Finding Solace

Since I was a child, I’ve picked up rocks and seashells and pieces of wood that I’ve liked and took them home. I’ve used these things to remember the wonder and the wideness of the world as I live in it. The most recent stones I’ve gathered are from the Negev Desert near a community settlement in the far south of Israel. It was an alone place, and spending days in the harshness of natural forces in its valleys and unprotected plains brought me a surprising sense of solace.

Like so many things in life, spirituality is subjective. Just as certain beliefs shape our principles and opinions, spirituality is a personal construct we create based on what makes us feel a deep sense of being that is physically and emotionally felt. So we make choices about what helps us reach this deeper state—be it an appreciation of oneself or another, a practice we do, or just a simple awareness of what’s happening in the now, while envisioning what lies ahead. My time in the desert forced me to slow down. Its solitude invited me to reflect on who I am, where I’ve been and the people and experiences in my life that were precious and have brought me joy.

Lineage, like the ancient, untouched desert, is about the past. Historical, familial and spiritual lineages carried forward from the past can often bring nourishment and inspiration to future generations. But the deeper meaning of these lines include careful attention to the roots of a tradition—sharing the personal stories through time, honoring what has been handed down and respecting what is passed forward.

Once both my parents were gone, it took me a while to accept the legacy they left me. How could I unapologetically re-shape the many facets of what they created and form them into my own?

Throughout their lives my parents developed their own personal form of philanthropy that embraced collaboration. They brought people and organizations together, often from different parts of the world, and gave them opportunities to thrive and uncover breakthroughs over time—in the arts, medicine, culture and diplomacy. Recently, my parents’ remarkable journey has inspired me to honor their legacy and carry their work forward. I’ve inaugurated a new award as a joint initiative of the Global Wellness Summit that celebrates collaboration in the “science of wellness.” I was honored to present the award at this year’s Summit in Tel Aviv in the hope of encouraging more research on human flourishing and laying a foundation for generations to come.

On another stage, I presented new strategies to the members of Transforming Age, an organization of senior living healthcare professionals from around the US. As a core value of their business, Transforming Age is focused on wellness and building a culture of excellence for the aging community. Current science shows that while aging and wellness go hand in hand, one of the easiest ways to improve health and wellbeing, not just for the aging but all of us, is through forging stronger and more active social connections. I found the relationship between social connection and wellness so compelling that I made it the topic of my latest piece in Rolling Stone. Read more on both topics below.

I hope my thoughts on spirituality, lineage and connection will bring you light and the wellbeing it gives us as we negotiate December—a double entendre of a month for its lack of outer light—but a bounty of joyous inner light and celebratory occasions.

Happy holidays to all!



Staying Social for Your Own Good!

What makes us happy, healthy and fulfilled? Scientists, philosophers and psychologists have tried to figure that out since time immemorial. Most have assumed good genes play a role in achieving some of these goals, but study after study has proven everyone wrong. Despite staying connected via smartphones, social media, video calls and chat apps, many of us are feeling more alone than ever. Why? As a Stanford University psychiatrist explained, “The time and energy spent on social media’s countless connections may be happening at the expense of more rooted, genuinely supportive and truly close relationships.” That may help explain why loneliness continues to rise in the U.S. and many other places worldwide.

What can we do about loneliness? Close relationships bring people lifelong happiness, the ongoing Harvard Study of Adult Development has shown. So, put yourself out there, find activities that support connections and nurture existing relationships that are meaningful. See five ways to prevent loneliness before it impacts your health and wellbeing in my latest piece for Rolling Stone.


Transforming Aging

Aging is one of the most complex issues facing our world today. We are on the verge of exponential change in both medical advancements and increased life spans, and therefore, people’s understanding—along with the representation of aging—needs to evolve and transform. This was the topic of my keynote speech at this year’s Seattle conference for Transforming Age, a leading nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of older adults by integrating housing, community services, technology, philanthropy and partnerships.

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” I love this quote by David Bowie—it perfectly sums up how I feel about aging. I wish everyone would make peace with aging because age is subject to revision! Everybody plays a role in their own aging. It depends upon our lifestyles and attitudes; and our commitment to optimizing our mental and physical powers to the maximum. They all influence how we age.

So, instead, let’s not buy into “the hypnosis of our social condition.” As each year passes, celebrate who you are and what you’ve gained throughout your life.

Bija Bennett, Alon Chen, & Susie Ellis at the Global Wellness Summit in Tel Aviv

A Legacy of Collaboration

To continue the philanthropic legacy of my parents, Marshall and Arlene Bennett, and build on their commitment to cross-institutional collaboration, I established the Bennett Family Award for Collaboration in the Science of Wellness as a joint initiative with the Global Wellness Summit this November in Tel Aviv. Each year, the Bennett Family Award will recognize exceptional individuals engaged in collaborative research, merging science and wellness to help our contemporary world learn how to restore health, promote resilience and prevent diseases across a lifespan. As a wellness advocate, I believe our industry of wellness must deeply integrate with science and support more research for the advancement of human health.

Our first honorees are two brilliant researchers from institutions my parents brought together in many collaborations during their lifetimes—the University of Chicago and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The recipients, Professors Juan de Pablo from the University of Chicago and Alon Chen from the Weizmann Institute, are both innovators who have made groundbreaking contributions to the science of wellness. They received their awards at the GWS annual conference. Learn more about their work here.

To help further this initiative, please contact me and share your ideas and expertise. My hopes are to encourage multi-generational support for future collaborative projects that combine the creative power of science, technology, human health and wellness across borders.

Painting: Hung Liu, “Sisterhood”

Perfecting Connecting

So much of my message this month has been about connecting and collaborating to stay happy, healthy and fulfilled and further these objectives for all mankind. This takes true communication—a two-way proposition and a skill that often eludes us. Here’s a book that may help. “How to Connect,” a small but mighty pocket-sized book by world-renowned spiritual teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, is deceptively simple and incredibly powerful. If followed, its “notes on connecting” and “practices for connecting” can be transformative. I love this book because it reminds me of our crucial need to connect to ourselves, each other and our planet.

Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make the most and grow from the simplest moments: “When we bring all of our attention to truly connect to whatever we’re doing—whether we’re walking, breathing, brushing our teeth or eating a meal—it takes us back to being present in the here and now, which is the foundation of happiness.” Make this a personal practice or gift this to those you love!

Special thanks to the Weizmann Institute of Science and Six Senses Shaharut for helping me reconnect with my spiritual heritage.

A Book for the Holidays

Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind

“A brilliant design for emotional and spiritual stability.”
—Wayne W. Dyer

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