We are born, each of us, with an innate ability to experience joy and compassion. Examples of this surround us every day, every moment of every day. It’s clear and observable: these qualities are within us if we choose to notice. Many challenges confront our ability to access this natural state of being which can leave us feeling vulnerable, disconnected, anxious and lost. We’re all stressed out, that’s the reality of it, everyone’s stressed out. Everything’s moving so quickly and the means of communication are so quick, so everything is ramped up. It’s no wonder, that just in the course of our everyday lives we feel stressed out. And it’s just one reaction after another of feelings and thoughts and beliefs until, we haven’t noticed it, but minutes, hours or decades have gone by and we really haven’t been fully alive in this body, we haven’t been in our hearts. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and I was really feeling like something was missing from my life. It was really a need to find some kind of inner peace. I was very grief stricken, I was isolated, my father had just died, I had a relationship that had just ended, and I felt very alone and sad. I think I was just looking for just some way to deal with the stress and confusion I was going through, to understand what was happening. It’s probably hard to define exactly what was missing or lacking. Maybe a sense of tying things together, things really making sense, kind of like what’s the purpose, why are we here? And instead of sort of gliding through my days on the surface of the water, I wanted to dive deeper and enjoy the experiences of life more. To be sure, we all seek happiness, and want to avoid suffering. Paradoxically, this constant striving and accumulation of what we think will bring us happiness, in itself, can become yet another source of frustration and worry. To help us back to our natural sense of calm and the joy of being with our present experience, no matter the circumstances that surround us, we have available to us the practice of meditation. How else could we understand our minds except by actually looking into them and observing them? And that reveals all the ways we create suffering for ourselves and all the possibilities of being peaceful. So it’s very pragmatic, it’s just this pragmatic way of coming to a more peaceful/loving state. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a world renowned meditation master, bestselling author and respected teacher. Although when you see him now, he has a palpable sense of lightness, peace and ease, he wasn’t always this way. When I was young I had panic disorder, so I had a lot of trouble with my panic, anxiety. It was developed in me when I was 7, 8, 9, years old. And I learned meditation from my father, I tried to meditate, I was very lazy. I loved the idea of meditation but I don’t like the practice of meditation you know, feel very boring, and there’s a lot of thoughts going on in my mind. The panic about snowstorms because in my hometown sometimes there’s snowstorms. And thunderstorms also, sometimes lightning, you know, make a lot of noise, kalalala Tchaaaaa! you know. And I felt like very afraid of those. And sometimes we have earthquake. And also fear of strangers. And snow with the wind, a lot of wind. And I was in my house, and the snow with the wind blowing from the north to the west, very strong!! Bbbbrrrrvvv. And I suddenly stand up and holding the pillar and pushing to the north side against the wind. And my mother was laughing, Hahaha. Then I feel like sometimes tight here in my neck and I can’t breathe and I get dizzy. And I begin to really ask question to myself ‘Do you really want to apply meditation technique, what I’ve been taught?’ Then in the end I really make some kind of a strong decision that I really want to apply meditation technique, what I’ve been taught with my panic. Then I stay in my room for three days, really practice, meditate, push myself. You know determined, wether you like or don’t like you practice meditation. And I meditate with my panic. I try to accept my panic…. accept and transform. Transform into meditation. After three days later my panic was gone. And I feel very happy, relieved. My panic was one of my best friends and one of my best teachers. I learned a lot from my panic. I miss my friend but although I don’t have that friend but I have another friend you know. In our life there’s some problems, maybe not panic but problems with the physical body, problem with the environment, problem with facing other people, a lot of other problems. But how to deal with the problem is the same I think, for me the same. I think that was big shift, big breakthrough for me. And that experience changed my life, changed my whole perspective. To see my life, to see others, to see the world. Today, meditation can mean many things to many people. And there are many different methods, no wonder that its entrance into the mainstream culture has conjured up a host of misconceptions, along with overpromises. This, in turn, has led to false expectations that can pose its own challenges. Well I think I had the classic you know, that I’m just going to “bliss out” as people say, I’m going to just have a calm and empty mind. I totally had that expectation, that I will become calm and peaceful and blissful, yes! It’s this idea that you’re totally disconnected. My favorite thing my dad always asks me when I go on retreat, he says “What are you in a trance for a week?” When people use the word meditation, we