Josh Baran has been instrumental in mainstreaming mindfulness and meditation for over two decades, landing two Time Magazine covers on meditation and Buddhism and the 60 Minutes mindfulness story with Anderson Cooper in 2015. It is a personal passion.
He has worked closely with many notable leaders of mindfulness, including the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, S. N. Goenka, Matthieu Ricard, Daniel Goleman, Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, and Mingyur Rinpoche — and with organizations that include the Mind and Life Institute, the Gere Foundation, and the Garrison Institute.
Mindfulness in America — Time Magazine, 60 Minutes
One of Josh’s main personal focus has been and is to promote the practice of mindfulness and meditation to general audiences. Just as yoga became accepted as beneficial and then widely practiced by millions of people, Josh hoped from the early 1990s that meditation would go mainstream. He has since worked with many leading teachers, organizations, scientists, authors, and sages to share the positive aspects of insight and focused attention.
He worked closely with Time Magazine on their cover story on Buddhism in 1997, and then on their cover story on meditation in 2003. He brought a young Tibetan lama to have his brain scanned at the University of Wisconsin at Madison — with Dan Rather’s camera crew in tow. He managed much of the media over the years for the Mind and Life Institute, which focused on the intersection of ancient wisdom and modern science. His activities included managing a news conference with the Dalai Lama and over a hundred journalists covering neuroscience. And most recently, Josh was behind the 60 Minutes piece with Anderson Cooper that focused on the popularity of mindfulness in the West.
The Dalai Lama: A Force for Good
In the mid-1980s, as Josh’s PR practice was just beginning to grow, he met with Richard Gere and Dan Goleman in New York. They asked Josh if he would devote some of his time to the cause of Tibet and support the work of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Josh had met the Dalai Lama in a small meeting of leaders of relief organizations the year before in Washington, D.C. He was happy to be of service. Human rights in Tibet was not on the world’s radar then and the Dalai Lama, while hardly unknown, was not the household name he is today.
Josh began donating some of his time, first by alerting and pushing stories about the Chinese oppression in Tibet. In 1989, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Josh helped manage that news conference. Soon after that, he became much more active in providing communications for many of the Dalai Lama’s trips to the East Coast including his two talks in Central Park before hundreds of thousands of people sponsored by the Gere Foundation. He provided communications for the Mind and Life Institute for many of the visits and conferences with the Dalai Lama in Boston, New York, Denver and Washington, D.C. He managed many news conferences, press briefings and one-on-one interviews with His Holiness.
From Dan Goleman’s 2015 book A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World (this passage describes the Dalai Lama winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989):
“In those days, the Dalai Lama traveled with little fanfare. Josh Baran, at the time a Hollywood publicist who sometimes did pro bono work for the Tibetan cause, had tried in previous years to interest various journalists in interviewing the Dalai Lama — with few takers. But that night a reporter from CBS called Baran at 3:00 AM. Where in the world, CBS wanted to know, was the Dalai Lama? The Dalai Lama was in Newport Beach, California, Baran told CBS. Baran, one of the few in the world of journalism, who knew the answer, hopped in his car to drive the hour or so south to Newport Beach, as soon as he heard about the Nobel. He knew the Dalai Lama had just finished a three-day meeting on compassionate action and was about to start a two-day dialogue with neuroscientists. Arriving sometime around dawn, he offered his services to Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dalai Lama’s private secretary, and Josh became the organizer of an instant press conference.”
And from the New York Times (9/17/2003) — Josh organized the news conference mentioned here:
“His (the Dalai Lama’s) travels across the globe have helped him develop a mastery of the media event. At a news conference yesterday to start his visit in New York, he took the stage at an auditorium at the Guggenheim Museum, and, after a tempest of camera flashes, he asked the photographers to stop taking pictures. He peered leisurely into the audience and greeted familiar faces one by one. Then, with a broad smile, he told the photographers to return to work. 'Well, yes, flash!' Tickets for teaching sessions at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan have long since sold out — at $400 each, or $1,200 and $3,000 for V.I.P.'s and big donors. The steep prices are to defray the cost of advertising and producing the Dalai Lama's appearance this Sunday in Central Park, said Josh Baran, a publicist for the Dalai Lama's New York visit.”
