Teen back then they thought “what’s Dick Hart, we thought you were a pretty smart guy”. Which is more idiotic? To say your dog has no feelings or you have no feelings? When I was studying at Stanford, when I was studying philosophy of mind we learn that the whole school of behavior is the dominated American psychology for fifty or sixty years can be refuted with a joke?
Its sough when a whole system id refuted by a joke e but it can be. A man and a woman make love e, the man rolls over, light up cigarette and says it was great for you, how was it for me? We can ask how it is for brilliant minds, psychology at Brooklyn, Stanford Harvard, and Chicago how could they study for fifty or sixty years and on something bizarre and so anti imperial.
If asked my professor of piles of mind at standard this “you know the reputation was a piece of cake, it was a one page reputation. Any soft more with a hand middle could have writer it. How come they didn’t get this are smart people. Why didn’t they get it? “And the e professor smiled at me with a whimsical grin and said “after sell it ewes a matter of fashion.” That’s a niche way of from thinking, this introspect followed by the way side. It was thrown out the back window and they didn’t look back.
This challenge of Williams James and <> bring introspection and make it scientific has been ignored and has been ignored to this day. I’m finding a parallel here, if we go back to Galileo and his telescope and the kind of trouble he got himself into there was medieval theological resistance to Galileo’s empiricism, to his using the telescope and discovering things that violated the principles of a literal reading of the bible and the meta physical surgeons of Aristotle. Until Galileo, for the most part people that were interested in he stars were astrologers. they would do a full astronomy when they look up in the starts but what ethyl were really interested in was the terrestrial corsets of celestial phenomena , should if get married tomorrow or next month , when should sew my crops when was my birthday and so working out your horoscope. That’s what they were really interested in and that’s where the professionals were in making horoscope they left astronomy at pretty much a folk level. when Galileo said ” look I’ve got a telescope I’m making some fantastic discoveries here.” the most conservative <> of his time refuse too look through a telescope saying ” we don’t need to . If we discover something in your telescope that contradicts what we know to be true, from the bible and Aristotle what’s you’re seeing is false. It must be an arbitration, an artifact of your lenses and after all it’s merely an illusion why should we need to.” so they refuse to use it and they refuse to accept the discoveries. they grounded him, they put him under house arrest and said” go to your room and stay there of the rest of your life” like a mom and dad getting irritated at their teenage kid.
Now we have Galileo of the modern times, we have James saying we have a whole new kettle of fish where. We have a domain of the natural world. In other words this is not a supernatural infusion from God. these are natural phenomena, these mental phenomena lets follow Galileo cue and observe them carefully but what do we have in response form behaviorist , from the cognitive psychologist and the cognitive neuron psychologist which are really prominent these days.
We have a focus on the behavioral and Nero moralism mental phenomena. The introspections a sophisticated, refined observation by and lager a refuse, by and large inside departments, Nero science departments. if you introduce ” how about really some refined intersection ” and they’ll say ” sorry we’re busy , we’re studying the brain., we’re studying <>, aspects of psychology we don’t need it .” after all introspection give rise to only the appearances of the mind they’re losery after all so why should we bother. Let’s get back and study the hardware and let’s start a neuron science lab.
there’s a certain limitation in this orientation of insisting that everything that is real must be physical, everything boils down to physics and let us just od a waltz thigh history here, think about Copernicus , think about <> magicians who are crunching the numbers, coming up with one epic cycle, one in centric after another. Great mathematical s, really not that great for observing celestial phenomena.
If you can imagine confining and understanding just mathematics. You’re sitting in your room and you’re a great mathematician there’s nothing in pure mathematics that defines natural energy. There’s nothing that defines the emergence of physical phenomena in the universe, there’s nothing in pure mathematics that predicts that there ever would be a universe. N pure mathematics there is nothing that explains the emergence of natural energy, when would it happen, whew as the big bang? When did you start getting particles?
You have to step outside of mathematics as Galileo did and combine the mathematics with imperial observation. Now we shift over into the realm of physics and imagine front he tine being but you don’t know anything about bloody or psychology, confine your understanding just to physics class in the <>, electro magnetism, <> dynamics, the whole renege of physics. There is nothing in physics that say or defines life. If you don’t know anything about biology there’s nothing that defines life, life and death, heath and sickness. These words don’t mean anything in physics that’s where scientific training was.
These two words don’t drop up, life and death, healthy and sick, flourishing and so on. They dot crop up. There’s nothing in physics that defines life, there’s nothing in the laws of physics<> that predicts that at some point in the universe life would emerge. It happened but physics didn’t tell you it happen and once it has happened physics on its own does not explain life.
Let’s shift to biology, now we’ve got mathematics, physicians and biology, if you find your understanding to biology alone with its physics and mathematics n behind it there’s nothing in biology that defines consciousness. There’s nothing in biology that predicts the emergence of consciousness. At what point in the evolution of life or our planet where you know it take place, at what point did consciousness happen and why? There’s nothing in biology that predicts it, nothing in biology that defines it and once it’s there biology does not explain consciousness in living organism and now it’s finally moved to psychology.
finally we’re in the mind science and were setting a tension , volition , perception and memory and so on butt in psychology they are people throughout the planet in the united states and everywhere else from Millennia who has been having religious experiences. call it spiritual , call it religious but a sense of the transcendent, something larger and so forth this has been sheening and its happening a long time up until this day . there’s bathing in psychology that predicts that this will ever happen that defines religious experiences in its own word to something very <> like hysterias, form of neurosis , form of psychosis and so forth . In drawing its own to psychology you miss what was there that was distinctively spiritual and religious. Psychology by itself does now define, read it or explain the emergence of <> and yet there it is, it happens.
This will be an argument not against maths, physics, biology and psychology but saying its <> epistemic pluralism and that’s let’s get off of this rut. if think everything can be explained in terms of the more primitive and recognize we need different modalities of inquiry that everything doesn’t boil down to physics or biology .
In this physics less world view which in many ways have so much going for it. We know about what happens in the Nano seconds after the big bang that is spectacular. We know about the inner nucleus of an atom, quarks with charms and colors. We know about the constitution of galactic clusters ten billion lite years away but what about consciousness? That which make all of science possible. It’s the blind spot. If would call it metaphorically the retinal blind spot in the scientific vision where the optic never touches the back of the retina and you know what happens there. We walk around with two dark spots in our visual field. We should have that because there is no information coming in from these spots.
What does our cunning brain do? It cover s over the area you know nothing at all, if t covers it over with the environment. If you’re looking at a brown wall them you’re looking at it with brown. if’ you’re looking at a purple wall that covers it with purple , it covers that over which you don’t know at all with that which is familiar and gives you an illusion of knowledge.
What is there in the retina blind spot of the scientific vision of consciousness? That’s a bad start. If consciousness is a natural phenomenon for heaven sake let’s have a definition. How can you study it if you don’t even define what you’re studying? That’s a problem but for any imperils it’s a crucial point which we have no objective means of detecting consciousness.
There’s a word for a type of technology that so doesn’t exist it’s called a <>. it would be like a gigercounter that you can point to rocks, plants, amoeba, baby during the first trimester and during the last trimester and to an old person who has Alzheimer’s an become vegetated `an d your bring out you <> and it would say the croute is not sinuous and then to the insect eating plants, the rat and the cock roach and you will get tot in a <>. It’s ten<> physiological units that’s how consulting it is.
by this rigorous observation and internal phenomena I think he was the ne I think more than anybody else that launce the true revolution , the first great revolution ND it wasn’t in physical sciences. In a similar fashion Darwin spent about 25 years in very meticulous, rigorous, careful observation of biological phenomena. of course in the <> we all know about that , that its wasn’t just the <> he was doing years of study observing and in 1859 came up with this great monumental work , the organ of the species , that would not have happened had he not been meticulously observing that biological phenomena.
it was not just staying home at his estate and thinking very deeply about biological , it was not by doing really good physics it was by observing biological phi novena carefully and then drawing from that and developing his specatcular theory about evolution .