have loaded up that word with so many popular ideas, of what it is and consequently why I can’t do it. That meditation means that we don’t have any thoughts in our minds or that meditation means that our minds quiet, or that we feel good or very very peaceful or blissful. If we don’t have that particular experience then we’re not doing meditation. We can sit down in any one session and feel like my mind should be able to get calm, right here right now. And if that doesn’t happen it’s not working. And that kind of undermines the whole practice. While meditation practitioners from around the globe report a wide variety of personal experiences, they all fit into some common themes. I did have an image of what meditation was supposed to be like and I certainly wasn’t doing it, but I was really giving it a good try, I was probably trying way too hard. And that was one of the problems. What I really remember from beginning to meditate was sitting down and meditating and starting to count my breath or just be with my breath and really 15 minutes later all of a sudden realizing that I’d just been completely lost in thoughts that whole time. Well it’s almost like your thoughts are just going, going, going, going all the time. And at the beginning when I first started to meditate it was overwhelming. You know it is just this really quirky crazy place where the past will jump up and the future will arise then an incessant repetition of a song will come through, then there’s a pink dolphin, and then there’s my grandma, then there’s you know, the last episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire’, then what am I going to wear tomorrow? By allowing all your emotions to come, at the beginning it seems like they’re rushing in and you’re losing control. When we sit down we actually are confronted with the craziness of our minds. We see that actually our thoughts and our emotions really have been completely out of our control for a long time. Oh my gosh, when I first started meditating it was extremely challenging. I had moments where it was calm and peaceful but then there were the moments that were really torturous too. Within two or three days I could notice a slight difference. You don’t have to meditate for 30 days to notice any difference, it comes right away. It’s amazing. I immediately felt like a peace and like a relaxation that I had never really felt. Especially after starting medical school. I think my whole shoulders just dropped, it was kind of a full body relaxation, like a physical feeling even. We try to manage our life. We try to do many different things, you know we have job, business, and try to build up relationships with others. Doing many, many, many different things in our life. But there’s one blind spot, we have no idea about how to manage our mind, how to train our mind. There’s a lot of problems, big problems actually that comes from that. Because in our life sometimes we try to solve the problems, to avoid the problems, we try to have happiness. From material perspective although our life is wonderful, if you like to have a nice car ok I have car, and nice food you can get right away, but even though still you’re unhappy, still there’s a feeling of I can do better. Still you’re not satisfied, so this material things cannot give you real happiness. Why? Because of monkey mind problem. Most of the problems in our life is created by our mind, what I call monkey mind, crazy monkey mind. If you put one monkey in a grocery store what happens? Make a lot of problem, yeah? Messy. But if you want to train the monkey mind, you cannot train your monkey mind just like tie the hand and legs of monkey mind. You cannot really block the monkey mind and use a stick to beat the monkey mind, it doesn’t work. But monkey mind likes job. Normally what we call restless, very active, a lot of energy. Blah blah blah Yadda yadda yadda. Doing many different things and especially want to make some problems. If there’s a problem monkey mind is happy. I have job. If there’s no problem and the monkey mind begin to feel ‘Oh, I become jobless, no good, and soon I become homeless, who knows?’ Better to make one problem right now and then search and make small problem as big problem. Something just clicked when he said we all have monkey mind. I felt tremendous relief. Yes, it’s ok to have monkey mind, I do! The nature of our experience with mind is that mind is pretty wild. And the way that monkey moves, for many people, not everybody, but for many people is in patterns that really cause a lot of pain. I’m a schmuck, you know. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve never been able to meditate before, this is just confusing, this is just a waste of my time, I’d be better off outside going golfing. It’s just such a great analogy for what the mind is really like. I mean this image of the monkey that has this kind of endless curiosity, it’s never sitting still for a moment, it’s always flitting around, looking at everything in the room and playing around. And that’s really what the mind is actually doing. Everything that moves though experience the mind is commenting judging, wanting to go out and grab onto some things and play with some things or push away other things. The mind tends to get caught up in all the vicissitudes of life, whatever it is and invests an inordinate amount of time in trying to navigate the complexities of life, and fix, get right, or either fix it, get it right, figure out how to do it, or worrying about why it isn’t right. …this