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>> MANNY: Good afternoon my friends. My name
is Manny and we are delighted today to have my friend, Bob Stahl with us today. Bob is
a–he’s–so, Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of MBSR calls Bob the go–the go-to person
for MBSR in all the West Coast. Jon says this if you need anything by MBSR, go to Bob because
Bob is the man and I have a lot of respect for Bob for this and other reasons and besides
being jolly and wise and amazing. Bob founded and directs the MBSR program in five medical
centers in San Francisco Bay Area including the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and
the O’Connor Hospital in San Jose. He lived in the Buddhist monastery for eight and a
half years and he is most recently the co-author of this book, a “Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction Workbook,” and it is available for sale if you–if you want to–after this talk
right over there and I think that’s it. With that, please welcome my friend and our friend,
Bob Stahl.>>STAHL: Thank you. You all hear me okay?
So, very nice to be here and thank you for making some time out of your work day to come
and hear about mindfulness which is what I’ll be speaking about today. And maybe, I’ll just
start by sharing a little bit about my own personal journey, how did I end up becoming
a “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” teacher. And my actual journey began quite young in
life when I had an experience when I was four years old. I was riding in the back seat of
my parent’s car and I had this realization that I or anyone could die at any moment.
It was a very powerful realization at four years old and I brought this up to my mother
and father and they said to me very lovingly, “Don’t worry, Bobby,” I was called Bobby then,
“Don’t worry, Bobby, it’s not going to happen for a long, long, long, long time.” And I
actually could tell by the sound of their voice that they were being very loving and
they were trying to protect me but I knew what I knew and what I knew was that they
were not telling me the truth because what I knew was that death could come at any moment
to anyone. And that was a very shocking realization at four years old to realize this and unfortunately
to say by the time I was nine years old, I lost a younger brother who died of a disease.
My best friend, Ellen, who lived across the street from me, I played with her everyday,
went into a diabetic coma and passed away one evening and downstairs, in the family
house that I was living in, my grandfather died of a heart attack. And so, growing up,
I experienced a lot of confusion and despair. What is this life and this also coincided
with the–the 1960s and as, you know, the times were a-changing and the Beatles grew
their hair long and there was social unrest, there was lots happening; I grew up outside
of the Boston area. Well, after graduating high school and my sole purpose was to get
out of high school because school didn’t make any sense to me and I decided that I needed
to do something after discovering that my friends had all gone to college and thought
“Well, maybe I should go to college.” And so, I ended up going to school in the Northeast
Kingdom of Vermont, a small state college. I was really into downhill skiing and I thought,
“Well, this would be a good place to go,” like, you know, ski area. And started school
there and I was having a good all time partying and after flunking out in my sophomore year
and being [INDISTINCT] made it back on warning, I decided “Well, maybe I should take a look
at what’s actually on the course catalog and see if there is anything interesting there
that I would like to take and for whatever reason, very funny enough, there’s this course
called Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. I had never taken a class like this ever before
in my life and I figured that I had nothing to lose. I’ve had experiences growing up in
Boston with the orient Chinese restaurants, ironically enough and that was a very different
feel there and I was alert to the East in many ways not only with the food but with
the art and so, I took this class, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen and when I went into
the class, I was shocked to discover that my professor was sitting on top of his desk
in a full lotus position. Now, I had never seen a professor like this before. Most of
them had suits, jackets and ties and they were pretty straight and pretty uptight. But
this guy was sitting on top of his desk in a full lotus and he began talking. And when
I–listening to him, I realized and sensed that he knew something that I didn’t know
and I wanted to know what he knew. There was something about him. I never met a person
like him ever before. And we began studying the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, a way of life
and I just fell in love with the Tao and I never realized that people thought about life
in this way. My education thus far was about reading and writing in arithmetic and it made
really no sense to me because–and I’ve looked back on this, I was really in a place of a
lot of despair and confusion. I was very lost and didn’t even know that I was lost, that’s
how lost I was. Well, after reading the Tao Te Ching and coming across epigram number
47, where he said “There’s no need to look outside your window, everything that you need
to know is inside you.” And when I read that, it was this–almost like a redwood tree hit
me over the head and woke me up and I recognized that I’ve been spending most of my life looking
outside of myself for answers and then if I wanted to know anything, I needed to begin
to look inside here and that really began my journey of meditation which is now over
35 years ago and kind of amazing when I look back at it at this point. That class began
a journey, a spiritual journey if you will for me and I ended up moving to San Francisco
and–and getting–going to graduate school in Counseling Psychology and getting introduced
more formally to the pasana of mindfulness mediation. And from there, that led me to
studying with a teacher and she said “Why don’t you come with me to Burma and meet my
teacher, Venerable Taungpulu Sayadaw who is a Theravadan forest monk and Burma is now
called Myanmar. And so on November 9th, 1980, I embarked on a plane to Southeast Asia to
Burma to become a forest monk for a temporary period of time. Life was very different in
Burma and the life of a forest monk is a lonely life but it’s a very powerful life of very
intensive meditation practice and I really loved that life at the time that I was there.