Then we get to 1890, we get to the closing years of the 19th century, the first decade of the 21st century and the person I believe is of equal stature William James. I have to admit he’s one of my heroes so really look out for this guy. He was brilliant, he was a MD, he was a biology, he was a spectacular philosopher, and he wrote the greatest American treats on religious experience. he was a psychologist , he started the first Nero science lab exponential Psychology Lab in the Unite d States in Harvard. he was a brillaiant philosper, religious studies scholar, scientis , MDF , bioligist , pscychologit and he was so dogma free. thats what i love about this guy . he wasnt buying into any dogma . He was an impurist, in fact he started school of philosophy called Radical Empiricism.
William James came to the mind and this is something that has been postponed for 300 years from the time of Copernicus. can you imagine 300 years of the development of science, physics , chemistry, biology , astronomy , geology etc. 300 years before they actually started the scientific study of the mind . That should throw you back for a moment if you’ve not quite thought of it in those terms. This is bizarre.
The mind is that which you are doing all the science. It would be like somebody giving you an instrument and saying “use this instrument you’ll discover a lot of things” and waiting 300 years before you actually look at the instrument itself. That is weird but there’s very good reason for it and today we have too short of time to really explore them in depth.
Of course for those 300 years the natural sciences establish the reputation, a spectacular reputation, and a well earn reputation for setting objective, quantifiable, physical phenomena. So you can bring in the full weight of mathematics, the technology that is there starting from the telescope moving right through all the extraordinary masses in technology.
the mental phenomena , emotions , thoughts , mental images, desires , memories , expectation , the whole array, the visual perception , auditor , mental perception , dreams these are e not objectives they’re subjective. They’re not quantifiable they’re qualitative. They’re not physical. The last time you have a dream, look at contents of the dream and ask what physical attributes the contents of your dream have. The answer is none. Your desires, your hopes and fears, your feelings, your thoughts and mental images. They don’t have any physical attributes at all. You observe them and they’re not physical. They certainly don’t appear physical, if they are physical then they’re really concealing something.
William James was pressing perhaps the greatest t challenge in the history in science with its 300 years of spectacular success. we because he himself was biologist and MD , we’ve gotten extremly good using scientific methods to explore the objective , quantifiable physical and now can we take this same expertise , the same methodological rigor and apply it to that which is by nature subjective, qualitative and perhaps nonphysical. he said let’s do it in the old fashion way and that is let psychology be above all the study of mental phenomena as we experience them immediately and for that like physics, like biology what as <> a revolution in the mind scientist, let us start and do it the old fashion way, carefully, meticulously, rigorously observe the phenomena themselves.
He proposed this and he didn’t do it. They tried it for about twenty or third y years and then ethyl stopped. William James wasn’t the only person. William James started the first experimental physiology lab at Harvard in 1879 and here was his mission statement in terms of methodology, he said ” introspect of observation is what we have to rely on first and foremost and always. The word introspection need hardly be different, it means of course the looking into our own minds and recording what we there discover.”
In other words just as Galileo was an imperialist and Darwin was an imperist when we finally got around to the mind lets be equally imperial and stuff the phenomena themselves.
In presenting this he did not at all disparage or try to marginalize e studying the mind by way of behavior. The whole behavioral sciences inferring states unconsciousness, mental processes and so forth by way of behavior, he dint not disparage that.
We’re looking g at the effects of mental processes by studying behavioral output. then of course they knew back then that the brain is crucially important in generating mental states, processes and so forth so causally look at the mind indirectly by looking at the neuron causes giving rise to mental phenomena, look at the mind indirectly by looking that the behavior output our effects of mental phenomena but first and foremost and always look at the metal phenomena and let your science be biased upon the actual, careful observation of the phone themselves.
In the same year that William James started his first experimental lab at Harvard<>, the germ histologist in Germany started he same in the same year he started his own experimental physiology lab and he echoed a very similar theme. he said the service which is the experimental method of what we call the scientific method, the surface witch the scientific method can yield consist essentially in perfecting our inner observation or rather as I believe in making this really possible e in any exact sense `<> are you happy right now or sad, uninterested r bred, agitated rear calm. You don’t need to look at your behavior. You don’t have to go to an EAG or a FMRI and ask it how I am doing. To some level, to some rudimentary level right now you must have some idea what’s going in your mind. Are there lots of thoughts arising? Are you falling asleep? emotional states , cognitive stats , the focus of your attention , the slatterns of your attention but what both William James and <>, these two giants on the two sides of the Atlantic ocean was suggesting is take your folk psychology , your folk untrained intersection and start refining it , honing it, intensifying it , make this as sophisticated method of enquiry . This is the battle cry, this is the great challenge of the mind scientist.
1913 especially in American, john Watson at John Hopkins University, William James was just cooling off in the grave and another movement came in it was almost like a palace coupe. John Watson in 1913 said from now on the scientific study of the mind is going to avoid all psychological subjective terms. We will not use the term belief and emotion, thoughts, perception. We’re not going to use any of those subjective terms at all. They have no place in psychology this is bizarre. we’re going to have the science of the mind but by the way we won’t use any mental terming at all we’re going to treat the mind as if it’s a black box containing only disposition <> for behavior and we’re going to confine ourselves to studying the non-mind by way of behavior.
In other words it wouldn’t have flatten, like stamping on a thin can. We’re going to flatten the study of mental phenomena, treat the m as if they don’t exist and reduce psychology to the study of behavior. its back to the good old fashion way of objective , quantifiable and physical rather than picking up the gauntlet that James have thrown out and said” its time to start something afresh” attend to the natural phenomena and john Watson said no thanks.
these radical behaviorist , these have been going on from 1913 building a momentum , 1953 forty years later B.F. Skinner comes out and says ” mental phenomena do not exist . ” there is no such thing as emotion ., mental images, thoughts, desires, hopes and fears, they don’t exist at al. in fact consciousness is a word that refers to nothing at all . It’s a superstition. Your jaws should be dropping to your knee caps at this point. He said “after all they can’t exist, the y don’t have physical attributes”
this is the absolute trauma over dogma over experience because they’ve decided now B.F. Skinner writing in 1953, the only things that exist are physical and the properties of the physical mental phenomena clearly they don’t have any physical attributes therefore they don’t exist . He kept on saying that until 1974, he never learnt. He wasn’t some high yahoo at <> State University, he was a full professor at Harvard University and it looks like he’s brain dead. It really should astound us that such an intelligent operon, I say with respect, can say such a ridiculous thing. it compares to Dick Hart’s statement , also operating under the dogma – the roman catholic church in the 17th century, when he equated consciousness with human immortal soul ” only human being shave immortal souls animals don’t” I f you equated a consciousness with an immortal soul, you are now in one step logic have to come to the conclusion that animals are not conscious because they don’t have an immortal soul, they don’t go to heaven or hell ,therefore your dog has no consciousness which means no feelings.
Date May 27, 2013
Speaker/s First speaker, second speaker
First speaker: not a typical man, here’s a man that cannot sit still in one place. even while he was a man he went on to get a degree in physics and then he went on to start neuron sciences and phycology and eventually he got one of those PHD things that some of you have and then he went on to become a professor in UCSB . Then he decided he couldn’t sit <> UCSB so he went out to found his own institute and he decided to take everything he ever learnt in life to try to advance the <> sciences.
When I heard about his work I figured this are things that will be interesting to Google’s and mind scientist, so invited him to come visit , come eat with us and share a talk. Before I bring <> just a reminder to all Google’s please don’t ask questions that contains information that is school work confidential , thank you .
Second speaker: well it’s quite a delight for me to be with you today. I’ve known about Google like the rest of us for a long time, delighted to be in the matrix here and to share some of my passions pertaining to understand I had a rather diverse background but I had been blessed with extraordinary teachers in the <>, other Buddhist traditions but also marvelous instructors in physics, philosophy science at <> college and doing very diverse PHD program at Stanford University; where <. In religious studies but taking courses in philosophy of physics and <> psychology philosophy of mind and trying to bring all of these together. to integrate them , my background being raised in the west but then living years in Europe and quite a few years In to , to synthesize so that these various aspects of own life as a Buddhist monk for 14 years but also physics student and so forth can be all integrated. So that the various aspects of my own last fifty six years on the planet would be all a one integrated unit so no part was isolated form the others.
