The Healing Power of Mindfulness P7

Daniel Vinograd

 

I’m going to stop, actually, at this point, and take a few questions. We have some time for questions, and then we’ll stop for the evening. Obviously, you can see that I’ve just gotten started. (laughter) I hope you’ve just gotten started. I’m not joking. Because this doesn’t stop. It’s called your life, and it’s all really more than magnificent. If you can get into that implicational meaning of the poetry, then there’s the potential to actually live your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment.

 

It turns out that that’s recruiting and morphing brain pathways, that when you’re depressed and you’re into depressive rumination, it’s not about shutting that stuff off, that kind of toxic thought stream, but actually learning how to hold it differently, and then you don’t take it personally, and then you actually don’t fall into depression. You don’t relapse into depression. I’m talking Major Depressive Disorder. That affects your telomeres, and that affects actually gene expression in your body, up-regulating and down-regulating, hundreds of genes that have to do with cancer and that have to do with inflammatory responses.

 

So if your whole body is really plastic, and the more you tune the mid and the body together, the more you participate in your own health and wellbeing. I like to call the medicine of the future, or the medicine of the present, actually, “participatory medicine.” Because there’s not enough money to fund medicine if we just use the auto mechanics model. We need to all participate.

 

And isn’t it interesting that in order to participate, the greatest evidence is suggesting we need to go back to ancient practices from very, very old traditions that are mostly not from this side of the planet, but that it turns out have deep, deep connections with our culture and with our nervous system, with our love. I’ll leave it at that. I want to thank you for your attention, and I am open to having a few questions. Thank you. (applause)

 

Thank you for your attention. It’s 6:00, so we don’t –

 

MOORE: If you need to go, we understand.

 

KABAT-ZINN: Yeah, obviously. It’s 6:00.

 

MOORE: There is a book signing following outside the auditorium after the question and answer period, just so people know.

 

KABAT-ZINN: Why don’t you line up with that microphone behind the guy who has it, and we’ve got another one over here. So go ahead. Oh, you’re not actually asking a question, you’re just offering…? Well, give it to her.

 

QUESTION: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that talk. It was fascinating. One question I had was actually from your biography that was provided, which was just talking about you uand your wife’s intrest in supporting intiaitves that further mindfulness in K-12 education. I wondered if you could just provide some examples of what exactly that can look like in public ducatoin and beyond?

 

KABAT-ZINN: Okay, thank you for that question. I alluded to it, but obviously the subject of mindfulness is so vast, and to do it in a way that isn’t just throwing facts at you would take actually multiple occasions. Or you can remember what we touched on today and then find out more for yourself, which is really the best part.

 

But in the book that my wife and I, Myla and I, wrote together on mindful parenting, which is a whole other story, there’s a chapter in there about a 4th and 5th grade teacher from a Utah public school who herself experienced mindfulness in MBSR for medical reasons, health reasons, and then brought it into her classroom, against all of my advice, in Mormon Utah. It transformed the entire school. So you could start there.

 

You can also Google “mindfulness and education.” You’ll find out there are groups of teachers in lots of different places that are doing this, and if you want to take a trip up 89 to South Burlington, Vermont, I was just there a couple of weeks ago, and they are doing amazing things in that school system. The superintendent and one of the principles actually came to a day-long mindfulness retreat that I did for the teachers, and there are hundreds of teachers bringing mindfulness into their curriculum at every age. So there’s a lot to be said about it.

 

I think it’s one of the best things to happen in modern education, and it’s really inspiring the teachers, because nowadays it’s so challenging and there’s so much stress in that profession. So many of the kids come and they’re not ready to learn, so they need to learn how to learn, tuning the instrument before you play it, so to speak. This is a way to actually allow that to happen, and in a way that’s – I’ve been in classrooms like this, in Oakland and in Manhattan and New York City public schools. Unbelievable.