Then we moved–we were invited to come back to the United States and we brought our teacher,
Taungpulu Sayadaw and we founded with a group of us, a monastery in Boulder Creek right
here in Santa Cruz County, not too far away and started a monastery by Big Basin state
park called Taungpulu Kaba Aye Monastery and I ended up living there for over eight and
a half years practicing very intensively. And after leaving the monastery, entering
into the advanced practice, getting married, having two children makes the monastery look
easy. I needed to get a job and I was fortunate enough to get a job working at the Cabrillo
College Stroke Center in Santa Cruz, working with people with strokes and Parkinson’s disease,
multiple sclerosis, other orthopedic and neurological conditions and my job being hired there as
a counselor was to teach meditation, relaxation as well as interviewing prospective new students
and so forth, assessing students. And I began to teach mindfulness at the stroke center
and I used to get feedback from various students saying “This mindfulness is really helping
me.” And I remember this one old lady saying “Yeah, this mindfulness is really keeping
me out of a nursing home,” and I said “What do you mean?” she said “Look at me, I’m an
old lady, I got to pee in the middle of the night, you know, and every night I have to
get up and I have to walk to the toilet and so when I walk to the toilet, I’m mindful
lifting my foot up, moving it forward, placing it down. I’m being mindful of each step because
if I’m not mindful, I’m going to end falling and breaking my hip and ending up in a nursing
home.” She had had a stroke, so she was very unsure on her feet. And I would hear many
other very practical aspects of mindfulness bringing it into one’s life or health and
well-being. While I was at the stroke center, I was sharing some of my work with an ex-monk
friend of mine that sent me eventually a book called “Full Catastrophe Living” by Dr. Jon
Kabat-Zinn and I read this book and I said “I can’t believe that somebody has created
a whole program based on mindfulness and working with stress, pain and illness, I want to do
this.” And I wrote Jon a letter, this was back in 1990 and a couple of weeks later,
Jon called me on the phone and thanked me for writing him the letter and then inviting
me to come to UMass Medical Center to meet with him and see the center and as my family
is from the Massachusetts’s area, it was actually in a couple of moths later I was–I came to
the UMass Medical Center. This was all before Jon became much more famous in 1993, “When
Healing of The Mind” was featured with Bill Moyers. He’s got very busy since then. But
it was wonderful to meet Jon back in the early 1990s and he was very supportive with me starting
a program and so, I was very fortunate when I came back to Santa Cruz that I began a program
in 1991 at the Cabrillo College Stroke Center and then later at El Camino Hospital here
in Mountain View in Santa Cruz Medical Foundation where we actually involved in starting the
first Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs in California and I’ve been teaching at these
medical centers and more ever since. So, I feel very grateful to Jon Kabat-Zinn and this
work of mindfulness and bringing it into mainstream America and I really appreciate the genius
of–of this practice in how we can–here I am now at Google speaking about something
that I went off to Asia far and many years ago and–and how that mindfulness has proliferated
in our culture and it’s so amazing that when we hear about mindfulness, its effects with
as we search in neuroscience, in education, in psychology, mindfulness is spreading its
wings in many different areas and it’s currently–well, it’s kind of a hot item, mindfulness. I understand
that mindfulness is also offered here at Google. I’m very happy to hear about that. I understand
there’s a new eight-week class starting this Thursday with my colleague, Renee Burgard
and I understand the class is full, in a waiting list but don’t worry there’s going to be more
classes. So if you’re interested, you can–you’ll hear about them. But as a working definition,
I want to–maybe just speak a little bit about mindfulness, what is it? How does it relate
to stress reduction? And I’d also would like to do some practice and I think that this
is a perfect place to do practice, right here in the midst of the work day. But first I’ll
just begin with what is mindfulness and so, we’ve heard of this word a lot and I trust
if I–how many of us here are familiar with mindfulness practice. So there’s a quite a
number of hands up. This is wonderful, if I asked this question about 15 years ago,
I might find one person. So, this is very wonderful. And so, perhaps some of this will
be a–you will hear some of what I have said before but may you take it as in a new way
because mindfulness really teaches us about beginner’s mind, seeing things fresh and new
and in the moment. And when we speak of mindfulness, we’re really speaking about learning to be
more present in our moment to moment, day-to-day life and when you consider the only moment
that we actually ever really live in is the present moment which is right now, you’re
listening to me, we’re here in this room, this is what’s happening. Yet at times, and
I trust that we’ll would probably see in the workings of our own mind that it’s difficult
to actually stay present and we might be thinking “I really hope this guy gets done at 2 o’clock
because I got to go back to work and I got to do this and that or maybe he’s thinking
about what happened earlier in the morning. Maybe, it’s no coincidence that John Lennon
once said “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s a very funny
wonderful statement but sometimes if we take a look at the workings of our mind, we see
that it’s often occupied in future thinking in past memories and often missing what’s
happening in the moment. A psychologist friend of mine once remarked after beginning his
mindfulness training that her mind often worked in two modes of operation and I said, “What
do you mean?” Because, yeah, my mind is either rehearsing or it’s rehashing. Rehashing or
rehearsing? I love that. And when you think about all of the energy that we put into rehearsing
about future, rehashing about the past, we could actually bottle them as an energy source.
