
Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
Jul 11 2019
Rank #14: America Ferrera and John Paul Lederach — The Ingredients of Social Courage
“Our discomfort and our grappling is not a sign of failure,” America Ferrera says, “it’s a sign that we’re living at the edge of our imaginations.” She is a culture-shifting actor and artist. John Paul Lederach is one of our greatest living architects of social transformation. From the inaugural On Being Gathering, a revelatory, joyous exploration of the ingredients of social courage and how change really happens in generational time.
John Paul Lederach is a senior fellow at Humanity United and professor emeritus of international peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. He is also the co-founder and first director of the Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. In 2019 he won the Niwano Peace Foundation Peace Prize.
America Ferrera is an Emmy Award-winning actor and producer. She’s known for the movies Real Women Have Curves and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and for the TV series Ugly Betty. She also stars in and co-produces the current NBC series Superstore. She’s the co-founder of Harness, a grassroots organization for social healing.
Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org. This interview originally aired in June 2018.
Oct 24 2019
Rank #15: Gordon Hempton — Silence and the Presence of Everything
Silence is an endangered species, says Gordon Hempton. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.
Dec 29 2016
Rank #16: Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists
Alain de Botton is a philosopher who likes the best of religion, but doesn’t believe in God. He says that the most boring question you can ask of any religion is whether it is true. But how to live, how to die, what is good, and what is bad — these are questions religion has sophisticated ways of addressing. So he’s created The School of Life — where people young and old explore ritual, community, beauty, and wisdom. He explains why these ideas shouldn’t be reserved just for believers.
Sep 29 2016
Rank #17: Abraham Verghese and Denise Pope — How Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Today young people are trying to balance the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?” with the question of “Who and how do I want to be in the world?” Physician and writer Abraham Verghese and education researcher Denise Pope argue that’s because the way we educate for success doesn’t support the creation of full, well-rounded humans. And they see the next generation challenging our cultural view of success by insisting that a deeply satisfying life is one filled with presence, vulnerability, and care for others.
Abraham Verghese is a professor of medicine, vice chair of the Department of Medicine, and Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor at Stanford University. His books of fiction and non-fiction include “My Own Country,” “The Tennis Partner,” and the novel “Cutting for Stone.” He received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2016.
Denise Pope is a senior lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education and the co-founder of the non-profit organization Challenge Success. She’s the author of “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students;” and a co-author of “Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.”
Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
May 23 2019
Rank #18: Thich Nhat Hanh, Cheri Maples, and Larry Ward — Being Peace in a World of Trauma
The Vietnamese Zen master, whom Martin Luther King nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, is a voice of power and wisdom in this time of tumult in the world. We visited Thich Nhat Hanh at a retreat attended by police officers and other members of the criminal justice system; they offer stark gentle wisdom for finding buoyancy and “being peace” in a world of conflict, anger, and violence.
Jul 14 2016
Rank #19: Jonathan Sacks — The Dignity of Difference
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and one of the world’s deep thinkers on religion in our age. He’s just released a new book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.” In this intimate conversation with Krista, he speaks about how Jewish and other religious ideas can inform modern challenges. Rabbi Sacks says that the faithful can and must cultivate their own deepest truths — while finding God in the face of the stranger and the religious other.
Oct 29 2015
Rank #20: Mary Oliver — Listening to the World
Mary Oliver was one of our greatest and most beloved poets. She is often quoted by people across ages and backgrounds — and it’s fitting, since she described poetry as a sacred community ritual. “When you write a poem, you write it for anybody and everybody,” she said. Mary died on January 17, 2019, at the age of 83. She was a prolific and decorated poet, whose honors included the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In this 2015 conversation — one of the rare interviews she granted during her lifetime — she discussed the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.
Mary Oliver published over 25 books of poetry and prose, including Dream Work, A Thousand Mornings, and A Poetry Handbook. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for her book American Primitive. Her final work, Devotions, is a curated collection of poetry from her more than 50-year career.
Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
Jan 17 2019