Altruism and the Message of Matthieu Ricard
In 2015, Matthieu Ricard’s masterwork was published — Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. Ricard’s groundbreaking TED Talk on happiness has been viewed by over seven million people. In his previous book, Ricard demonstrated that true happiness is not tied to fleeting moments or sensations, but is rooted in mindfulness and compassion for others.With this new book, he turns his lens from the personal to the global with a rousing argument that altruism — genuine concern for the well-being of others — could be the saving grace of the 21st century.
Josh managed his June 2015 book tour, which included arranging speaking engagements at Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce, the U.S. Congress, 92nd St. Y, St. John the Divine Cathedral, the Rubin Museum, Wisdom 2.0, BlackRock, San Francisco Jewish Community Center, LA TalksLive, and BuddhaFest. The tour included media interviews with PBS Tavis Smiley, the Diane Rehm Show, HuffingtonPost, Business Insider, and other media outlets.
The Work of Daniel Goleman: What is your EQ?
Josh has been an adviser to Dan for more than two decades, formally and informally. He worked on Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and his 2015 book A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for our World.
Mind and Life Institute: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
“The Mind and Life Institute was founded in 1987 to pioneer high level cross cultural dialogues between the Dalai Lama and modern science. In 1998, after holding seven private dialogues, we expanded our mission to develop new fields of research whereby neuroscientists and clinical scientists would investigate the effects of meditation and other contemplative based practices on brain, behavior and biology. The underlying purpose of this research was to determine if these 'mental and emotional fitness practices' were beneficial for humans, and if so, to establish the public awareness that meditation, yoga and other contemplative based practices are as critical for health and wellbeing as physical fitness. Hence, a critical part of our mission was to share our research findings with the world.
Josh Baran played an important and foundational role in telling this story. In 2003, Josh handled the communications for the our first groundbreaking public Mind and Life Dialogue at MIT, resulting in the Time Magazine cover story on meditation as well as numerous articles in dozens of major outlets. That conference and the coverage shifted the way mediation was seen in the modern world and laid the foundation for the current 'mindfulness revolution.' Josh brings his long personal practice of meditation to his professional work, and has skillfully helped us promote the work of the Institute and other organizations for decades. Just recently, Josh was behind the 60 Minutes piece with Anderson Cooper attending a mindfulness retreat. I cannot thank Josh enough for his enormous contribution to this work and to the world. He has an uncanny ability to understand the core of any mission and find impactful ways to get the story out and understood."
— R. Adam Engle, co-founder and chair/CEO emeritus of the Mind and Life Institute
In addition to the groundbreaking MIT conference in 2003, Josh managed the communications for many other Mind and Life events in Denver, New York, and Washington, D.C, including press briefings and one-on-one interviews.
Goenka: Father of Western Mindfulness — 2002
"Instead of wandering like a monkey here and there, the monkey mind gets calm." — Goenka
Widely considered the father of western mindfulness, the great meditation teacher, S. N. Goenka came to the U.S. from Burma for his final tour in 2002. Over nearly six months, Goenka visited 35 cities, meditation centers and taught ten-day retreats while traveling from place to place in an RV caravan. Josh handled the media relations for the historic tour.
From an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, “Driven to Enlighten”:
“Goenka, who remains unruffled even amid a mild media circus, allowed a reporter to spend an hour aboard the RV as it cruised the L.A. freeways. Already, Goenka has hooked up at RV parks, from Charlotte, North Carolina to Boulder, Colorado. He has spoken at high schools, college campuses and, on Saturday, at the Wadsworth Theatre in Brentwood. He has traversed the forests, mountains, deserts and national parks of this country, driven the 5, the 10 and the 405, on a quintessentially American road trip — not exactly seeking enlightenment, a la Jack Kerouac or Ken Kesey, but delivering it.”
Iyengar: Father of Yoga in the West — 2006 Tour
“Josh’s creativity and bold insight are a treasure. We worked together in 2006 on the publication of Light on Life the last book of the great yoga master, B.K.S. Iyengar. Josh was the driving force behind turning what was first planned as a rather conventional book tour into a national event where thousands of people in many cities came to see Iyengar. Josh didn’t think small and was passionate about celebrating the life and vision of the father of yoga in the West. Josh saw the book as a centerpiece for a much bigger effort. It worked. I learned about my own business, and about how to think about expansion and visibility in a completely different way. Not to mention, he’s also funny and a genius…”
— Stephanie Tade, Iyengar’s book agent
Byron Katie: Who are you Without Your Story?