We would have no energy crisis. We are so much of the time living somewhere else other
than this present moment. So, in mindfulness training we’re training ourselves to be more
present in our moment to moment, day-to-day life. For those of us whose sort of a perfectionist
you can forget about it right now about being mindful every single moment. And if you approach
it that way, it would probably be maddening and you’ll probably end up quitting. But if
we can bring more mindfulness into the moments that we have and make it a practice, we’ll
find that our mindfulness will begin to grow. Mindfulness, again, is this quality of being
present. There’s actually two types of practices in mindfulness. But even before, the two practices
we would say it’s a way of life. But it can be practiced formally or informally. Formally
is taking time out whether it’s five, fifteen, twenty, forty-five minutes of doing a very
formal practice; the mindfulness of breathing or a body scan meditation or a sitting meditation
that spans the field of awareness to listening to sounds, body sensations, mind states. These
are formal practices of mindfulness where we’re still and we’re really going into the
body and mind. The informal practices of mindfulness is learning how to be more mindful in our
everyday life. There’s so many moments that we, you know, different activities today that
you’re living that we’re dealing everyday that are often doing unmindfully. So for example,
like when we’re eating, let’s be mindful that we’re chewing and tasting and swallowing;
when we’re showering or sitting on the toilet, let’s be present to that; when we’re having
conversation with someone, why not actually really be there and listen to what it is that
they’re saying; and if we’re walking down the road being aware that we’re walking down
the road; if we’re driving being aware that we’re driving. So many different activities
of day-to-day to living are often going unnoticed because we are so much thinking ahead about
the future or going back in the past. And so in our mindfulness training developing
as a way of life, we’re working and trying to be more mindful of what we’re doing from
moment to moment as well as the formal practices. We may find that practicing this mindfulness
in our day to day life can really in many ways help to build our efficiency of work
and also some precision and also learning how to take care of ourselves. Sometimes I
have a little acronym and I actually put it on the board behind me and the acronym is
called “STOP.” And we invite people during the day to practice this. So, S stands to
stop for a moment, even in the midst of your workday. I have a friend of mine that has
a computer on her desk, like, probably many of us, and she has a program for once an hour
all of a sudden will come the word stop. And that moment, she’ll take one minute, she’ll
stop. And the T stands to take a breath. A breath in and a breath out, maybe we can do
that right now, stopping, taking a breath in and a breath out. Observing for a moment
how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally and acknowledging what’s present.