discursive mind that, you know, just gets involved with everything. So monkey goes to hearing and we create all this stories and things about what’s being heard or seen or smelled, or thoughts in the mind, or the emotions in the mind. Monkey just has a heyday. And it’s exhausting. It doesn’t bring us satisfaction. It always has that promise, it so often has that promise, that it’s going to be oohh now we’ll really have fun! But then we get spun out by what monkey mind does. If I have free time, before I would spend the free time you know, watching television, maybe playing video games, Candy Crush I used to think it is a way of enjoying life. After meditation I found that it’s not really happy, if I’m happy how come I play level after level non-stop, or watching television. All the things are coming at us so quickly, now we have instant communications with the cell phone, we have a huge amount of information coming and my sense is that it’s so easy to get lost and caught up and the thing that’s really tricky is that we don’t even know we’re lost and caught up. There’s more and more coming at all of us faster and faster and you know expectations and our work lives, and then social media and just there’s always information and stimuli coming in. How many times you walk down the halls of the hospital and people are almost walking into you because they’re on their phone? You feel like you need to do that, I need to do everything I can, while I’m eating I’m on the computer and trying to get all these things done. We’re acting out the habit of wanting to be distracted. A habit of not wanting to see. A habit of not wanting to be with ourselves because maybe it feels too painful, but a habit of looking outside of ourselves for something. We know that something is off. Being out there is sort of like being at the carnival all day long at some point doesn’t feel like it’s any fun anymore. And it doesn’t feel good at some point, it feels a little hollow, a little anxious, a little bitter, and so we’re finding ways to come back to something that feels more wholesome, more complete, and that’s the path of meditation. Monkey mind loves job, yeah? Want to do something. That’s why the meditation technique is actually you’re giving job to the monkey mind. It’s a win win situation. Monkey mind likes job, and you are giving job. So monkey mind is also happy and you are happy because you become boss. Normally monkey mind becomes boss, our boss. Blah blah blah, yadda yadda. What we call, there’s no freedom of mind. But don’t give full-time professional job to the monkey mind so there’s no habit to work full time. So just part-time, temporary job. The monkey mind is like full of thought and full of emotions. And unluckily there’s a lot of destructive thought and destructive emotions. And these are making problems. Why they make problems in our life? Because they are controlling us. How to have the real happiness which doesn’t need to depend on outside circumstances? And that is you have to train your mind. And how to train your mind? Through the meditation. It makes your mind become calm, peaceful, clear, and also what we call pliable and workable. First you have to know who is giving job to the monkey mind. This is very important. We are not thinking about this normally. Who’s giving job to the monkey mind? Awareness! There’s a special consciousness who makes decisions, knows itself, experiences itself, for example if you have thought or emotion, the awareness knows. What is awareness? Awareness is the mind that knows, ‘Oh I’m happy, oh I’m not happy, oh what am I thinking?’ That’s awareness. And there’re many jobs, you can offer many jobs. Today I would like to choose one job. Please keep your spine straight and just relax now. Relax your body, just listen to this sound. Don’t meditate. I’m not teaching you meditation. Now please close your eyes. And just listen to this sound… you don’t have to meditate so you don’t have to worry about the other thoughts, emotions. You can have thought, you can have emotions. But your mind just notice this sound, recognize this sound, realize this sound… You don’t have to look for sound, let sound come to you… Okay that’s finished. Now I have one secret. The real meditation is just listen to sound. That is the meditation. Even you don’t have to meditate. You just be there, you just listen to sound, that’s all. The meditation here is what we call, two things; don’t meditate, but don’t get lost. Because there’s awareness. Because of awareness you don’t get lost, but you don’t have to block everything else and no sound no other thought, no emotion…sound. Hmm there’s thought again, no good, no good, sound! If you try to put more and more focus on sound you cannot almost hear the sound, almost you cannot grab it and you see many other thoughts and many emotions, you get itchy here and you hear another sound and you see things around… many different things can happen. Normally you just listen to sound, but now here, you know you’re listening to sound. Normally there’s nothing in the center, now the awareness is the center. So you’re giving job to the monkey mind ‘Hello! Let’s listen to sound’ and monkey mind says ‘yes that’s good idea’ but not too long, only for a few seconds and monkey mind forgets to listen to sound and you’re in McDonald’s and eating hamburger you know. “Oh you forgot oh listen to sound” for a few seconds you may listen to sound… you forgot, you’re in the past. Listen to sound. It’s like that you know. Repeat again, short time many