This actually took a long time because again I had been exposed to so many diverse world views, ways of life and so on. What I’d like to share with you this afternoon is a vision of a possibility of a first revolution in the mind sciences. This very notion is based on an assumption that certainly can be contested. probably everything can be but the starting assumption here is that amid the natural sciences we have the first great revolution in the natural science , starting with <> building on momentum with <> and coming to its fulfilment to its fruition with Newton ..
So the first great revolution we had in the natural sciences wasn’t physics and astronomy. I would say from own perceptive it started with Copernicus but with Newton it came together, he brought it all together and that’s when that revolution stopped and then we simply have a lot of excellent science and physics after that.
Then we move over to another discipline. The life sciences are plugging along and then 1859 Darwin comes out with his masterpiece. I he started the first and the only great revolution we’ve had in the life science .he started building momentum in 1870s with Greggory Mendel , a Christian monk , with genetics of course and then he was building momentum. Key point one century after Darwin, 1959 <> and Watson DNA. We fondly <>, how does this happen, the natural selection, hoe can species mutate?
Darwin didn’t tell us, Mendel gave us a hint. <> and Watson pointed there is a machinery. Following that we’ve had this extraordinary growth. A spectacular growth in the study of genetics and I would say that great revolution starting in 1859 has come to communication, it’s over and it was with the human genome project. We’ve mapped it, it’s something like 99%.
Now of course the study of biology of genetics will continue but it was 140 years and interestingly not, it’s probably just a coincidence but it was 140 years also from Copernicus through Newton. It took 140 years for the revolution to start and then go” Walla”.
We also have a second great revolution in physics and it started with Max plank in the 1900s. It picked up momentum in 1905 and 1915 with a special and relativity theory form Einstein. It was truly a revolution and by revolution I mean to use the familiar phrase, “the paradigm is shifted”. You’re fundamentally orientation toward the subject matter has shifted and it will never be the same. From geo centric to the hellio-centric. Ram pre Darwin to post Darwin nothing is the same. You cannot look at human existence, you cannot look at the pllanet the same way anymore. Your axis has rotated.
that second great revolution in mystics is not over, 106 years of you start 1900 when Max Plank came out with the notion of <>, it’s not over. there’s some core ,crucial , fundamental issues in <> mechanics in particular have not been sold for the m most important of which would say is the measurement problem.
how is it that you move from mathematical obstruction of a probability function which is hardly physical, it’s a pure abstraction but prior to making a measurement that’s what you have , you have a probability function, a shooting away equation and then you make a measurement then suddenly you have an electron that is here. It still doesn’t have simultaneous exact momentum and location but at least it’s a real electron, Fulton but what is it about the act of measurement that moves you forma a realm of possibility to a realm of actuality.
Somehow the observer is involved but in what way? What does it take for a measurement to take place? What’s required? So you need consciousness? Could a robot do it? The measurement problem I think it was identified in about 1930 or so, it’s unsolved. What is the roll e of the observer in the natural world? It takes us from potential to actuality. another major unresolved question in this 2th century physics is you have two extraordinary , elegant , rap found , powerful theories and that is <. Mechanics in one hand and generality on the other. Neither one of them is going away. They’re too good but they’re not integrated. That would be the grand <> theory and nobody had come up with it.
That revolution is in progress, now we go to the mind science and I want to get a little bit of historical sciences here to point out one element that I think is absolutely and indispensable catalyst to bring about a revolution in any field. Of science and that is the development if extraordinarily, sophisticated, advance method of imperial observation. If you don’t have that the revolution is not going to take place that would be my premise. you’ve got to observe the phenomena you’re really interested in an you’ve got to serve it beyond folk psychology , folk astronomy or folk biology get professional .
When I think of this first great revolution in the physical science I don’t think of Copernicus. He’s a brilliant mathematician. He was not a brilliant experimenter, he was not a brilliant observer. He get up on the roof of his monetary, looked at the star with the best of them, he’s didn’t really do anything innovative there. His mathematical theory that was innovative so they called it the <> revolution.
Keller himself was not a great observer. He got hall his data from <> who was an every overfill observer, a brilliant Danish astronomer but Keller like Copernicus was a great mathematician. It’s Galileo that brought t in the full package. Galileo was the observer, she was the engineer, he was the one that reinvented the telescope, which has actually been invented in Hoagland, he tried to order and somebody snipped it on the way. He was there bummed out that he didn’t get his telescope because somebody snipped it so he said “I’ll make my own.” He made himself a 20 power telescope and he did something unprecedented, the telescope was already there but Galileo was the innovator and he used it in an unprecedented ways.
Instead of goggling the girls across the street in Holland he directed it upwards, can you imagine how thrilling this must have been? That everything he looked at he was covering something nobody had ever seen before. He took his Telescope and directed it to the moons and he seen craters for the e first time in humanity. he turned it to Jupiter and he saw the moons for the first time , he turned it to the sum he saw sun spot, he turned it to Venus she saw the face of Venus. Wouldn’t that be thrilling?
He too was mathematician but he was an experimenter. he was rolling balls down a ramp to see whether they <> at constant velocity they accelerated . he did actually brought objects off the tower of Piza. I”ve been there and asked the people at the University of Piza. He did it all and he also brought it out into the world he didn’t write Latin like so many of his contemprraies, he wrote in Italian he brought it home. He was the full package, he was the Constance first great scientist that brought it all together.
Among the trainings he did which was seminal, which is indispensable for this triggering of the first great revolution in the physical sciences was his use of the telescope. He was making observations like nobody has done before. The mathematics was there, the observation that was crucial. Otherwise what they were doing with the Copernicus <> centric system was a c very cool mathematical system but we already have one. Ours cover the data, it accounts for the appearances so does yours so it’s a matter of choice. It’s not a matter of choice when you start seeing the face of Venus. It’s not a matter of which do you like ice cream or do you like brownies.
You’re in the middle of your life. You stop; take a breath, with your eyes open or closed; observe something happening in the present moment… and then proceed. We’re done. One more time: stop; take a breath, eyes open or closed; observe something happening, internally or externally… and we’re done. Proceed.
Anybody want to say what they observed in one of those times? Just shout it out. Doesn’t matter. What’d you observe?
SPEAKER: Your example previously about not liking to do dishes, I used that as an example. Focus in on the task at hand.
DIANA: Okay, so you started thinking about doing the dishes with mindfulness. Okay, that’s another approach. I’m going to get to that in a minute, but you noticed that your mind was heading there. Yeah. What else did anybody notice?
SPEAKER: Bodily sensations.
DIANA: Bodily sensations. Anybody notice your feet on the floor or your back on the chair, those kinds of things? Yeah. How about emotion? Anybody notice an emotion?
DIANA: Peace. Peaceful, okay. This is the really simple take-home one that you can take home: Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. Bring it into your day. Bring it into your day and see what happens. I’ve taught thousands of people mindfulness, and I’ll tell you this is one of the most helpful things. They go home, they remember it. They remember to STOP. And it can change your experience. You can go from stress to relaxation in a moment.
Someone was mentioning doing the dishes. You can do the dishes with mindfulness. You can take an activity and be really attentive. I was suggesting to one of my groups the other day, drink a mindful cup of tea. Drink really mindfully and slowly and taste it and feel it. This can be a really amazing experience to bring mindfulness into your day. I do like to mindfully wash the dishes, feeling each dish, rubbing each dish with care and attention, feeling the water on my hand, noticing my body standing. My mind wanders off – I just bring it right back. So there’s all sorts of ways to practice mindfulness. Take a mindful breath.
Any questions from where we are at this moment? Now I have the PowerPoint on my head. I think it’s all right. We’ll leave it. Yes?
SPEAKER: In mindfulness, does diet and nutrition ever enter into the picture?
DIANA: People report that as they begin to be more – he was asking if diet or nutrition is in the picture. It’s not explicitly part of mindfulness, but what people report is as they practice mindfulness, they’re bringing more care and attention to their body and mind, and they start to want to treat it well. So oftentimes people report changes in diet towards more healthful eating because they’re feeling more mindful and connected to themselves. But it’s not explicit.