And P, proceeding on with what you’re doing. Many people discover in that moment of stopping,
taking a breath and observing that perhaps their shoulders were up higher than their
ears and at that moment that you see it, you can let them down. Maybe you’ve been playing
the email, what I’d like to call the “email urination game,” just one more email, one
more email, one more email, ride that bladder. And so many times perhaps that we might be
working on a project and we’re going nowhere and all of a sudden, we need to stop and take
a breath and realized we haven’t eaten, we haven’t stretched and then we take care of
ourselves in those brief moments, recalibrating, taking a snack, going for a walk, going to
the toilet, whatever it is that we need to do, and all of a sudden, we’re feeling refreshed
again; we’re feeling more clear, more centered. So, our practices of mindfulness can be very,
very helpful to help recalibrate us during the day. So it really–would invite you all,
even in your work days here, can you take a few moments every now and again to stop,
to take a breath in and a breath out, observe and acknowledge how you’re feeling physically,
mentally, emotionally; how am I feeling in my body, my thoughts, my feelings and acknowledging
what’s present and then P, proceeding on with what it is that we’re doing. I remember an
engineer at El Camino once remarked that when he first began the class, he was going to
work everyday at six in the morning and coming home at eight at night, not liking it and
his family was not liking it. And by the end of the eight-week class, he was going to work
at eight and getting home at six, that was a four hour differential, and yet he was feeling
like he was getting just as much work done and he attributed it to being more mindful
on the job; recognizing when he was going off on tangents, recognizing more earlier
then being able to come back into center, that was really helping his efficiency and
precision. So, we’re hearing a lot about mindfulness and how it can help but maybe I’d like to
just spell out a little bit more about this, as far as how does mindfulness work with stress
reduction or stress management. And in the last 25, 30, 40 years, this growing interest
in the mind-body connection, we hear these words a lot; mind-body connection. Neuroscientists
are very interested in the mind-body connection in that, what is this connection between our
thoughts and our emotions in our physiology, our bodies. And it turns out that neuroscientists
have begun to chart out various neuro pathways, connections between our thoughts and emotions
in our bodies and that our thoughts and emotions of course are made of chemicals, electrical
aspects that begin, there’s a communication between our thoughts and emotions in our bodies.
These are found in the neuro pathways. There’s actually a very interesting book called, “Molecules
of Emotions” by Candace Pert that goes into some of this. It’s quite interesting. But
the evidence appears to be very overwhelming of this mind-body connection that our thoughts
and emotions are connected with our body. Now, if I did something perhaps very embarrassing
up here, perhaps your faces might begin to blush and turn red. If I got kind of psycho
and kind of crazy and then maybe hair would begin to stand up on edge and would be rearing
to fight, flight or freeze mode, there’s different physiological changes that are beginning to
happen–oops! Oh, I guess I’ll catch that on the video later what he did. Anyways, there’s
different type–now you’re–we’re laughing, you’re hearing me say something and all of
a sudden there’s laughter. If I said something very sad, maybe water starts coming out of
our eyes. So we understand there’s a mind-body connection that our thoughts and emotions
are affected to our bodies. This is—-the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. And what’s
important is that if indeed our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies, then it would
serve us all very well to be more mindful of the thoughts that we’re thinking and the
emotions that we’re feeling. If indeed this do affect our body then practicing mindfulness
could be very, very important to help us to become aware of what’s going on. Now, there’s
times we may not be aware of the different reactivities that we’re engaging in, for example,
we live here in the valley and, you know, maybe we’re riding on 101 and we’re trying
to get to work and it’s a traffic jam. And it’s like, “Oh my gosh. I’m not going to get
here on time, I have a meeting at nine o’clock. What am I going to do?” And then that’s going
to snowball the whole day. And so we might become aware that we’re in a traffic jam and
that what am I going to do but we might not be aware of actually how that stress is affecting
us inside our own body and mind. We often are getting so caught in the story about lateness
and what am I going to do that we neglect to become mindful of how it is affecting us
in the inside. And this is where mindfulness can play such a strategic role in helping
us to come back in the balance. We may, unbeknownst to us, begin to react to this stressful event
by beginning to hold the steering wheel so tightly that our knuckles are turning white.
And this is causing all these muscles go with tension within our bodies and because of that
increased stress, there’s some anxiety or irritation and often our pulmonary, our lung
system begins to react by breathing more rapidly, more irregularly and, of course, our lungs
are connected to our heart and because of this increased respiration, our heart rate
and blood pressure, temperature of our body begins to elevate, we’re in a stress reactivity.
