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Mindful Media: Images and Voices of Hope

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It's not news that we live in a media-saturated society. As a result, at any given moment we all have a mind full of media - so much so that it often seems as if we are under assault from an unending barrage of comments, posts, ads, songs, videos, and links, all supposedly necessary and omnipresent, at all times and "on demand" and on multiple screens, providing immediate access to our increasingly commoditized culture...

No wonder it often feels more like we are all navigating a minefield of media!

That's why it was so refreshing recently to attend and speak at Mind Full Media 2012, a gathering of media makers drawn from the disparate worlds of journalism, advertising and marketing, arts and entertainment and corporate communications and public relations. The event was organized by a non-profit group called Images & Voices of Hope, which is concerned with creating "a global dialogue dedicated to strengthening the role of media as agents of world benefit."

For more than a decade, members of IVOH have worked with both professional practitioners and aspiring young people, while attempting to shift the media's focus to "the world we want to create" instead of "problem-solving the world we have." Its stated mission is to increase "awareness of the choices those in media make that raise public trust, generate constructive meaning, and amplify human hope, enhancing humanity's capacity for life-promoting action."

The theme of this year's IVOH "World Summit" was "influence," and organizers posed some fundamental questions to begin the discussion: "Who's got the power? Who drives the agenda? How do you increase your influence in the conversation?" Since the nature of influence - and who exerts it - in the digital age is now shifting "in complex and subtle ways," they asked, "how do we meet the challenge to be truly mindful of the influence of our ever-expanding flow of media?"

The gathering took place about one hundred miles north of Manhattan, at a retreat center called Peace Village in the bucolic Catskills town of Haines Falls. A small but surprising group of varied media makers, young and old - from self-described "recovering journalists" such as ex-network investigative reporter Roberta Baskin to Dori Maynard, head of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and from admen like Tom Burrell and Larry Kopald to entertainers like comedian Chris Bliss and Native American hip-hop artist Frank Waln - came together with Tibetan lamas, a sizeable and impressive group of students, and other seekers and citizens anxious to explore the impact of digital influence on networks of friends and followers, the science of the unconscious mind and covert influences on human behavior. The discussions were united by an emphasis on how to maximize opportunities to shape the media discourse for the greater good.

The first IVOH "conversation," with 180 people in media and related fields, was held in Manhattan in June, 1999. Since then, there have been more than fifty such events held all over the world, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Halifax, Canada and from Santiago, Chile to St. Petersburg, Russia. Each has offered a mix of dialogue, reflection, presentations, workshops, music and art, along with sunrise meditations, tai chi, mountain walks and tasty vegetarian meals served by a smiling "staff" comprised of dozens of volunteers.

Imagine - a media-oriented group "committed to strengthening the role of the media as agents of world benefit." An organization dedicated to a belief that real transformation in the world will come "from valuing and building on what gives life and vitality to the world we have now, and, by creating clear images and stories of the way forward."

What a concept -- "mindful media" that actually benefits society!

What will they think of next?