SPEAKER: I’m going through an experience right now where my dog, that I love, is 15 ½, and he’s beginning to decline. I’ve noticed that I can get out of the moment, anticipating the end and feeling sad, but then I realize I’m missing the present moment where he’s fine. He’s just at a different stage. But then I think, “Well, in this present moment, I’m aware that I feel sad.” So I’m just trying to apply mindfulness in this experience without projecting or creating something – I don’t know, I’m just not really sure how to do it.
DIANA: I think you’re doing great. Exactly what you’re describing is an excellent application of mindfulness. When we’re in a challenging situation – she’s dealing with the decline of her dog – that she’s trying to stay more in the present moment, by really appreciating that he’s still there and he’s still doing okay at the moment. Preventing your mind from going off into the worries and fears and “Oh, what’s going to happen,” that’s a really good use of mindfulness. Come back to the present moment.
And then if you’re feeling emotions, if you’re feeling sad, then learning to be present with that, and to give yourself mindful, kind attention in the midst of whatever you’re feeling. And that it’s okay to be sad. Mindfulness is not about “oh, we have to be happy all the time.” Remember, we talked about this earlier: mindfulness is about creating enough of a space to be present with whatever life brings. So we can hold ourselves with care and compassion and mindfulness in the midst of hard things. I hope that’s clarifying. Is that helpful? Sort of.
SPEAKER: Yes, it is. I just wonder if sometimes I’m creating some of the sadness by anticipating the loss.
DIANA: That’s what you have to pay attention to. That’s the first aspect; when you notice your mind doing that, see if you can bring it back. But there’s also a natural grieving process that you don’t want to undermine. We’re going to do one more exercise before we end, but yeah, we’ll do one more question here.
SPEAKER: Does mindfulness interfere with creativity?
DIANA: He asked if mindfulness could interfere with creativity. You mean because you’re so in the present moment that it’s hard to be creative? No. Actually, they link mindfulness to more creativity. Because it’s kind of like you clear out all the excess and then open to whatever arises. There’s studies linking the two.
Okay, we’re going to do a final practice. That practice – because it really came up from what we were just talking about – is a practice of cultivating more kindness, compassion, and care for ourselves. It’s a practice called – you can call it kindness practice or loving-kindness practice, where we bring up somebody that we love, who’s easy to love, and we’ll send kindness to that loved one, and we’ll imagine them sending it back to us, and seeing if we can receive it.
It’s a complementary practice that we do in the mindfulness classes that I teach, and it’s very, very helpful for working with a whole host of issues, including feeling judgmental of ourselves. A lot of us are very self-critical, judgmental of others. This kind of practice is very helpful in this respect.
We’ll do this meditation, one more meditation, and you’ll follow along with me. I just invite you, again, to sit back and relax. Taking a few breaths. Let yourself bring to mind someone that you love, someone whom when you think of them, you get happy. In other words, don’t pick a complicated person or someone where the relationship is a little challenging right now. Pick someone that fairly easily brings you happiness, connection, joy. Does not have to be a human being. Feel free to pick animals.
Have a sense of this loved one in front of you. Sense them, see them, feel them. Now we’ll use some words, which we’ll send out to this loved one, and we can imagine it coming from us. Feel free to be as creative as you want. You might have images, light, color, sense of anything. Just let yourself be creative. You can use my words, repeating them in your head, or your own words.
“May you be safe and protected.” We repeat them silently in our mind. “May you be happy and peaceful. May you be healthy and strong. May you be at ease.” Imagine coming from your heart, whatever feeling you’re having. Let that loved one be here, and as you sense that loved one, notice what happens inside you, just by bringing them up in your mind. Maybe there’s a feeling of warmth, connection, a smile on your lips. Really sense them in front of you.
Now let that feeling that you’re having flow towards this loved one in your mind. “May you be safe and protected. May you be free from all stress and anxiety. May you be joyful and at ease.” Notice if you’re feeling a sense of kindness coming from you and reaching out to this loved one. Imagine that they turn around and begin to send it back to you. See if you can take it in. See if you can be on the receiving end, as they say to you, “May you be safe and protected. May you be happy and peaceful. May you be healthy and strong. May you be at ease.”
Then as we continue to practice, as you breathe in, imagine receiving the kindness from them, and taking it in, and letting it touch you. As you breathe out, imagine sending it back to them. You might use some words or images, whatever comes to you, breathing in and breathing out. “May you be safe and protected. May we be joyful and at ease. May we be loving and be filled with loving kindness. May we be at peace.” Breathing in and breathing out.
If you’re feeling the loving kindness, if you’re feeling that sensation, really letting it spread through your body. And if you’re not, noticing what’s present and letting that be here. And you can say “For whatever it is feeling, can I hold this, too, with kindness? Whatever I’m feeling.” And breathe.
Now pick one more person or set of people whom you’d like to send this kindness to. Family members, loved ones. You can even pick a challenging person. Who would you like to try to send kindness to, and wish them, using your own words or my words, whatever you want to say to them? Wishing them ease and wellbeing, joy and peace.
Now check back into your own self right now, and your body, heart, and mind. Notice what you’re feeling. If there’s feeling of love and kindness, really let it be here. If something else is present, let yourself be exactly where you are. Exactly where you are. That’s the most mindful and kind thing you can do for yourself. Be exactly where you are. Notice your body present on the chair. And then when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.
This is a very powerful practice for some people. It can bring up emotions. It’s a very loving practice, and it’s really going back to the neuroplasticity that we talked about earlier, where we can actually change our brain. We can cultivate states of being – mindfulness, compassion, kindness. I just want to offer you another practice and a taste of something else you can do as you bring mindfulness into your life. These practices are complementary.
We’re coming to the end right now, and what I want to do is simply give you some resources, tell you what’s going on with us. This is our website. There is a poster out on the table when you leave with our website and also all of our upcoming classes, so we have lots and lots of classes coming up.
Starting in March, we have an introductory class called MAPs – Mindful Awareness Practices. It takes what we did and goes much more into detail over six weeks, and it’s really helpful for getting your own daily practice. We have day-longs, we have workshops. There’s a day-long coming up on Foundations of Mindfulness, a workshop on ADHD and Mindfulness, and many, many other things going on. We offer retreats and programs for youth. We have a teen retreat in the summer. If you’re interested, all of this is on the website: marc.ucla.edu.
I put a little picture – this is the book that we did on mindfulness called Fully Present, and they have it at the library here.
I’m happy to stay at the end and answer any questions. Feel free to take the information on the way out. I just want to say it’s been wonderful to get to know you all, and I wish you the best.
Mindfulness is that invitation to not believe everything that we think. Because some of our thoughts lead to suffering. In fact, a lot of our thoughts lead to suffering. That’s what I was talking about earlier with this past and future, the way that our mind goes back and forth and stress is created. We have another option. We can not get on that train. We can stay on the platform. I hope that’s helpful, thinking about how to work with our thoughts. In the back.
SPEAKER: I like your cloud one as well. Because I go to the UCLA –
DIANA: Oh great. The Hammer Museum? Shall I share it with everybody? Okay. She said there’s another analogy that I use. We can imagine that our minds are like the sky. They’re wide open and spacious and vast, and all of our thoughts are just like little clouds floating by. The clouds are just going. Some of them are rushing past, some of them are sticking around for awhile; but the clouds don’t disrupt the mind. They just cover it up. They don’t disrupt our awareness. They cover it up temporarily. Maybe we’ll do a little meditation before we end where I’ll bring that in, because it’s a helpful reminder. Yes?
SPEAKER: What’s the relationship between secular mindfulness meditation and let’s say Buddhist meditation, where there’s progressions in insight and the goal of enlightenment? Do you just meditate in secular meditation, there’s no particular goal or no particular progression?
DIANA: I think that the way mindfulness is brought out in the culture these days, it’s a lot to address levels of stress that people are currently facing. Much of what we’re doing is just dealing with this bottom line, how do we be less stressed out, more happiness, more ease, more wellbeing. As people do that, they gain a different relationship to how they live in the world. Probably that I would say is one of the main goals in mindfulness teaching.
