“Everything we see and touch consists of matter rearranged by information and energy. Everything is in connections and bonds. Life, mind, and love, our human nature, have been created in partnership with the rules that run the world.”
-- Paul R. Fleischman, in Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant
Dr. Paul R. Fleischman is a writer, retired psychiatrist, and Vipassana meditation teacher, who inhabits the intersection where science, poetry, meditation, and wonder meet -- with an emphasis on wonder.
Born in 1945 in Newark, NJ, and inspired to pursue a career in psychiatry from an early age, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago, continuing his studies at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and earning a Doctor of Medicine in 1971. He trained in Psychiatry at Yale University where he also served as Chief Resident, and was a psychotherapy supervisor and seminar leader in Psychiatry and Religion. He was in the private practice of psychiatry for over 30 years, and has served as a psychiatric consultant to over half a dozen hospitals and mental health centers.
Among the many recognitions garnered throughout his career, are the Oskar Pfister Award, received in 1993 from the American Psychiatric Association for being an “outstanding contributor to the humanistic and spiritual side of psychiatric and medical issues,” and the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, received in 2018, in recognition of his many years of experience in his professional network, his notable achievements, and his leadership qualities. A retired diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology as well as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society, Dr. Fleischman has been nominated for a Ford Foundation Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and has been a Manealof Travel Fellow and a Research Assistant for the United States Public Health Service.
In 1974, a meditation course in India under the guidance of Mr. S. N. Goenka initiated him in the technique of Vipassana. In the 1980’s he and his wife Susan began to conduct ten-day courses in the lineage
of Mr. S.N. Goenka, and to introduce the technique to professionals and academics in the West.
Dr. Fleischman is the author of nine books as well as numerous articles published in magazines and journals including Nature
, the Yale Review
, The International Journal of Social Psychiatry
, The American Journal of Psychiatry
, and The Journal of Contemplative Psychiatry.
As a writer, his work bridges scientific and poetic cosmologies across diverse themes and formats. Selections of his writing have been translated into Spanish, German, Serbian, Farsi, Dutch and Hebrew and his books are available in French and Italian.
Karma and Chaos,
one of his early books, is a compact collection of eight essays that delve into the connections between psychiatry, science, and the Buddha’s teachings. It was a Book of the Year Finalist with Forward Magazine, and has been translated into French and Italian, and republished in India. His poetry collection, You Can Never Speak Up Too Often/For the Love of All Things,
weaves themes of compassion, global awareness, self-exploration, beauty and joy, alongside the shadow of violence, ecological destruction and death.
His many other books and monographs include: The Healing Spirit: Religious Issues in Psychotherapy
; Cultivating Inner Peace
; Spiritual Aspects of Psychiatric Practice
; An Ancient Path
, and The Buddha Taught Nonviolence, Not Pacifism
. His work is also included alongside essays by Mother Teresa and Jimmy Carter in the anthology, The Power of Prayer
. Writings, podcasts and lectures by Dr. Fleischman can be found on the Pariyatti
His most recent work, Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant
is his legacy book, "a scientific and literary exploration of discoveries that reveal our deepest identity." He points to our sense of wonder as the apparatus by which we experience the intelligence of the universe within. "The wonder of the universe is wondering in us
,” he writes. And, “To live with wonder one must persevere in unknowing, re-encountering and participating.
” With this fluid and energetic engagement with the world, arise a multitude of beneficial qualities. And happily, our guest maintains that wonder can be practiced, preserved, perhaps even augmented with age.
In talks delivered across the United States, and internationally, Dr. Fleischman has explored the interplay between science, medicine and meditation, and vividly drawn out the contemporary relevance of ancient paths. Over the past decade he has lectured at 150 major American universities, most recently at Harvard University, MIT, Brown University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Columbia Teacher’s College, Columbia Health Sciences, Tibet House, and other venues such as Google headquarters. His international engagements have included talks at the University of British Columbia, McGill University, National University of Mexico, University of Tel Aviv, Hadassa University, Israeli Psychiatric Association, University of Grahamstown, South Africa, University Hospital, Brugmann, Brussels, ULB University, Brussels, University of Tarragona, Caixa Forum, Barcelona, London Business School, University of London, and the University of Nijmengen.
He lives with his wife Susan in Massachusetts and continues, through his writing and lectures, to integrate a scientific world view with poetic sensibilities, and insights from the path of Vipassana meditation.
Join us in conversation with this rigorous thinker, evocative writer, and dedicated teacher and practitioner!
Five Questions with Paul R. Fleischman
What Makes You Come Alive?
While I don't particularly like the phrasing of this question, because I always feel alive, I would say that I feel most fully engaged when I am seeking to think about and explain the feelings that rise up in me when I encounter the magnitude of nature, either visually, such as when hiking in a national park, or on the back roads of Vermont, or when I am encountering the magnitude of nature conceptually such as when I am trying to understand how living cells contain billions of years of survival skills inside themselves, even though they are microscopic.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
When I first read "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau, when I was in high school, and realized that language can capture transcendental experience. This book taught me that an ongoing effort to put indescribable natural experiences into words actually transforms those experiences into psychological states of mind, that can be more meaningful and powerful because they have been articulated.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
When I started my psychiatry residency training at Yale, Dr. Stanley Jackson noticed and nurtured my skills in listening to other people, and in responding empathically to other people, to such an extent that I remained professionally indebted to his supervisory skills for the next thirty years of my life. He went far beyond mere education, and exemplified his receptive capacities of me that he was trying to instill in my receptive capacities for other people. Pascal has said, (as famously quoted by Thomas Hardy in "Tess of the D'urbervilles") that wisdom consists of the ability to see the uniqueness of every person. Stanley Jackson generously extended this capacity towards me for my development.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Traveling with meditation teachers to see wolves and grizzlies in Yellowstone, Glacier, and elsewhere: combining the biophillic development of meditators with empathic animal sightings.
One-line Message for the World?
Our brains and bodies do not have the capacity to factually comprehend the universe, but we can feel it unedited within us as the sense of wonder.