And we’re often not even mindful that this is going on because we’re so consumed in the
story of our lateness. And so we’re–so what’s important about mindfulness is that once we
become aware that we’re holding tightly, we can release the grip, it’s that simple and
yet that far away. But once we become aware that we’re holding tightly, we can release
the grip. Once we become aware that we’re breathing more rapidly and more irregularly,
that’s forcing our heart rate and blood pressure to elevate, we can begin to practice mindful
breathing often trying to bring our breath into our belly area and as our breathing begins
to regulate, naturally, our heart rate and blood pressure, temperature of our body begins
to come back into balance. And so this is a very, very important aspect of mindfulness
is that it’s helping us to recognize where it is that we are. So, I’m going to get up
and just show you this on the board, a little illustration, this is very low-tech. But what–for
those–I don’t know if you can read, but it says, read this far but is says–oops! Unawareness
with an arrow to disconnection and disconnection there’s an arrow to out of balance. When we’re
unaware of what’s actually happening to us, we’re disconnected from our experience. And
when we get disconnected from our experience, we potentially can spin out of balance and
so the example of getting stuck on the highway 101, we’re unaware, we’re disconnected, we’ve
begun to hold the steering the wheel so tightly that our knuckles are turning white, our body
is spinning out of balance. How do we get out of this mess? First thing is we become
aware. And as soon as there’s awareness, I’m connected again, I’m back, I’m here, I’m present,
and now I’m seeing much more clearly, I’m holding tightly, my body’s spinning out of
balance and I begin to soften the grip, I begin to do some mindful breathing to get
my body and gradually I come back into balance. So, while we can say is that awareness promotes
connection and connection promotes balance. Conversely, when we’re unaware, we’re disconnected
from our experience and we can spin out of balance. It’s difficult to change our ways,
our patterns. Often, we become habituated in certain ways of reacting to stresses or
different events that become conditioned responses–conditioned reactions I should say. If we’ve had experiences
in the past of getting stuck in highway 101 and getting annoyed and irritated the probabilities
of that happening later today if you were there are very great and life goes on. Once
we become mindful, we recognize that there maybe some choice and we can begin to respond
differently. This is very empowering about mindfulness and there’s actually an incredibly
beautiful quote by Viktor Frankl who was a concentration camp survivor, psychiatrist,
an author of Logotherapy; man’s search for meaning. But he says this, he says that, “Between
the stimulus and the response, there is a space and in that space lies our freedom.”
Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space and in that space lies our freedom.
If we are not mindful, we are not aware of any spaces between our stimulus and response,
we are reacting in an impulsive reactivity. If we become aware, we have a choice to respond
differently. So, perhaps I will say that there’s a separation between impulsive reactivity
and mindfully responding to a situation. So there’s a big difference between impulsive
reactivity and mindfully responding. There’s actually a very clever and beautiful poem
by Portia Nelson that speaks to this and it’s called, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.
In chapter one, she says, I’m walking down the street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk
and I fall in and I’m helpless. And it takes a long time but I finally do get out. In chapter
two, I walked down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk and I fall in
again and I know where I am, it’s my fault and I get out quickly this time. Chapter three,
I’m walking down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall again,
it’s a habit, you know, this is kind of what I do. Many of us can live in chapter three
for a long time. But remembering that quote again from Viktor Frankl, between the stimulus
and the response there is a space and in that space lies my freedom to choose. In chapter
four, I’m walking down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk and I walk around
the hole. Chapter five, even better news, I walk down another street. So there’s–the
potentials of changing our behaviors, our responses drew awareness but we have kind
of this strong default buttons, just when we’re not looking, we maybe impulsively reacting
again to familiar situations. But when our awareness grows, we can begin to change and
possibly develop more constructive ways, if you will, of dealing with stress rather than
destructive ways. And the destructive ways again are more associated with impulsive reactivity
and constructive ways are when we have a mindful response. When we can recognize what’s here
and choose another way. So I’ve been speaking for bet and I thought it might be nice to
do a little bit of practice if you’re all up for that. Will you be–would that be all
right, like, maybe about 5, 10 minutes? Okay. So, I maybe invite you if you wanted just
standup and stretch for a second and get yourself–if you feel your body needs to stretch a bit,
feel free to do that. And then whenever you’re ready to come back into a sitting position.
[PAUSE] And so, let’s just begin by just taking a moment to–just to acknowledge that we’re
going to take some time here just to be present with ourselves in the midst of the work day.
[PAUSE] And I think I’ll begin with a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver that speaks to the importance
of taking care of ourselves, it’s called “The Journey.” “One day, you finally knew what
you had to do and began and though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice
and though the whole house trembled. And each voice cried out to you. ‘Mend my life. Mend
my life. Mend my life.’ Each voice cried. This time, you didn’t stop and you knew what
you had to do. And though the wind pried with its stiff fingers and the melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough and it was a wild night. And the road was full of fallen branches
and stones. And little by little as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn
through the sheets of the clouds and there was a new voice that you slowly recognized
as your own. And it kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined
to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save. And
there was a new voice that you slowly recognized as your own and it kept you company as you
strode deeper and deeper into the world determined to do the only thing you could do, determined
to save the only life you could save.” I’m taking some moments now to the mindful and
just begin to check in, feeling your body sitting in the chair, feet on the floor, becoming
connected to the body. And begin to just acknowledge what you’re feeling in the body physically,
lightness, heaviness, any aches, itches, tangles, tiredness, maybe fullness from lunch. Checking
in with the body and acknowledging what’s present physically. [PAUSE] And gradually
as you feel in to your body and acknowledging any of the physical sensations, feel into
the physical sensation of your breath. You might feel it in your abdomen, in your belly,
or your chest expanding as you breathe in, contracting as you breathe out. Or perhaps
feeling and being mindful of the breath in the nose feeling the coolness of the breath
as it enters into the nose and the warmth of it coming out. Finding a place in your
body where you can become mindful of the breath where the breath feels prominent and distinct.
