Donna Karan, resplendent in an easy, flowing sweater and fierce boots, takes the stage at Urban Zen and asks how many people have never been to her foundation before.
She leans back slightly from the microphone in mock shock when she sees dozens of hands fly up, but the lean is quickly replaced with an explanation of UZ’s work that aims to create a connection between mindfulness and the tangible realities of life.
“How do we connect the dots and create a new world?” Karan asks. “I hope we can gather like-minded people, and collaborate.”
Urban Zen does indeed create, connect, and collaborate to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of well-being, cultural preservation, and empowering children. It has specific areas of focus in healthcare and education, as well as the overall preservation of different beliefs through the support of creative endeavors.
As part of this mission, Karan has welcomed two voices in the evolutionary community, Deepak Chopra and Andrew Cohen , to share the UZ stage and debate the role spirituality plays — or does not play — in today’s often very secular culture. Adding to the mix is the Moderator du Jour, Arianna Huffington.
“We are living in a moment of transition — an inflection point,” says Huffington, setting the tone for the discussion to come and bolstering it with some of her own stories of embracing grace and rejecting exhaustion.
“The last time my mother was angry with me, I was talking to my children while reading my mail. With her very German accent, she said, ‘I abhor multi-tasking.’ So let’s engage in unitasking.”
Chopra’s remarks pick up where Huffington’s stop, with a nod to collective consciousness.
“If there is war, we created it,” he says. “Everything we see out there is a reflection of who we collectively are. If we want social justice, if we want peace … if we want to do it, we can.”
Cohen continues to stretch the thread by offering a few points on how to use consciousness and mindfulness to create change for the future.
“We really don’t know how to find a source of spiritual self-confidence in this time,” he says. “The rate of change is not going to slow down… and I personally don’t think that the peace of meditating is enough. We have to be in charge of where we’re going, and without unshakable spiritual self-confidence, we’re not going to be able to do it.”
The groundwork laid, two spiritual teachers are now asked to examine their views; how they relate, and how they differ. The notion of a debate between these two men — Chopra with a quiet demeanor and Cohen with a sharp sense of humor and an easy laugh — is nearly contradictory. In fact, the very idea of a ‘spritual debate’ seems almost oxymoronic.
As the dialogue continues though, there is a feeling that not all debates need to be heated, and not all divergent views are at polar opposites.
Watch the event here