Compassion will be at the center of the in-person downtown lecture series

By Lori Harwood, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences


Directory Downtown Lecture Series, hosted by the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will return to an in-person format in October, having held virtually last year.

This year’s series speakers will address the topic of compassion from four approaches: spirituality and mindfulness; psychology and cognitive sciences; social conflict and public opinion; and racial justice and transformation.

Entitled “Compassion: A Tool for Human Understanding and Liberation”, the series will be held every Wednesday from October at 6 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theater, 17 W. Congress St.

Participants can Sign up online for free tickets. The Fox Tucson Theater requires all attendees to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of attendance. Masks are mandatory. Discussions will also be streamed live for those unable to attend in person, with live stream links available on the conference series website.

This is the ninth year of the popular Downtown Lecture Series. The previous years have focused on happiness, food, immortality, privacy, truth and confidence in the world stage, music, animals and the power of women.

Leslie Langbert

Leslie Langbert

“We are delighted to be able to bring the show back to its usual home at the Fox Tucson Theater after holding the show online last year due to the pandemic,” said John Paul Jones III, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We hope people will leave these discussions with additional information about the complexity of compassion and the ways it can be cultivated to help our own well-being and create a more just world.”

The Downtown Lecture Series is sponsored by the Stonewall Foundation Fund; Holualoa companies; TMC health care; Barbara Starrett and Jo Ann Ellison; Rowene Aguirre Medina and Roy Medina; and Tiana and Jeff Ronstadt.

October 6: Compassion is Not a Luxury: Community Care Practices

Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti

Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti

As we grapple with the struggles of this era, a growing interest in compassion as a route to healing personal and collective trauma has emerged. In this speech, Leslie Langbert, director general of the university Center for Compassionate Studies, will explore the power of practicing compassion in community, drawing on current research as well as the roots of compassionate practices in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She will argue that compassion – used for self-care and reciprocal care – is essential to our survival.

October 13: Are Our Brains Wired For Compassion? The science behind caring for others

Maha nassar

Maha nassar

Our brains seem wired to respond to the suffering of others. In fact, our reward circuits are triggered when we relieve suffering. Additionally, cultivating compassion through training practices like meditation activates brain circuits related to positive emotions, reduces stress, and leads to overall well-being. In this speech, Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti, associate director of the university Center for Consciousness Studies, will explore the fascinating new science of compassion and how the intentional cultivation of this ability can have far-reaching impacts on our individual and societal health.

October 20: Compassion for whom? Changing American conversations about Palestinians and Israelis

Llama rod owens

Llama rod owens

As rhetoric about social and racial justice intensifies in the United States, are attitudes toward the suffering of others in faraway places changing as well? In this speech, Maha nassar, associate professor at School of Middle East and North Africa Studies, will discuss recent changes in American public discourse on Palestinians and Israelis, focusing on the rise of solidarity between blacks and Palestinians. It will examine the relationship between structural inequalities and social justice and address the question: Who do we have compassion for?

October 27: Compassion as a tool for liberation and racial justice

Rather than waiting for compassion to appear as a “nice” feeling that suddenly comes over us, a practice of radical caring for one another can be forged from feelings of anger and frustration at injustice. In this talk, Buddhist pastor, teacher and activist Lama Rod Owens will help us see compassion as a more intentional practice than simple acts of benevolence. He will explain how, by “sitting with our discomforts” on the state of the world, we can face the traumas that hurt us and tell ourselves the truths that lead to healing and liberation.

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