Meaning - Joel and Michelle Levey: you can rewrite your brain

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Joel & Michelle Levey

Joel and Michelle Levey build resilient lives and organisations through mindfulness

The Leveys work with the military in the US – for six months at a time. They work to allow soldiers to stop fighting a war inside, through their Jedi Warrior programme.

We live in the VUCA era:

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous.

You need to train your brain to cope with this – and that’s what the Leveys help people do.

For example, they posit that people were created to be loved, and things to be used. We’ve got that the wrong way around, and that’s the cause of so much trouble in the world. Solutions are often inherent in problems. Plants that irritate grow next to those that will heal. The word “Vuca” means “wake up” in the Zulu language – and that’s what we need to do; wake up to the interconnectedness of everything.

The elements of mind fitness

Michelle Levey

There are three key elements of mind fitness:

  1. Intention
  2. Attention
  3. Attitude.

As you train your mind, you are changing your brain, and your ability to change the world. This is neuroplasticity – the idea that our brain changes in response to what happens around us, and in us. The more certain neural circuits are activated, the more they grow. What we pay Attention to changes us. We bring Intention to bear on that to push our Attention where we want it to be.


How often are you in a room with 300 people giving full Attention, as Meaning attendees are? (There are remarkably few open laptops, bar your humble liveblogger). How many times are we surrounded by Zombies, running around within attention? Google asked them to design a mindfulness and meditation laboratory – and then roll it out to 24 locations worldwide. That led to hubs elsewhere, linked via Hangouts to share and meditate. That led to gatherings and mindfulness sessions at various sites. They do “GPauses”. That pause is the space between stimulus and response – and the change to over-ride old, conditioned responses.


What is the Intention of people attending this conference? Is it about our own needs? Our colleagues? Our clients? Or all beings? Do we bring all the people touched by the decisions we make into the discussion?


What Attitudes allow you to optimise you Attention and Intention? The Attitude of curiosity – openness and learning – for one, the beginner’s mind. Being caring, open and non-judgemental all help.

Working for the military was a heart-opener for them. The amount of compassion and openness they found was not quite what they expected. They encountered one leader who was most proud of the number of humanitarian operations they’d done.

The world’s first mindful organisation outside of Asia, was one division of HP, which had seen its GM poached. It was in disarray – but mindfulness brought it focus and business success.

Surfing the disruption wave

Joel Levey

How do we surf the waves of change?

  1. An eyes wide open acceptance of reality – embrace the reality of your situation, and embrace what you need to survive and thrive
  2. Accept that life is meaningful
  3. A creative spirit makes do with what is available to innovate, improvise and explore new possibilities

Your only real advantage is the brain power in your organisation. The more you practice Mindfulness, the more you change you brain – do it enough and you essentially rewire your operating system.


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.