What I’ve experienced with students who go more deeply into it is they’re having wonderful meditative experiences and understanding and insight, but that map, if they’re interested in those kind of maps, I would steer them more towards traditional maps than what’s happening in what we’re doing. Yes?
SPEAKER: A wonderful quotation keeps coming to my mind, and I’m wondering whether there is an analogy between what you’re saying and a quotation by Mark Twain, who said “I’ve been through a lot of problems in my life, most of which never occurred.” (laughter) I feel like perhaps there’s some connection.
DIANA: Absolutely. Did everyone hear that in the back? She said there’s a famous quote by Mark Twain, “I’ve been through lots of difficult experiences in my life, most of which have never happened.” It’s a very famous quote, and it’s exactly what happens with our minds. We create tremendous suffering in our minds, and it may have no basis in reality.
There’s an incredible statistic – I’m hoping I get the statistic right. It may be a little off, but I think it is 80% of what we worry about never comes true. 80%. Think of all the worrying you do, all the things you suffer about, and it never comes true. The second part of that statistic is, of the 20% of the things that come true, something like 85% of people report that they handle it better than they ever imagined they would. You get the point. Worry is a huge issue for so many of us, and it causes all this suffering, just like Mark Twain was pointing to. There’s other ways to approach life. Yes?
SPEAKER: Can you talk more about, other than meditation, how do you use some of those techniques of bringing yourself to the present in your everyday life?
DIANA: Yes. I’m so glad you asked, because that’s where I was heading. She was asking how do we bring mindfulness into our daily life, not just by meditating. We did the meditative piece, and now I’m going to teach you some – and remember, I said mindfulness is a meditative technique. If you’re interested in continuing on with mindfulness meditation, I recommend that you try practicing it in your daily life. For instance, if you go to our website, there’s meditations you can download, and you can just practice at home for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. There’s lots of ways to continue, and I’ll talk about resources at the end.
SPEAKER: Which website?
DIANA: Our website is the Marc website. I’ll give you that resource at the end. There’s also brochures out there, flyers, that give you that information.
I also said mindfulness is a quality of attention we can bring to any moment. That means you can apply mindfulness – I can apply mindfulness right in this second. Right in this second, I’m noticing myself standing here. I’m feeling my feet on the floor. I’m having an awareness that I’m holding the microphone. I’m being mindful. I’m not meditating. Am I meditating? Not really. I’m applying a quality of attention. What this does is it can absolutely shift my experience from being caught in the stress and the worry into being more present; relaxed, at ease, joyful, happy, etc.
I want to teach you a little practice – this actually is on the thing, if you want to pull it up as I’m talking. This is a practice of being more mindful in the midst of life, and the practice is called STOP. And it stands for – oh, now we get the sound.
Let’s take a mindful breath as we listen to the sound. Let’s listen mindfully, ready? We can listen to the sound, just like we did earlier. Why not? Great. Let me get this up for you then. I think I’ll just leave it up for now. I don’t want to make you more stressed. I don’t want you to leave here feeling more stressed because the thing keeps going up and down. It’d be bad if you left the mindfulness meditation workshop more stressed. (laughter)
This exercise that is something that you can take home with you that’s tremendously helpful for bringing mindfulness in daily life, and it’s called STOP. It stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed. What that means is you’re in the midst of your daily life and you have this sense that it would be good to be mindful, or maybe you’re about to have a stressful meeting with someone. Stress is appearing in your life. Or you just want to remember to be mindful.
STOP can come to mind. Stop just means stop; it doesn’t mean freeze. You don’t have to freeze. It means stop the flow of mental activity. Take a breath – you can do that. And then Observe. This is the part I have to teach you, so you get that. I’ll show you in a moment. And then Proceed – go back into life.
The whole thing will probably take about six seconds, but first I’m going to teach it to you. The meditation itself is going to take a little bit longer so you get the picture. Let’s close our eyes, and I’m going to show you the different things that you can observe. And observe doesn’t mean look; observe means observe internally, and feel and sense, in the way that we’ve been doing it. It’s really about how to be mindful.
Begin by noticing your body present on the chair. Notice anything that’s obvious to you about your body, any body sensations. You might notice weight or movement or pressure or vibration. There might be itchiness; there might be warmth or coolness. Anything that’s happening in your body, you can observe. You might even observe your breath.
Now observe if there’s any emotion here right now, and there may or may not be. Maybe you’re feeling sad or a little worried or irritated or hopeful or joyful. Notice if something is present.
Notice if you’re thinking anything in particular. Sometimes when you ask someone to notice what they’re thinking, it’s hard to do. But just notice if there’s any thoughts coming across your mind a little bit.
Now notice your mood, or how you’re feeling any kind of state of body or mind, like you’re sleepy or you’re restless or you’re bored or you’re at peace. Notice.
Now observe sounds. Listen to the sounds in the room, like we did earlier.
Finally, open your eyes and notice whatever there is to see. See if you can observe visually with mindfulness.
Okay. We’re done with the meditation, the first part of the meditation. Let me just ask you, was it possible to notice those different categories of your experience? Was it possible to notice the different aspects of your experience? Yeah? Raise your hand if you noticed body sensations. That’s pretty easy, right? How about emotions – anybody have emotion coming up? How about thoughts? Could you notice your thinking? Yeah, you guys were doing great. Wow. Sounds? Pretty easy. Visually – could you observe mindfully? Some of you. It’s not really so clear what that is. It’s just kind of taking in the experience. Oh, and I forgot, how about being mindful of your mental state, your mood? Could you notice that? Okay.
Those are all sorts of things that we can be mindful of. But let’s say you only have three seconds to be mindful, and you’re going to stop, you’re going to take a breath, and then when you observe, you’re going to observe just one thing. And you only have three seconds, four seconds, whatever amount – because we’re busy people, remember? We’re all really busy. So let’s see if we can practice this when we only have a few seconds. When I ask you to observe, you’ll observe anything. You might observe a body sensation, an emotion, a thought, a sound, etc.
You can also notice the sound. For a moment, everybody listen to the sounds in the room. Some sounds come and go; some sounds seem more constant. We don’t have to be in a completely silent place to meditate. We can just come into the present moment through listening. Listening meditation is actually a really wonderful way to practice mindfulness.
For the last minute of the meditation, if you want to stay with your breath, stay with your breath; if you want to stay with listening to the sounds – and notice you may start to think about the sound, what it is, why it’s there. See if you can let go of that, and just come back to the pure act of listening, or the pure act of breathing.
Then take one more breath, with awareness, and whenever you’re ready, when you finish that breath, feel free to open your eyes.
Let’s hear from you what that was like, what happened, what did you learn, what questions that might have come up. Yes?
SPEAKER: I just smell so good. (laughter) Oh my God. It’s like a perfume commercial. When I was breathing in really deeply, it was like I was traveling with the scent. It was just magnificent.
DIANA: Wow. Okay, what she said was, she said “I smell so good.” It’s a lovely comment, because I think what she’s pointing to is the way in which our senses open up when we’re mindful. I was talking earlier about it counteracts that automaticity. We just live, going through life, just like on auto-pilot. Here, our senses open up. We feel more alive, more present, and it sounds like it was a really neat experience for you to feel that, to really focus on what was happening in her nostrils. Thank you. How about others? Yes.
SPEAKER: It felt boring.
DIANA: Boring. It felt boring. Anybody else get bored? A few people. It can be boring, yeah. Here’s why: most of the time, we don’t spend our lives doing not much of anything. Most of the time, we’re so used to being distracted, having external stimuli, distracting ourselves. So when we sit here and do something fairly neutral, which is just pay attention to our breathing, it’s like “Okay, I’m waiting for something interesting to happen.”
The fact is, it’s a great skill to learn, even when it’s boring, because it teach us not to have this need for constant stimulation. It actually teaches us to have more ability to be present with simple things. That would happen over time, but then just to say, if you notice yourself getting bored when you’re doing it, pay closer attention. It’s a great way to add some interest, that curiosity, and it can shift the experience. Or, what’s it like to be bored? Get to be mindful of boredom. That’s a very interesting thing. Yes?
SPEAKER: To be honest, even though this is not as positive a comment as I wish I were making, but I was getting warmer and warmer and warmer… that was part of the whole experience for me.
