Mark Mininberg is the ratna seat holder in the Zen Peacemaker Order. His responsibilities include the development of businesses to support the Order’s livelihood; to create employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated and homeless people as part of the Pathmaker Partnership; and to provide Zen entrepreneurship training for students in Peacemaker programs.
Mark is a lay Zen practitioner who owes a special debt to his teacher John Daido Loori Roshi, Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, with whom he studied the Hakuin system of koans for more than twenty years. Mark served as the Monastery shuso, or head seminarian in 1995, was a member of its Guardian Council and Treasurer of its Board of Directors. He is currently continuing his formal Zen studies with Roshi Bernie Glassman.
Mark’s Buddhist practice is intimately intertwined with his various working roles as a lawyer, healthcare administrator and business person. In 2005, he helped coordinate a major conference among His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Mind and Life Institute and the Society for Neuroscience concerning the science of meditation and he is currently advising Columbia University in the creation of a center for the study and propagation of mental training in public health and public education.
Mark began his career as an environmental lawyer specializing in the redevelopment of contaminated industrial sites in urban areas of the Northeast. In this capacity, he was responsible for helping to return dozens of properties to productive use; drafted new federal and state legislation to facilitate cleanup operations; and successfully litigated several test cases of new environmental laws, including one of the largest Superfund cases in U.S. history. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Mark founded the Council for Sustainable Development in Eastern Europe to create a “peace dividend” by converting former military technology to use in generating clean energy in the highly polluted former Soviet states. As a result of this work, Mark was invited to serve as an environmental advisor to the governments of the Russian Federation and the Czech Republic. In 1992, Mark introduced then Vice President Al Gore to the Russian Minister of Environment and was subsequently retained by the U.S. Overseas Private investment Corporation to create environmental standards for development and operation of global power generation projects funded or insured by the U.S. government. He subsequently licensed a number of clean energy projects in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.
Mark’s interest in renewable energy led him to found HES Energy in 1996. HES now procures more than $500 million in renewable fuel and electricity for 125 hospitals and affiliated universities in the United States. HES is developing more than $200 million in new renewable power plants sited on hospital campuses. HES is also a national leader in generating energy using “green gas”, a fuel that is created by capturing and cleaning methane gas released from municipal landfills, thereby cutting the methane greenhouse gas impact by half.
Mark is the author of numerous books and articles and is a frequent lecturer on energy and environmental matters, including seminars and conferences sponsored by the United Nations, World Bank, the Oxford University Law Colloquium and the Yale University Center for International Studies. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University with Honors in History, and of the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review and received the Connecticut Law Tribune Prize for legal scholarship.
President, Hospital Energy
“My job is to inspire groups of hospitals to work together to improve human health and the environment. To do that successfully, I need to get myself out of the way,” says Mark Mininberg, president of Hospital Energy and a dharma holder in the Zen Peacemaker Order. Mark has devoted a lifetime to rigorous training in the Zen tradition. At the same time, he has been intimately involved in helping to move our society toward a more ecologically sustainable and healthy future.
Mark began his career as an environmental lawyer specializing in the redevelopment of contaminated industrial sites in urban areas and was responsible for drafting new federal and state legislation to facilitate cleanup operations. He also successfully litigated one of the largest Superfund cases in U.S. history. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Mark founded the Council for Sustainable Development in Eastern Europe to create a “peace dividend” by converting former American military technology to use in generating clean energy in the highly polluted former Soviet states.
As a result of this work, Mark was invited to serve as an energy and environmental advisor to the governments of the Russian Federation and the Czech Republic. Mark introduced then Vice President Al Gore to the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and was subsequently retained by the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to create environmental standards for development and operation of global power generation projects funded or insured by the U.S. government.
Mark’s interest in the relationship of healthcare and the environment led him to create Hospital Energy in 1996. The company serves as the energy arm for several of the leading hospital group procurement organizations (GPOs) in the United States. The GPOs aggregate the purchasing for acute care hospitals representing nearly half of the hospital beds in the country. Hospital Energy has used the GPOs’ tremendous buying power to create energy opportunities that were previously beyond the reach of individual hospitals.
Hospital Energy, whose trademark is “Power to Heal,” has created a new model for using large scale group purchasing to install highly efficient combined heat & power (CHP) plants at hospitals throughout the country. By generating energy on each campus, the CHP plants can significantly reduce the hospital’s reliance on the relatively inefficient electric utility grid. In this way, the company is helping reduce healthcare costs and generate significant health, environmental and social co-benefits. The World Health Organization, (the United Nations’ public health agency), has subsequently adopted the model pioneered by Hospital Energy as the recommended international standard for helping hospitals transform the relationship between healthcare and energy efficiency.
Mark approaches this work from the perspective of the three tenets of the Zen Peacemaker Order: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Loving Action. According to Mark, “The hospital culture has many levels of authority: medical, engineering, legal, finance. Yet it also operates by consensus, so change takes time, patience and most of all, a willingness to let go of the ego. This means that our first job is to empty ourselves of preconceived notions about who we are and what we think can be accomplished.” Mark says that, “If we can get out of our own way and bear witness to the talents and strengths of everyone in the culture, it’s amazing how people become willing to cooperate and perceived barriers spontaneously dissolve. When we’re operating from that place, our loving action, which in this case means creating healthier communities and environment, no longer belongs to one person or group. It’s something that flows through each and every one of us.” Truly, this kind of loving action has the power to heal.
