Earlier this summer, Daniel Goleman, psychologist, science reporter and author of the 1995 New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence, shared good news with an attentive audience at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.

“Compassion is a muscle we can exercise and strengthen,” he said. Naturally, the leading thinker on emotional intelligence, or EQ, elaborated on this point.

“The circuitry for compassion is based in the mammalian parenting circuitry — and because of the brain’s neuroplasticity you can be very systematic in strengthening it,” Mr. Goleman said. He also broke it down in layman’s terms. “Not only do you become stronger but you actually become kinder, and more likely to help other people.”

The author, who is a part time Chilmark resident, delivered the talk in the context of his new book, A Force For Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World, released in June. Mr. Goleman is a longtime friend of the Dalai Lama’s, and describes their world views as very simpatico. In an interview with the Gazette, Mr. Goleman named some of his motivations for authoring the book, on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.

“I agree with his message and I would like to see it become as widespread as possible,” Mr. Goleman said. “I want it to reach young audiences and for it to inspire ongoing conversations.”

A web forum, joinaforce4good.org, accompanies the book and supports its main messages. Also, on Sunday, August 30, Mr. Goleman will take part in a fundraiser, along with his wife Tara and Joseph Goldstein, for the Tsoknyi Gechak Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. The event takes place at the Yoga Barn beginning at 6 p.m.

Mr. Goleman said that he’d been approached by the Dalai Lama the previous year, and asked to write a book whose release would coincide with the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday on July 6. Mr. Goleman temporarily shelved a project on the science of meditation, due to the time sensitive nature of the sudden request.

“I didn’t expect to write the book,” he said. “It is an overview of his vision for the world and it came out of the blue.”

Mr. Goleman first met the Dalai Lama years ago through Robert Thurman.

“He is a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia, but is better known as Uma’s dad,” Mr. Goleman said, referring to the award winning actress Uma Thurman.

The crux of the Dalai Lama’s message, delivered by Mr. Goleman, is to be a force for good in the world and to take action now. Mr. Goleman quotes the Dalai Lama in A Force For Good: “Everyone can find a context where they make a difference. The human community is nothing but individuals combined.” The Dalai Lama — and Mr. Goleman

— believe that optimism and positive reinforcement are the most effective tools for change. Mr. Goleman explained how when people are fearful or guilty the exact opposite dynamic can take over.

“They really turn off and tune out,” he said. “It turns out when Al Gore made An Inconvenient Truth, it was so inconvenient that polls showed people became less interested in the environment, not more.”

Regarding the environment, Mr. Goleman says he prefers to think about what is called the ‘handprint,’ which refers to corrective actions we can take rather than on the idea of a carbon footprint, which tracks our negative behavior.

“The handprint is the sum total of everything you do to reduce your footprint, and this is a metric that is much more positive,” he said. This measure is indicative of the kind of thinking the Dalai Lama endorses. It is at once positive and practical.

Before looking to the outside world, however, the Dalai Lama insists that a sense of inner calm and clear mindedness must first be achieved. He suggests that teaching empathy and compassion be woven in to school curricula, so that they may complement traditional instruction. To act effectively, we must not operate from an angry or distressed mental state.

“He says that we need to educate the heart, and social emotional learning will help kids better manage their emotions, cooperate more, and get along better with other kids,” said Mr. Goleman.

Despite regular reports in the media of violence and injustice, the Dalai Lama is optimistic about the future. He insists that daily acts of kindness far outweigh thoughtless, selfish or hateful deeds. The Dalai Lama’s message is one of

social activism that has roots in inner transformation. “I think this is unique,” said Mr. Goleman. “He sees that the space we are in when we act affects how well we can act, and the consequences of the action.”

Mr. Goleman reflects on how the Dalai Lama has influenced him personally, which has even led to a change in the nature of how he spends time on the Vineyard. A few years ago on the Vineyard, Mr. Goleman spent an entire month on a meditative retreat.

“I am a long time meditator but meeting him has helped shape my own value system, what I do, and what I choose to write about,” he said.

He enjoys the people he encounters on the Vineyard, but also appreciates how conducive the Island can be to writing.

“My wife and I spend a lot of time here in the shoulder season. We are both writers and it is a very creative space — especially in quieter times.”