 

One teacher in South Burlington called it “pin drop moment.” You could hear a pin drop in these classes where a lot of the kids are ordinarily all over the place, but they have learned how to actually [inaudible 01:34:09]. It’s valuable for Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, and it’s also valuable for the teachers’ sanity. (laughter) Thank you.

 

QUESTION: Hello. I was just wondering what your general advice would be when we’re trying to live moment by moment but we’re faced with moments where we have to make decisions. I know we have to make dozens of decisions every day, and sometimes they’re a big decision regarding our futures or personal relationships. My friends are always telling me, “Don’t over-think it.”

 

KABAT-ZINN: Don’t over-think it.

 

QUESTION: Yeah. But I know that’s really difficult.

 

KABAT-ZINN: That’s a great question. Now you want an answer? (laughter)

 

QUESTION: Yeah. (laughs) I realized that’s the reason why I decided to come today.

 

KABAT-ZINN: Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. (laughter) You’re probably going to over-think it, but you can hold that in awareness, the over-thinking, and the awareness will actually take care of you. A lot of times, let’s say if it’s relationships – you mentioned relationships, is that right? It’s very complicated. Mindfulness is all about relationships. We start with the body. What’s my relationship with my body? It’s pretty weird even to say, “I have a relationship with my body.” Who’s talking? You’re not your body, but you have a body. Oh yeah? So there’s something even there that we don’t know a lot more than we let on.

 

Then you have a relationship with your mind and your heart. In all Asian languages, as you may know, the word for “mind” and the word for “heart” is the same word. So when you hear the word “mindfulness,” if you’re not hearing “heartfulness,” you’re not really understanding it. It’s got this tenor of spaciousness of heart. And inside of that, a certain kind of trust.

 

And trust in what? How about your own beauty? When you start to know yourself in that kind of non-conceptual way, not with thinking, but through embodied awareness of sensation and of hearing and smelling and tasting and so forth, and of your thoughts that are over-thinking who to be in a relationship with or who to break off a relationship with or whatever it is, and you’re not judging that whole thing – your deeper intuition and wisdom is trustworthy.

 

When you get into trouble, that’s trustworthy too, because you see, “Oh, I see, I made this kind of decision, I over-thought it to this degree, and I wound up wham-o, in some place I didn’t want to be.” That’s important information. That’s useful data. Then you learn from that, and the next time, if you’re really, really, really, really mindful, you won’t repeat the same pattern.

 

But mostly what we do is repeat the same old pattern, over and over and over again, because we’re attracted to just those people who are not so healthy for us. If you’ve read The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, which I recommend you read for these kind of things, he talks about a construct called the pain body. A lot of falling in love, if you start to look at it, it’s like “My pain body, what’s all knotted up and painful and hurt in me, recognizes what’s all knotted up and painful and hurt in you, and those pain bodies fall in love.” Meanwhile, not a good idea, because it’s what you’d call a dysfunctional relationship from the start. But the awareness can see that and it can save you.

 

I have a friend at MIT, one of the graduate students with me in my lab, and he decided to get married at one point. The only time I’ve ever done this, I gave somebody advice about who they wanted to marry, and I said, “Don’t do it.” I was young and arrogant, so I said, “Don’t do it.” He did it anyway, of course. He got married; three years later, they got divorced, and he said to me later, “How come it took you three seconds to see what it took me three years to see?” I said, “Well, that’s because I wasn’t in it.” To see it when you’re in it, that requires a whole different rotation in consciousness. But it is trustworthy.

 

So there’s no answer to your question; it’s life unfolding, and whether it’s your relationship to another person or with choosing courses or a career path or anything like that, trust your love. As what’s-his-name, Joseph Campbell said – and this is a really good piece of advice – “follow your bliss.” Follow your bliss. It will teach you everything you need to know, including how sometimes following your bliss needs to be modulated a little bit. (laughter) I hope that helps, because I don’t have anything else to say. (applause)

 
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Dr. Daniel Vinograd, DDS |
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