DIANA: She reported getting warmer and warmer and warmer and said it wasn’t positive. It was uncomfortable?
SPEAKER: That’s uncomfortable, but I have multiple sclerosis, so being overly warm is not something that’s foreign to me. But this process made me feel warm.
DIANA: Okay. Because of your multiple sclerosis, you are used to getting warm, and so this process made you be really tuned into it. One of the things that happens when we meditate is that we open up to the actual experience of what is going on in our body and mind in this present moment. Sometimes it’s really lovely and peaceful and maybe even some joyful, blissful happiness. Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable. How many people had a peaceful experience when they were meditating? Okay, a lot of you did. How many of you had an uncomfortable experience in some way. Okay, and there were a bunch of you who did.
With mindfulness, it’s wonderful when we have those peaceful experiences, because it’s really helpful. It’s encouraging. We get inspired to do more. When we have the uncomfortable experiences, what we learn is that mindfulness can be present no matter what life brings. That we can learn that capacity to be present with life, whether we have difficult things or easy things in life. It’s an incredible skill to learn, to be able to be okay with no matter what life brings. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re not trying to have a specific experience; we’re trying to learn to be present in the midst of all that life brings us. Thank you for sharing that.
SPEAKER: I was wondering, since mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose, and the present moment is continually coming at me, and once the present moment is gone, I have to be aware of the next present moment… how does it relate to the future? (laughter)
DIANA: Wow. That was an intense question. Let’s see how I can answer that. Yes, the present moment is continually changing, so when you say how does it relate to the future, what are you actually asking? What makes you ask that?
SPEAKER: It’s just that somebody told me that mindfulness is correlated with the future and what’s going to happen in the future. In the immediate future. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that. That’s why I was asking.
DIANA: I’m not exactly sure about that particular correlation. What mindfulness does is mindfulness keeps us present, and then when we face whatever comes up in the future, we’re right there. We’re available to be there for it. By the way, some people say, “How can I be mindful all the time? What if I have to plan?” or “Don’t we have to plan to live life?” Of course you do. The future is relevant, it’s important. You don’t have to be mindful every second of the day. But you can be present, and then you can go back to doing something that involves future planning or past thinking, and then you sort of take a breath and come back to yourself. I don’t know if I’m getting exactly at your question, but I’m just trying to touch on it a little bit. Yes?
SPEAKER: I’m meditating almost every night, following your advice. And I pray to the power of now, etc. The only thing is that it’s almost impossible to stop thinking and only feeling something. When this thinking comes back. Feeling only is almost impossible because of how to reject all this thinking that comes in.
DIANA: Okay, this is a really important piece about mindfulness: you are not trying to stop thinking. I don’t know if you’ve heard that about meditating, that you’re supposed to get into this blissful state and your mind is supposed to stop. That is not what happens. At least not in this particular kind of meditation. What happens is, thoughts keep coming. Because that’s what our minds do. In the same way that our heart pumps blood, our brain is thinking. So what we learn is that when our thoughts take us away, that we come back to the present moment. It’s fine to be thinking, as long as you’re aware that you’re thinking, and then you just came back, and you learn to let go.
I want to give you this analogy, because it’s really, really helpful: let’s imagine that our thoughts are like trains. Let’s say that we have a thought train, and the train is just going, going, going. So you start thinking about something: “Hmm, what am I going to do after this? Maybe I’ll go out and get some dessert. I wonder what place to go? What’s open? Nothing in Santa Monica really stays late, blah blah blah blah” – you know what I mean? Your mind just goes.
Or you hurt yourself, and you think “Oh no, this is really serious. What’s going to happen? I’m going to have to call the doctor. This always happens to me.” You know what I’m talking about, the way our mind just kind of goes? Yes? Let’s imagine that’s like a train.
What we typically do, and you may have saw this when you meditate, is that we can think of it as you get on the train. You’re meditating, you get on the train, and the train leaves the station, and you’re 20 miles down the road and you’ve just been lost in this thought, caught in the grip of this thought. There’s another option, and that option is that the train leaves the station, but you stay on the platform. You see what I mean? That thought is still there. You’re not stopping your thinking; it’s going, but you’re not on it. You find this place of awareness, of centeredness, of groundedness. The thought is still going, but you’re not in the grip of that thought.
There’s a really amazing bumper sticker – I don’t know, I’ve seen it a lot – but the bumper sticker is this: “Don’t believe everything you think.” (laughter) Have you seen that? Some of you know that. I used to live in Berkeley, California; I saw it all the time. I moved to L.A., I don’t see it very often. (laughter)
Mindfulness also includes other aspects; curiosity, openness, this willingness to be with what is. You’re going to see the different elements. Often, mindfulness is connected to kindness, compassion, care. There are certain skills that we develop that involve present-time awareness, and you’ll see how mindfulness is deeply connected to them. Yes?
SPEAKER: How does what you’re talking about differ from Buddhist insight meditation?
DIANA: How does this differ from Buddhist insight meditation. Buddhist insight meditation is a big influence on the mindfulness movement, and mindfulness is in many ways derived from that, but it also includes other aspects of things. We can look at mindfulness, seeing what’s present of mindfulness in different other religious traditions, in poetry, in philosophy. In the mindfulness movement, we draw from science. So mindfulness is very much linked to Buddhist insight meditation, but it’s certainly a secularization and drawing from other aspects of things. Yes?
SPEAKER: If you practice it during the daytime, do you get any benefit of better sleep?
DIANA: Who has sleep problems here? Yeah. It’s such a common thing in the culture. People report that mindfulness can help with sleep. We’re actually doing a study right now at UCLA – it’s going to be starting in May, on mindfulness and sleep. There’s been a few studies linking it to improved sleep. Actually, they’re going to be looking for volunteers for that study, so if you’re interested, I’ll give you all the information about our center at the end. You can look into that. Okay, last one.
SPEAKER: I recently started to practice mindfulness, only in the last month or so. The greatest improvement I’ve seen so far is that a long history of insomnia is no more.
DIANA: So here’s living proof right here. The end of her insomnia from a month of practicing mindfulness. How wonderful. Thank you for saying that. Okay, enough talk. Let’s do it. Let’s practice it.
We’re going to do a basic meditation that is the foundational practice of mindfulness, that is something that if you decide you want to go back and do more of, that you would do what we’re doing right now. Just a really simple breath meditation. I’ll teach it to you, I’ll guide you through it. This is the basics of mindfulness to get started.
I just invite you to settle back on your chair. If you’re comfortable, close your eyes. You do not have to meditate with your eyes closed, but it can be quite helpful. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, then leave them open, but have them looking downward with a soft gaze. Your feet should be on the floor; your back upright as much as possible in these chairs, but at the same time being comfortable. So not too rigid, not too tight. Just comfortable. Your hands can be resting wherever is comfortable; on your legs, on the arms of the chair, in your lap. I like to put my tongue on the roof of my mouth, but really whatever is comfortable for you.
Let’s begin by noticing our body present on the chair. This is the first step of being mindful, just bringing our attention into our body, right here, right now. You can notice your feet on the floor, and what that feels like to have your feet on the floor. There’s weight and contact with the floor, vibration and touch and movement. Then notice your legs in the position that they’re in, and then notice where your legs touch the chair. There’s heaviness, pressure, vibration.
As you’re doing this, you’re bringing your mind inside your body, into the present moment. Our bodies are always in the present moment, so can we bring our minds there too? You can notice your back against the chair and what that feels like. Bring your attention into your stomach area, and see if your stomach is tight or tense. If it is, allow it to soften a little bit. You can breathe more deeply into your stomach area. Then notice your hands; are your hands tense or tight? You can allow them to soften. How about your arms and shoulders? Notice them and let them be relaxed. Then notice your jaw and throat and face. Soften your jaw, soften your facial muscles.
Now begin to notice that your body is breathing. Without you having to do anything at all, your body is naturally breathing. See if you can find your breath in your body, and let the breath be natural. Don’t try to elongate or shorten it. You might notice your abdomen area. Can you feel your breath in your abdomen? There’s a rising, falling sensation. Expansion and contraction. How about in your chest area? Can you feel your chest moving up and down? Expanding, contracting, rising, falling. Now notice if you can feel your breath at your nostrils. There’s coolness, heat, tingling. Flow of sensations.