And then just begin to rest your awareness at that point whether it’s in the nose, the
chest, the belly or perhaps another place, and just becoming mindful that when you’re
breathing in that you’re aware that you’re breathing in. And as you breathe out, you’re
aware that you’re breathing out. There’s no need to manipulate your breath or count it
or visualize it or analyze it, just breathing normally and naturally, breathing in with
awareness and breathing out being present. [PAUSE] And it’s inevitable that our minds
may wonder off into some future thoughts or past memories. And when you become aware of
that, acknowledge where you went and with great patience and kindness coming back to
the breath in and the breath out. So easy does it, taking our lives, one inhalation,
and one exhalation at a time being present. [PAUSE] You’re welcome also if it seems like
the sounds are becoming prominent, let that be part of the meditation and you can just
shift to hearing, just listening to the different sounds in this room. And noticing their ephemeral
nature that they arise and they pass away. So include in sounds of those become prominent
and if not then just stay with the breath being present. [PAUSE] And now, letting your
awareness begin to expand to just a sense of checking in with yourselves. So we’ve been
feeling into the body, the breath and sounds, and letting yourself just begin to acknowledge
any thoughts and emotions that are coming in awareness. We call this a mindful check
in just acknowledging what’s coming up for you physically, mentally, emotionally. Maybe
there’s memories of what happened earlier today, or concerns about what’s going to happen
later in the day and just taking some moment to acknowledge your different thoughts and
emotions, any physical sensations being present, checking in with yourself with awareness and
letting be. You don’t have to fix anything or analyze, just acknowledging in the body,
in thoughts, emotions being present. [PAUSE] And now as we come towards the end of this
meditation, bringing awareness into the chest and into the heart area, and we’ll do just
a little bit of some loving kindness. In our mindfulness practice, we work with two types
of meditations: insight practices of mindfulness, and the heart practices of loving kindness.
One of the insights that we sometimes get when we’re practicing mindfulness is how hard
we can be on ourselves, and judgmental to ourselves and to others. So the loving kindness
is a beautiful practice. It softens the hardened heart. And so just taking some moments and
just feeling into your own heart with the sense of kindness and compassion. I know we
all understand these words from a dictionary point of view and it may be another thing
to open into our hearts to experience these words, just feeling into our own hearts, wishing
for our own health and well-being.
May there be reconciliation with our past that meets the present moment. It’s all led
us into this moment, may we be at peace. [PAUSE] And letting this goodwill extend outwards
to those of us here in this room and in this building, and to this Google campus. Everyone
here at times experiences the 10,000 joys, the 10,000 sorrows of life, spreading this
goodwill to all of our fellow human beings throughout this world, may all beings be at
peace. [PAUSE] Spreading this goodwill above and below in all directions from here and
throughout this universe, may all beings without exception be safe and at peace. [PAUSE] And
just as we’ve extended it outwards, bringing it back inwards into our skin and flesh and
bones, to the organs and to the molecules that make up the cells, into the atoms. Behaving
ourselves in the heart of loving kindness, may we be at peace, may all beings everywhere
be at peace. [PAUSE] And now, very gently beginning to wiggle the fingers and toes and
opening the eyes and just being fully present, awake, here and now. Thank you very much.
So we have a little bit of time for any questions that you may have. So we’ll have a little
period here and maybe to help work your vocal cords again after having some silence for
a bit. Maybe taking a breath in and stretching up and giving a nice inhalation and a sigh,
hear your voice, “Hah.”
So, I don’t know if there’s another microphone or if there’s–-I can surely hear but if
it needs to be recorded, we can…>>We’re going to be [INDISTINCT].
>>STAHL: That will going to really get a whole bunch of people up here.
>>You can repeat the question.>>STAHL: Actually, I can–yeah, I can just
repeat the question. Thank you. Or a comment. Please?
>>How do you teach mindfulness to your kids?>>STAHL: So the question is how do I teach
mindfulness to my kids? So there’s an old saying, “Don’t be a Buddhist, be a Buddha.”
