Cultural Events

Avielle Foundation Promoting Next Two 'BrainStorm' Events

Published: March 16, 2018 at 12:00 am


ABC News Reporter, Author Dan Harris
ABC News Reporter, Author Dan Harris
The Avielle Foundation Brainstorm Experience has announced the next two guests in its speaker series. The nonprofit's year long program features a diverse group of thought leaders, advocates, and celebrities from across society offering unique perspectives on the brain, its care, science, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

The series, according to organizers, is meant to bring the community together in a stimulating and engaging environment in which learning, connection, and inspiration provoke imagination.

The next planned guest is investigative journalist Scott Keneally, director of Rise of the Sufferfests - appearing in the Theatre at Edmond Town Hall March 29 at 7 pm. Doors open at 6:30.

Rise of the Sufferfests is the first feature documentary ever produced about the global obstacle course race or OCR phenomenon. The film sets out to answer the question: when the thrust of civilization has been to make life easier - why are the masses suddenly paying for pain?

According to the filmmaker, OCR is today's fastest growing sport, attracting more participants than marathons and half marathons combined with an estimated 5 million people choosing to suffer through ice, fire, electricity, barbed wire, tear gas, mud and more. And the half-billion dollar question is… why?

Rise of the Sufferfests explores the history of the sport, psychology behind it, personalities that drive it, and asks what it says about the world we're living in.

The ability to get out of one's comfort zone is essential for optimal brain health and growth, according to Mr Keneally, "If it does not challenge you it does not change you."

His file explores the benefits, both physical and psychological, of reaching outside one's comfort zones and answers the question of why millions are currently so eager to embrace this discomfort.

To help shed light on the phenomenon, Mr Keneally enlists a motley crew of athletes and insiders from the cultish OCR community, as well as a broad range of notable experts - Morgan Spurlock, Laird Hamilton, Tim Ferriss, Hanna Rosin, AJ Jacobs and Dr. Jean Twenge.


April Speaker

In April, The BrainStorm Experience is welcoming Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC News Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America. After covering the religion beat for ABC News, he discovered meditation and wrote the bestselling book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voices in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing my Edge and Found Self Help that Actually Works - a True Story.

Mr Harris will appear on Thursday, April 11, at 7 pm, in the theater at Edmond Town Hall, with doors opening at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $15.

After having a nationally televised panic attack, Mr Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists.

Eventually, Mr Harris said he realized the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business, but had also led him to "make the profoundly stupid decisions" that provoked his on-air freak-out.

Eventually Mr Harris stumbled upon an effective way to rein in that voice, something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation, a tool that research suggests can lower blood pressure, mitigate depression and anxiety, and literally rewire key parts of the brain, among numerous other benefits.

And yet, he acknowledges, there are millions of people who want to meditate but are not actually practicing.

What is holding them back?

Mr Harris says his latest book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, attempts to answer this question and provides "game-changing and incredibly practical meditation instructions."

Amid it all unspools the strange and hilarious story of what happens when a congenitally sarcastic, type-A journalist and a groovy Canadian mystic embark on an epic road trip into America's neurotic underbelly, as well as their own.

There will be a Q&A following Mr Harris's talk and copies of his book will be on sale in the lobby.

Future Brainstorm Experiences are planned and will include:

Tuesday, May 15: Rosalind Wiseman, author of the New York Times bestseller Queen Bees & Wannabes, the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls;

Tuesday, June 19: Jane Pauley, CBS News and author, Living with BiPolar;

Friday, August 24: Bessel van der Kolk, MD, trauma expert, and author of The Body Keeps the Score; and

Saturday, August 25: 2018 Newtown Yoga Fest.

Several more experiences will be announced soon. For more information, e-mail:

Purchase tickets at


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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
0% (0 votes)
The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
50% (1 vote)
“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
50% (1 vote)
“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
0% (0 votes)
“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
0% (0 votes)
Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
0% (0 votes)
“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Day, October 6
0% (0 votes)
The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
0% (0 votes)
Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
0% (0 votes)
“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
0% (0 votes)
Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
0% (0 votes)
The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
0% (0 votes)
Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
0% (0 votes)
Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
0% (0 votes)
“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
0% (0 votes)
Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 2