For many years, Josh has worked closely with the internationally-celebrated teacher Byron Katie, helping to promote her unique form of self-inquiry known as “The Work.” This kind of inquiry is mindfulness in action and has helped literally millions of people deal with and transform their stressful thoughts and feelings. Josh helped support some of her foundational books including Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy.
Josh’s work resulted in Time Magazine calling Byron Katie, “a spiritual teacher for the new millennium."
Garrison Institute: Transformative Contemplation
The Garrison Institute applies the transformative power of contemplation to today's pressing social and environmental concerns, helping build a more compassionate, resilient future. Founded in 2003 by Jonathan and Diana Rose in a beautifully renovated 77,000 square foot former Capuchin monastery on the banks of the Hudson River, the Institute has hosted over 500 retreats and events attended by over 40,000 participants.
Josh has served as a strategic consultant and adviser to the Institute on many different occasions over the last 12 years as well as personally attending many conferences and retreats there.
CASEL - Social and Emotional Learning
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the nation’s leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students. Their mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice and policy, CASEL collaborates to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society.
Josh provide strategic communications to CASEL, promoted their work and helped bring media attention to the release of one of their first major reports.
8 Minute Meditation: Start Simple and Keep going
When 8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich first came out in 2003, it was considered borderline heretical by many traditional meditation teachers. The conventional approach was to instruct even newcomers to meditate 30-45 minutes twice a day, and in some stricter Buddhist traditions, beginners started to learn by attending a 10-day retreat where people would meditate for 10 or more hours each day. To say the least, only a small percent of those who started stayed with the practice. There needed to be a simpler and more accessible approach. 8 Minute Meditation was the first call to start simple with short sessions — just eight minutes long.
Josh worked with Victor on the concept of the book and then promoted it to key media with the book being featured in the Time Magazine cover story on meditation, which called his approach, “the most American form of meditation yet.”
Footnote: Now, 12 years later, short meditation sessions are widely practiced by nearly all teachers of the various forms of meditation.
Evolving Dharma: Next Gen Enlightenment
Evolving Dharma is the definitive guide to the meditation revolution. Fearless, unorthodox, and irreverent, scholar and activist Jay Michaelson shows how meditation and mindfulness have moved from ashrams and self-help groups to classrooms and hospitals, and offers unusually straight talk about the “Big E” — enlightenment. Michaelson introduces us to maverick brainhackers, postmodern Buddhist monks, and cutting-edge neuroscientists and shares his own stories of months-long silent retreats, powerful mystical experiences, and many pitfalls along the way.
Josh worked with Jay on the outreach for the book and on reaching out to special media.
Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje: Spiritual Visionary
The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in Tibet and recognized by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, at the age of 14 he escaped from his Chinese guards and traveled across the Himalayas to come live in India. His escape was huge international news.
Beginning in 2008, the Karmapa has made three trips to the United States. Josh has handled his media relations for these visits, securing significant coverage in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Washington Post, on PBS, etc.
In addition, Josh managed a social media effort to increase viewership of the Karmapa's official Facebook page. In 2014, his page only had about 150,000 followers. Working with Kathleen Sweeney, we created and managed a low-key focused outreach effort that increased Facebook followers to over 600,000 in six months.
In 2015, the Karmapa made a more extensive visit to the U.S. where he taught at Google, Facebook, Stanford University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, etc.
While not involved in politics or line to be the political successor of the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa nonetheless represents a new generation of Tibetan spiritual leaders.
Mingyur Rinpoche: A New Face of Tibetan Buddhism
Born in Nepal in 1975, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is one Tibetan Buddhism’s new generation of visionary teachers. When he first visited the West, after spending six years in retreat, Josh was asked to work with him and support him. Over a ten-year period, Josh helped Rinpoche with his many visits to the West, found him a co-writer for his book, The Joy of Living — which became an international bestseller — and assisted in running one of his foundations. All the proceeds from his visits and book sales went to support his projects in India, Nepal and Tibet, including building a major monastery at Bodh Gaya in India.