And so, I say that in the sense that my wife and I try to live by example. So we don’t
necessarily try to force-feed them meditation and mindfulness but live by the example of
living it. And also, of course, they have to find their own way in life. And so, they’re
familiar with some of the practices of mindfulness, use what feels appropriate to them, and we
essentially give them space. But we want to-–we have a strong value in our family of living–trying
to live with kindness and with integrity. And may they find their way. This is going
to sound kind of funny to say but I think there’s a thread of truth to this, but I don’t
say it’s the whole truth. My kids also haven’t suffered enough yet. And it’s not that I wish
for them to suffer but–I’m sorry to say that. From my path, it took a lot of suffering for
me to finally turn deeply inwards. And, you know, and I don’t wish my kids a lot of suffering
but, you know, growing up we’ll get–-we’ll have our own share of suffering with whether
it’s not being seen and accepted and being picked on and so forth, then, you know. Anyone
else or–-come, please.>>[INDISTINCT] that the opposite of [INDISTINCT]
so it seems to be different [INDISTINCT].>>STAHL: Yeah.
>>[INDISTINCT].>>STAHL: Great. Thank you very much. I’ll
see if I can repeat that in a summarized version, but as a programmer, you’re using your mind
to really focus very deeply on a project but not on a broad way of knowing what’s going
on around you. Is that-–is that-–would that…? And so the–and any reconciling with
that if you will. You know, in some ways, we speak about mindfulness that it can be
practiced in like a laser beam and a flat light. And so there is certain types of practices
where we are really using our laser beam of concentration to absorb our mindfulness on
the object that will bring the attention to so that we can begin to sustain it for longer
and longer periods of time until potentially we’ll be almost become at one with it. This
is some of the prescriptions for concentration and meditation where you enter into levels
of absorption. In Pali, they called Jhana. And–but these are very concentrated states
where you become at one with the object. And there’s a lot of benefits to that type of
a practice where you’re getting very concentrated. And at the same time to help ease the practice,
we work with concentration but we also can work with the flat light in becoming aware
of the greater surroundings of things. And, you know, I can appreciate as a programmer
really the least distractions and the more absorption into what you’re doing bears good
fortune, goods results. And, you know, I think what we would say is, “Can you remember from
time to time that you–-that there is a body here and it may need to stretch, go to the
toilet, need to eat, needs to do what it needs to do.” And can there be times where we can
mindfully like, “Okay, I’m really working on this project, can I stop for a moment and
take a breath and observe and then I proceed on with what I’m doing.” So is there ways
to work with both? And, of course, when you’re working with that concentration, you’re doing
the concentration. And when you’re not doing that, can you be mindful of whatever else
that you’re doing when you’re doing it? But, you know, I think it could be helpful in the
spirit of self care to check in with yourself from time to time when you’re in that real
incredible phase of, you know, really in your project to every now and again to stop for
a moment, just kind of–and like a meteorologist, kind of check the weather, you know, like
what’s the temperature, where’s the wind coming from, just a sense of getting sense of what’s
going on in your own body and mind that you might find in the long run that’s going to
be a greater recalibration to even go further into your process because your mind is more
sharpened, more clear, and more refreshed. How was it to do the meditation for a few
minutes? Any before-after comments in the midst of Google? Please.
>>So I tend to do the same thing with [INDISTINCT] what I’m working…
>>STAHL: Uh-hmm.>>And I do think it’s one of the process,
they’re often very [INDISTINCT], enjoying helps me [INDISTINCT] today since I [INDISTINCT]
there, that’s when I know that there [INDISTINCT]. So thank you for [INDISTINCT]. I do have more
questions.>>STAHL: Please.
>>You were mentioning working with [INDISTINCT] people who work themselves trying very hard
to recover. Have you worked with people who were in that [INDISTINCT] where they don’t
see any way out, you know, [INDISTINCT].>>STAHL: Uh-hmm.
>>Have you work with those [INDISTINCT]?>>STAHL: Absolutely, many, many people. And
I think what’s very powerful is the recognition that there is another way of seeing. One of
the things that we teach about in MBSR–the question is, when we get stuck in chapter
three and we’re just in the strong habitual pattern of non-changing. And one of the things
that we’d like to try to challenge people is being open to seeing from another perspective.
And it’s very difficult when we get really rooted in the way that we see things. So sometimes
if I–I won’t do this to you but there’s probably about 50 chairs here. So we can start switching
chairs and begin to see that every chair we sit in there’s going to be a different view.