I was born in Minneapolis, AKA Luther Land, so I was raised in the Lutheran Church, like 98% of the rest of the kids in that city at that time. Actually, it was wonderful. The church we went to had one of the world’s finest organists and, through him, I learned of the music of J. S. Bach. I fell in love with the music of Bach and with organ music in general. Minneapolis was also a great place to grow up. Lots of little lakes-twelve of them within the city limits-each surrounded by a park. And Minnehaha Falls. My friends and I used to ride our bikes to the falls, park them, and then walk along the stream to the Mississippi River. It was a magical place. I still often visit Minnehaha Falls in my dreams.
I went to the University of Michigan. It was sort of a family tradition. My great aunt had been one of the first women to graduate from there. My mother and her older sister were also graduates of UM. I spent my junior year in Berlin, which then was still a divided city. I thought I wanted to be a professor of German Literature. However, while I was in Berlin, I learned of the discovery of the genetic code by Watson and Crick. I was fascinated. So when I got back to Ann Arbor, I started studying biology. After graduation, I was given a DAAD fellowship to study biology in Germany. This time I went to Munich. To be honest, I probably did more skiing than studying.
After that year, I went to the University of California at Berkeley to study cell biology. The year was 1967. I did learn a lot of biology and biochemistry, but I learned a lot of other things as well. At some point, I realized that a research biologist was not something I wanted to be. I worked in a lab to pay my expenses, studied massage therapy, and got an MA degree from the Graduate Theological Union. While at the GTU, I learned of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I did a number of retreats with the Jesuits there. Eventually, I joined the Roman Catholic Church.
In Berkeley, I also attended a few workshops with Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche and sat with the group at the Nyingma Institute. The roots of my involvement with Buddhism.
Then I moved to Los Angeles. That was the beginning of the end. I met Stef. We were together for a year when he announced he wanted to “give it all up” and study Zen. I said, “Fine by me.” So off we went to NYC to live at Greyston Seminary.
While we were in New York, I decided to become a physician assistant. So back to school again. I worked as a PA in NYC for five years and then in upstate New York for ten more. Most of the time my job was caring for AIDS patients. This at a time when we had little or nothing medical to offer them. I learned a tremendous amount from my patients, mostly about courage in the face of suffering.
I also again became interested in Zen and studied with Stef. In 2002, I was given Denbo. I was also doing a lot of teaching in the Catholic church, so chose not to be ordained. However, after we moved to Maine, I was no longer teaching in the Church, so I requested ordination, was ordained, and given Denkai (full priest ordination) in 2005.
After we both had retired from gainful employ, we moved to Maine. The realtor who sold us our first house here pointed out the Bangor Theological Seminary. After we had been here a week, I went over there to ask if I could take a course in Greek. I wound up signed up to complete the courses for the Master of Divinity degree-such useful things as learning how to properly baptize a baby-in order to enter the doctoral program. I completed the Doctor of Ministry degree in 2007.
I am one of the now three teachers at Treetop Zen Center and am currently teaching Buddhist Christian Dialogue at BTS. From both jobs, I receive more than I give.
I also love living in Maine. The climate is very much like that of Minnesota and it feels like I have come home again. All the lakes and streams. The thick mosquitos. The blackflies are a new experience to me-one I could have happily lived without. But the eagles and the osprey and the muskrats more than make up for them.
Stef and I have two great doggies and two great kitties. They are sources of much entertainment and much love. All in all, I have been given a rich life, filled with many blessings. Way more than I deserve.
Fleet Maull, M.A., Ph.D. candidate, is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, social activist, educator, and author. He began studying Buddhism and practicing meditation in 1969 and met his first Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa in 1977. Fleet founded three Socially Engaged Buddhism inspired organizations — Prison Dharma Network, Peacemaker Institute International and National Prison Hospice Association. He taught Socially Engaged Buddhism and directed the Center for Contemplative End of Life Care at Naropa University 1999 to 2009 and currently co-directs the Buddhist Chaplaincy program with Roshi Joan Halifax at the Upaya Zen Center. Fleet is a senior teacher (acharya and sensei) in both the Shambhala Buddhist and Zen Peacemaker communities, as a senior student and representative of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Dharma successor of Roshi Bernie Glassman. He is a leading prison activist and outspoken proponent of the Transformative and Restorative Justice alternatives to our shame-based and punitive justice systems, as well as contemplative and transformative approaches to healing and transforming what he sees as a global pandemic of viral, shame-based violence in our human culture.
Fleet leads meditation retreats, bearing witness retreats, street retreats and peacemaker/activist trainings and transformative leadership retreats in Africa, Europe, Latin American and Europe and recently co-led the first bearing witness retreat in Rwanda with his colleague, Sensei Grover Gauntt. Fleet is the author of Dharma In Hell, the Prison Writings of Fleet Maull and numerous articles and book chapters in the fields of criminal justice, end of life care, and social change.