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.