If there’s sound, just let sound be in the background, and try to focus on your breath.
Finding your breath in one of these spots: abdomen, chest, or nostrils. Letting your attention come to rest, choose one. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Choose the one that is the most obvious to you or the easiest. Most compelling. See if you can feel one breath at a time. One breath after the next.
As you do this, it’s likely your mind will start to wander. Perhaps all sorts of things will come into your mind, and if that’s the case, you’re not doing anything wrong; it’s actually quite normal. When you notice your mind is wandering, you can say “thinking” or “wandering,” and then very gently bring your attention back to your breathing. So you’re with your breath; you get lost in thought; you might say “thinking,” and come back to your breath. And you get lost in thought again; you notice it, say “thinking,” and then gently come back to your breath.
If you notice you’re sleepy, that’s fine; so if you can be aware of being sleepy. If you’re feeling restless, notice that. Whatever takes you away from your breath, become aware of it, and then come back to the breath.
We’re going to practice this on our own for a few minutes. I’ll be quiet, and you give it a try, with your breath; getting lost, coming back.
No matter how many times your mind gets lost, no matter how many times it goes away from the present moment, you always can start again. Just bring it right back; come back to the breathing.
Back to this. The happiness study. One of the findings across all the thousand research studies is that mindfulness creates more happiness. This is what people report: people report that they’re happier once they practice mindfulness. Here’s one of the things they found. They had people beeped on their smart phones. They had 2500 people across the world beeped on their smart phones at random intervals in the day. They asked the people, “What are you doing?” Three questions: “What are you doing?”, “How’s your mood?”, and “Is your mind on what you’re doing?” What people reported was that if their mind was on what they were doing, they reported more happiness.
Even if they were doing things they didn’t like. Let’s say you don’t like doing the dishes. If you’re doing the dishes and you’re unhappy about it, and your mind is thinking about 10 other things you wish you were doing, you’re not too happy. But if you’re doing the dishes, even if you don’t like doing the dishes, but you’re keeping your mind on it, attending to the present moment, you’re happier.
This was repeated. This is what was shown with the study with 2,000 people. The more you can pay attention, the happier you are. He said, “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” That was the quote in Science Journal.
The last little piece I’ll go into is the impact on the brain structure. There’s been a lot of research in the last five, seven years on mindfulness and neuroscience. So they’ve hooked people up to brain scans, to fMRIs, to EEGs, to find out what is going on when people meditate. What they did was they looked at people who were what you might think of as the people who have been in caves for 20, 30 years meditating. These are like the Olympic athletes of meditation. They’ve been doing a lot of meditation. They looked inside their brains, and they saw that these three areas were thicker than people of the same age.
You don’t need to know anything about brain science. I just thought I’d show it to you. But one is the right insula – that’s #1 right inside. The second, the right Brodmann area, and the third is the central blah blah blah, you don’t need to know. It’s a little complex. But what this shows – this area of the brain is the front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is what we might think of as the CEO of our brain. It’s responsible for delayed gratification, for flexible thinking. It’s responsible for regulating body and brain states. This is something you really want. You really want your prefrontal cortex to be online and very active and robust.
What they found, that the people who practiced meditation for 30 years, their prefrontal cortex was thicker than people of the same age. Do you know that as you get older, your brain thins out? Do you know that? Okay. Now if you want something else to worry about, you can worry about that. (laughter) It’s called age-related cortical decline. As you get older, your brain thins out. But if you practice, if you do different things, it’s not going to happen. So the meditators, there was minute structural changes.
You’re listening and you’re thinking, “Great, I don’t know how to meditate.” They looked at this with beginning meditators too, and they saw structural changes in only eight weeks. Very small changes in the brain in these same areas, connected to the prefrontal cortex and also connected to an area related to self-awareness and compassion. Those parts of the brain seemed to be thicker.
I’m not going to go into this too much, but just to say that as we meditate – and whatever you do, your brain can change. So if you practice a skill, at whatever age you are, your brain can change. This is what the science of neuroplasticity can show us. I’m going to go back to this later.
I’m going to end this part of the slideshow by just talking a little personally. Mindfulness, as I said earlier, it’s not something that’s out of the realm of your experience. You’ve done it before, you’ve practiced it maybe. You may not have called it mindfulness, but you’ve had that experience. I have a two-year-old, and I’ve been watching my daughter over these last two years, and this baby, when she was a baby – and now she’s a toddler – is incredibly mindful. Not just my baby, but all children are like that. Have you noticed the way little kids bring this awe and wonder to the world? They’re connected and they’re present and they’re completely in the moment. I see that.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can be annoying, because we’re walking down the street and I’m trying to get from Point A to B, and she wants to do anything. She wants to sit and look at the bug and hang from the fence, and she’ll see that bug and she’ll just go straight for it, and it’s the most interesting, amazing thing in the whole world. You know what I’m talking about, right? With kids? Yeah.
Well, here’s the news: we were like that once too. We were. We were all little kids. What happened? You grew up, you got socialized, you got educated. Lots of things happened. So mindfulness, in some way, is like a return. It’s a return to ourselves. It’s coming back to that part of us that we’ve had since birth, that we lose because life gets in the way in some way. Mindfulness is something – I really think of it as our birthright. We’re going to learn these tools that we’re going to practice together to help us re-access a part of ourselves that is somewhere covered up, but it’s right there. It’s right there for us to find.
Let’s do it. You’re going to turn that off, and I’ve said a lot about mindfulness. Any questions about anything I just said, before we go into the experiential part? Any questions?
SPEAKER: Living in the utmost present – is that what it means, mindfulness?
DIANA: Living in the utmost present? Is that what you said? That’s one aspect of mindfulness. Present moment attention. Yeah, living in the present. I often talk about it as having a particular kind of attention that we bring to the present. Remember I was talking earlier about not being in the past, not being in the future, but really being right here? I think that’s what you’re pointing to. Yeah, absolutely.
SPEAKER: I’m a piano student, and that demands that you live in the present. You can’t go anyplace else when you’re playing the piano.
DIANA: That’s right. She says as a piano student, she knows she has to stay in the present. There’s no choice. You have to stay in the present. There’s certain skills that you’d better stay in the present with. For instance, what if you’re a tightrope walker? You’d better stay in the present, right? There are lots of skills that bring that present moment attention to us.
It’s not only a meditation; it can be cultivated through meditation, but it’s also a quality of attention we can bring to any moment in the day. We can bring mindfulness to when we’re driving, to when we’re walking, to when we’re waiting in line, to when we’re about to get in a fight with our spouse. We can take a mindful breath and come back to the present moment. So mindfulness is a kind of attention as well.
(laughter) Does this look familiar to anyone? Yeah, unfortunately, many of us sometimes feel like that. It’s a skill that we can train to reduce stress of the busy modern lives and promote wellbeing. By the way, how many people are stressed out? Raise your hand. A lot of you. Not everybody, and my hat is off to those of you who are not stressed out. How about busy? Who’s busy? Everybody’s busy. We’re very important people. We have a lot to do, don’t we? This woman’s a little over-stressed out.
Mindfulness is a way of counteracting that busyness with a kind of non-doing. There’s so much doing and producing and getting things done and accomplishing in our culture. Mindfulness invites us to just be. We’ve become these human doings instead of human beings. So how do we learn to come back into the present moment and not have to do all the time? When we learn that skill, when we learn to get quiet, when we learn to check into ourselves, it’s a huge antidote in the midst of our busy lives.
Here’s the opposite, maybe, perhaps. I’ll just say that mindfulness is not something that is far out of your experience. It’s something we’ve all had a taste of at various moments in our lives. I’ll just ask you this question: how many of you have spent some time in nature, and when you’re in the midst of nature you feel relaxed, at ease, connected, present? Raise your hand if you’ve had that experience. Yeah. This is it. This is mindfulness. Mindfulness connects us to ourselves. It makes us present here and now. We’ve all had it. It’s not some mystical thing.