Tibet 2000: 'Kundun,' & 'Seven Years in Tibet'
In 1997, surprisingly two films about the Dalai Lama and Tibet were being released by major studios: Kundun, directed by Martin Scorsese, which chronicled the early life of the Dalai Lama, and Seven Year in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, which told the story of a famous early explorer who became the western tutor of the Dalai Lama. Neither studio - Sony or Disney - was particularly interested in the concerns of Tibetan human rights, nor did they want to work closely with Tibetan organizations. In particular, Sony, wanting to position Seven Years in Tibet as a big sexy adventure saga, refused to allow Brad Pitt or anyone associated with their film to even meet casually with the Dalai Lama when he was visiting Los Angeles.
Because of Josh’s long-term involvement with the Dalai Lama and the cause of human rights in Tibet, Josh created an independent year-long campaign using both films as co-centerpieces to create a larger awareness of the Tibetan issue. He dubbed the campaign, “Tibet 2000.” This effort was implemented without the participation or cooperation of either studio. The campaign included news conferences, special events, public demonstrations around the visit of the Chinese premier, a publicity campaign, a visit by the Dalai Lama to Washington, D.C. and a Free Tibet concert. Tibetan support groups and Students for a Free Tibet were activated.
The effort was wildly successful, resulting in a Time Magazine cover story on Buddhism and Tibet and waves of media attention for both the films and the issue of Chinese human rights abuses. Tibet became a major political issue in the West for the first time. President Clinton publicly raised the Tibet issue during the visit of the Chinese premier. Tibet support groups reported huge increases in membership and donations, and the New York Times began referring to “the powerful Tibet lobby.”
From the Daily Beast / Newsweek (8/6/2012):
“Since the ’90s, the Dalai Lama and his entourage have been legendary for punching above their weight in terms of soft power. About 15 years ago, to capitalize on the release of two Hollywood films, Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt and Kundun directed by Martin Scorsese, consultant Baran pulled together a 50-page PowerPoint-style presentation titled 'Tibet 2000' proposing that the government-in-exile use conferences and celebrity endorsements to raise public awareness about Tibet.
'His people liked it and said, "Go present it to the Dalai Lama." I thought that meant sit down and walk him through the campaign,' Baran chuckled. 'Instead I was hustled into the presence of the Dalai Lama, who flipped through pages for maybe 30 seconds. Then his people asked him to give his blessing. He laid his hand casually on the top page and literally blessed the PowerPoint.'
That campaign got the Dalai Lama’s message across so potently that, within a couple years, The New York Times was trumpeting 'the powerful Tibet lobby.'
'It was amazing, given that the communications campaign had few staff and almost no money. There was a big event on the Mall; there were concerts; there was Richard Gere. It all sort of came together,' recalled Baran. 'I guess the blessing worked.'"
I AM is an engaging documentary that poses two provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.” However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world.
Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment. Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers–remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith–including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch – Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible “Everyman” who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways. The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit.
Josh was engaged to expand the audience and media attention for this project and push the film to new age / spiritual / holistic audiences in the top markets. The film did quite good and received very a very positive audience response.
Connected: to be Interconnected?
Tiffany Shlain’s insightful documentary Connected explored the visible and invisible connections linking major issues of our time — the environment, consumption, population growth, technology, human rights, the global economy — while searching for her place in the world during a transformative time in her life. Employing an imaginative combination of animation and archival footage, plus several surprises, Shlain constructed a chronological tour of Western modernization through the work of her late father, Leonard Shlain, a surgeon and best-selling author of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and had a limited theatrical run in the fall of 2011. Josh was hired to create a national outreach and special media campaign.
Josh’s Book — 'The Tao of Now: Daily Wisdom
Josh compiled a spiritual anthology back in 2003. It was originally titled 365 Nirvana Here and Now, but later retitled The Tao of Now. Given the current mindfulness revolution sweeping the Western world, this book has become extremely timely.
Here is how the book is described: "If you think enlightenment requires decades of spiritual practice and is reserved only for the chosen few, think again. Josh Baran shows readers that nirvana is staring them in the face. Baran has collected the quintessential teachings, both ancient and modern, from such notables as Rumi; Ram Das; Buddha; Jack Kornfield; Byron Katie; Pema Chodron, and Eckhart Tolle. The Tao of Now draws wisdom from history's greatest mystical thinkers to provide direction for the spiritual journey. In addition to the wisdom of these teachers, Baran offers his own inspirational commentary."
Oprah said it was one of her favorite books (but she says that a lot) and brought Josh to Chicago to tape an hour-long Soul Series radio show with her.