But yet, we get very stuck in the chair that we’re sitting and thinking this is the only
way of seeing it. And so we’ll work with really helping people to expand beyond their perceptions
of how they see things. And actually I love–Jon Kabat-Zinn has a very beautiful definition
for healing and it’s, “To come into terms with the way things are.” And so we can say
in some ways, there’s a difference between healing and curing, so that some people that
will have a stroke that may not necessarily have a lot of improvement with their ability
to regain some movement. However, one can begin to heal and come into terms with the
way things are and be able to live with themselves in their lives in a way that is much more
meaningful and feel less than a curse. It’s going to involve, though, really being willing
to embrace and acknowledge the parts of ourselves that we’re having a hard time with. And one
of the gateways in it when I’m teaching MBSR, working with people with stress, pain, and
illness, you know, mindfulness doesn’t mean developing a positive mind. So that’s something
that’s very important, we want to understand. Mindfulness is about seeing things as they
are and acknowledging what’s present. And so, sometimes with the gateway for the beginning
of a healing work is for people to first begin to acknowledge how much they hate the situation
that they’re in, how much anger that they’re feeling, how much sadness, how much fear,
and what’s going on. And as we begin to develop a relationship with our pain by acknowledging
it, we can begin to transform it. There’s a wonderful saying that, “Whatever you flee
from, it will pursue you. Whatever you welcome, will begin to transform you.” And one of the
principles that we worked with mindfulness is that when we have resistance to what’s
here, we will inevitably increase our suffering. When we can learn how to go with what’s happening,
our suffering can begin to dissipate. So there’s actually a very powerful line from a Dana
Faulds’ poem that says, “Resist, and the tides will sweep you off your feet. Allow, and grace
will carry you to higher ground.” And so we’re working within this practice to recognize
when the resistance is there, acknowledging the resistance, and see if there’s a way that
we can begin to work with that, begin to open to it. So, our time is just about–yeah, one
more, please.>>Asking for your perspective, somebody who
grew up in the West, you know, but in [INDISTINCT] higher school and all that, then, how did
it-–how can you relate with that and then like going off in the woods and being [INDISTINCT]
and I found that’s really believable [INDISTINCT]. But, you know, [INDISTINCT] and I think that
this sort of help me with the rest of my real life [INDISTINCT]. But I don’t understand
those sorts of [INDISTINCT]. Tell us, how does that work for you?
>>STAHL: Oh, the question is–-I’m not sure what the question is. Quite about-–about
the productivity in the West and like, you know, and that finding that the mindfulness
class is very helpful in applying to the rest of one’s life. But what would it be like to
be on a monastery, and…>> Well, how do you–I mean, what was your view
of a mindset that’s mostly about meditation and sort of inner…
>>STAHL: Yeah.>>Inner [INDISTINCT] as opposed to [INDISTINCT]?
>>STAHL: Well, actually–so what’s my view between both worlds and–-actually, to be
very honest, as time has gone on, my life is the monastery. And whatever comes up in
my life is the practice. And that–-I don’t feel as much, personally, any separation between
the monastery life and my householder life. I can, no doubt, find a lot of different dual
reasons why one should be better than the other. But ultimately speaking, I really recognize,
it’s really one and the same as-–actually, another one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book is “Wherever
you go, there you are.” And so wherever I go, there I am; no matter whether I’m in the
monastery or sitting here in Google or driving on Highway 101. I’m–-this is it. Here I
am. And how can I work with this practice to be present to whoever it is that I am.
That to me is where the rubber meets the road. And there is times in my life where I have
spent, no doubt, many years in intensive meditation practice and that has been incredibly beneficial,
something that I feel so immensely grateful that I have that time to do that. I hope,
actually again to take off for about year and do a year-long retreat. I feel like, you
know, there’s times of going in and times of going out. But ultimately speaking, our
life is the practice. And when we get that, then everything that comes up in our life
is part of the practice. And so, that is wonderful. So–and I’m not saying wonderful in a peachy
coochy way because sometimes we come across things that are very difficult. Actually about
13 years ago, I nearly died of flesh-eating bacteria or necrotic fasciitis. And I was
incredibly grateful that I had this practice to open–to work with them as it was arising.
And so, we find-–we can bring this practice to all types of situations. Well, I want to
honor our time. It’s just about-–it is two, 2:01 to be exact, at least on my watch. So
I don’t want to keep you. I want to thank you so much for your time and interest in
listening in heart here. And I wish you well. And I want to personally invite you every
Thursday of the year, except for Thanksgiving; we have a free drop-in group at El Camino
Hospital for meditation on Thursdays, 5:30 to 6:30. This is a free on going drop-in.
If Google doesn’t have a drop-in weekly, you’re welcome to come to El Camino and sit with
us. And you can look on my website, it’s mindfulnessprograms.com. Thank you very much. I wish you all well.
Have a wonderful day.

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