How about any of you in the midst of athletic activity, where you’re really in the zone and you’re right there, present with your body? Who’s had that experience? Really connected and present. How about in the midst of artistic endeavor? Music or writing or you’re just with that creative flow. Or what about when you fall in love, if you remember? Being with that person for the first time, the real intensity in being present. You don’t have to raise your hand, but you know what I mean, right? (laughter) You know what I mean. This is a really, really authentic experience that we all have of mindfulness. I just wanted to show you that it’s something you already do and know.
Mindfulness has been brought into health settings and shown that it has a powerful effect on a number of mental and physical health issues. I just listed a few here: cancer, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain. And then more mental health concerns: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a whole host of other things has been studied in the last decade or 15, 20 years.
The last 20 years, the scientific research has shown mindfulness to address various health concerns. Let me talk about these specifically. I’ll give you a couple of the studies, just so you get a sense of what the mindfulness studies are about. One is in the area of physical health, so I listed the conditions that are helped by mindfulness. Generally, stress-related conditions can be impacted by mindfulness, so things like high blood pressure – really helpful to meditate and practice mindfulness – boosting the immune system; increasing the healing response.
I mentioned a study here about psoriasis, what they did with the itchy skin condition that people have. The typical treatment for psoriasis is that people go into what we might think of as tanning booths, where you get UVB light rays projected onto the skin. What was done in one of the research studies was they had some people receive the typical treatment and other people receive the same treatment, but they listened to a mindfulness CD and they practiced along with it. Those people healed three times faster than the people who just received the typical treatment. So this was a very interesting study done a number of years ago, and it’s been replicated and shown to be that mindfulness is quite effective.
Someone was asking earlier about mindfulness and attention and focus. Well yes, it definitely can help with attention, and it has been known to do that. You’ll see. In fact, when we do the practice, which we’ll do in about five minutes or so, you’ll see that one of the aspects of mindfulness is about learning to focus.
We did a study at UCLA about six years ago where we took adolescents and adults and had them go through an eight-week mindfulness training program. These were people with ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Attention Deficit Disorder. It was a small pilot study, but what we saw was significant improvement in the ability to pay attention.
There’s different ways to pay attention, but one main way to pay attention is called conflict attention. Conflict attention is when there’s many things competing for your attention, and your mind is being taken all over the place. If you have ADD, it’s really hard to stay focused. So if you’re here in this audience, you might be paying attention to the lights or looking at other things or maybe looking at your phone or something – I don’t know, actually. But with conflict attention, when it’s trained, we learn to stay on one thing.
The people in this study, that improved significantly. So significantly that when other researchers looked at the data, they said, “What kind of medication were people put on?” They said, “No, no – meditation, not medication.” (laughter)
Mindfulness and mental health. Mindfulness has also helped, as I mentioned earlier, with anxiety, depression – there’s been a lot of studies looking at that aspect of mindfulness, including studies that look at obsessive-compulsive disorder. It fosters wellbeing and creates less emotional reactivity.
There’s a very interesting study about happiness that was done just last year, and I love this study because I think it tells a lot about what mindfulness is. Keep in mind that there’s so many studies happening right now, but it’s still small. The area of research of mindfulness is still small. It’s not the cure-all for everything. You can imagine that there’s maybe 1,000 research studies on mindfulness, but if you were to look at heart disease and exercise, for example, there’s about 45,000 studies proving that. So mindfulness research is still in the young phase.
DIANA: I’m really happy to be here. I’m the Director of Mindfulness Education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. I speak a lot about what mindfulness is, and I do it in a way that I hope is going to be of interest to you and helpful to you, and of course it’ll be very experiential. But I wanted to start the presentation with just some of the basics of what mindfulness is, and give you a little bit about the background and the science behind it. Because I think some of the science is quite interesting and helpful in understanding why mindfulness might be for you.
One thing I’m curious about is how many people in this room have had some exposure to mindfulness? Wow, okay. A lot of you already know. How many people here have a mindfulness practice? So there’s been a lot of exposure and not too many people who have been doing it regularly. Well, you’ll get more exposure, if you’ve already had it, and it’s a new practice for some of you. How many of you have done some other type of meditation, not mindfulness? Okay, so there’s been quite a bit of this. Great.
Actually, I’m curious; if anybody’s willing to say what brought them here tonight. Anybody willing to say? Yes.
SPEAKER: My husband keeps telling me that I don’t remember anything he tells me.
DIANA: Her husband says that she doesn’t remember anything he tells her. Or you tell him. I don’t remember what you just said. She is not remembering what her husband tells her, so she’s thinking that it might be helpful to be here to learn some skills and tools to boost the memory, which can be part of mindfulness, yeah. How about other people? Yes.
SPEAKER: I have constant inner dialogue that I’m trying to overcome.
DIANA: Constant inner dialogue that she’s trying to overcome. Anybody else have constant inner dialogue? (laughter) Everybody’s raising their hand. We all do. A lot of us have constant inner dialogue, and mindfulness is a way of learning to have a different relationship to the dialogue. We’ll talk quite a bit about that, how to not get taken away and swept away by that. Other reasons for coming? Anyone else want to say? Yes.
SPEAKER: My sister died recently, and she was young, and in a tragic way, and I’m recounting it over and over, playing things in my head about how it happened. Get away from that.
DIANA: She experienced a tragedy recently and is replaying it and replaying it, and wants to see how she might be able to get away from that. Definitely mindfulness can be a tool to help with difficult repetitive mental thinking, yeah. I’ll take maybe one more. Yes.
SPEAKER: The description said “learning how to focus,” and I feel that oftentimes I forget things because I’m not focusing on what I’m doing.
DIANA: Yes. Many of us forget things because we’re not focusing on what we’re doing, and mindfulness is very connected to an ability to focus, and I’ll show you some of the science behind that as we get to it. Thank you for stating your reasons for coming.
Let me talk a little bit about what mindfulness is. Here’s a definition that I like to use about mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention to present moment experiences with open curiosity and a willingness to be with what is. What that means is, oftentimes people are told, “Just be in the present moment. Can you be in the present moment?” But how do we do that? Mindfulness is an actual tool; it’s a technique for keeping us in the present moment, or at least teaching us how to do that.
We pay attention with a very specific kind of attention, something that’s open and receptive, curious and has a willingness to be with what life brings us. I’ll talk more about this. You’ll see this as we move on, but I wanted to give you the definition.
So how does mindfulness work? One way that mindfulness works is it keeps our mind from being lost in the past or the future. This was brought up earlier, but most of the time, our minds tend to careen back and forth between the past and the future. If you were to check into your mind in the course of a day at any moment, you would probably notice that you’re thinking about something that happened, replaying it in your head, analyzing, trying to figure out how you could’ve done it differently, why things happened, maybe brooding, feeling bad about it.
Or you’re thinking about the future. Something that’s going to happen, something that’s coming up. Obsessing about it, worrying about it, imagining, catastrophizing, thinking the worst. Does this sound familiar? Yeah. Because this is what our minds do. We live in the past and in the future, and we rarely live in the present.
Well, the past and the future is where stress lies. Stress lies in the past and the future because it’s where our mind goes. We think something’s happening, we think the worst is going to happen, and we just replay it out to the most awful extent. And then we have stress in our body, stress in our mind, and we’re pretty unhappy.
Second thing is that it counteracts automaticity. What do I mean by that? Most of us live life a bit on automatic pilot. It’s like you’re going through life and you kind of don’t remember what happened. Do you ever have the experience of getting in the car and getting out of the car and not having any idea what happened in between? Have you had that? It’s very common, right? We do this all the time. We go through life like we’re just zombies. Mindfulness can really counteract this automatic pilot. It can help us to be more alive, more connected, more present. Really who we are in the midst of life.
I’ll say more about this; it can be a meditation practice or it can be a quality of attention which we bring to daily life. I asked earlier, how many people have meditated before. Meditation is a big category. You might think of meditation as a category like sports. There’s hundreds and hundreds of kinds of sports. Well, there’s hundreds of kinds of meditation. Mindfulness is one type of mediation, and it’s shown to be very effective, which I’m about to go into in a few minutes.