times. Mindfulness in the context of meditation is really the quality of mind that maintains the continuity of awareness. So the opposite you could say of mindfulness is distraction. So long as mindfulness is present then the mind is staying present to whatever the focal point of meditation is. So, for example, if one is meditating on the breath then mindfulness means to simply maintain the continuity of awareness on the breath. Whereas in distraction one would be caught up in thoughts or feelings or memories and no longer present with the breath. The knowing quality of the mind rests on the experience in some way. You know we’re not distracted, we’re not thinking about things, thoughts might arise or other feelings other things might come up but we’re able to just to be mindfully present with whatever is happening in that moment. And that constitutes meditation. Monkey can begin to settle down a little bit, by giving monkey a good job a very skillful job, very subtle job. And to the degree that monkey settles, these qualities of awareness are accessed and begin to radiate. In many ways it’s as simple as that. So all I do is just gently rest my awareness on any sound that’s happening. And then I recognize that I’m aware of that sound. It’s not just listening to sound like listening o a piece of music that I enjoy but it’s the recognition that I’m aware of listening to that sound. And so at first I would sit in my room and I’d open the window, I would hear little birds chirping, lovely, you know just sit there Ahhhh, just listening to sound. And then someone would be mowing the lawn. You know, at first, Rrrr, but then eventually, that’s sound too. Just listening to sound, just listening to the lawn mower. And now really when someone turns on that lawn mower Saturday morning, it doesn’t bother me. It’s just listening to sound. Now I still need to work on just listening to a child whining. But I’m getting there. We go from being so lost in thoughts and just being absorbed and completely driven by them to learning about that monkey mind is there and then learning how we shift our relationship to it so that not only does monkey mind, which usually drives us crazy, we recognize that, we can use it as actually a powerful tool for our meditation we can start to learn how to use thought as meditation. Stillness and quiet and we’re back and then the breath and we’re breathing in and breathing out, and here comes that pink dolphin again and here comes… you know so it’s just a funny place. And as a grown up experienced it before you see it as, this chaos, as being quite problematic. It’s not, it’s just the nature of your mind. So it’s some form of a war that we have with ourselves and if we fight, it doesn’t help, it fights back, if we suppress, it gets angrier, but if we just bring this very mild, very soft, like with an intention, this kind of awareness, it helps. And when we have this capacity to feel the life of the moment and allow it to be just as it is rather than resist it or run away, we actually come into a sense of wholeness and inner freedom that allows us to respond to our life with a tremendous amount of intelligence and compassion. So rather than thinking of meditation as reaching some calm, serene state of mind that we just somehow experience endlessly throughout our lives, it’s actually learning to touch in with the deepest suffering in our lives, with the confusion in our lives, with all the highs and the lows of our lives and really throughout all of that finding this thread of well being that isn’t tied to all of those highs and lows. You’re right up against, in many ways, yourself, and that’s uncomfortable. It’s also the beginning of freedom frankly. You know it’s the beginning of waking up. It isn’t so helpful if we suddenly go okay I shouldn’t be distracted, I shouldn’t be doing this. But instead we start to pay attention to what distraction feels like, what’s my mind doing in this moment. If we start to feel that rather than just be run by it, that’s what meditation is so good for. Because we keep acting out what we feel but we don’t even stop and see that. We don’t know how even to be with these feelings. And through learning about meditation it helps us to find the refuge of awareness. That it’s very different to be with distraction, anger, aversion, fear, and be present to it than to be lost in it. Perception begins to shift. We look at ourselves, and it’s not, that we’re not still kind of screwed up and confused and tangled up, but we’re not so desperate about it. So it’s more like becoming a little less tightly wound, a little bit relaxed, and then we begin to taste what’s there. I think the regular practice of meditation it’s sort of like playing a musical instrument in a sense. You can’t show up at Carnegie Hall or even in a jam session with friends if you don’t practice on a daily basis. It’s not a linear path, it may be a path for you that’s up and down, you may have days where it flows very easily for you and very comfortable and other days when it’s, like okay, it’s a bit of a struggle. And that is part of the whole meditation process, is to learning to go with that take it, take the moment as it is and move on, keep going. So one meditation technique is not suitible for everybody. What we call one medicine cannot cure all disease. Each disease needs different medicine, yeah? Because everybody has a little bit of a different personality, different mentality. So first you have to choose which one you like the most. For example if you like to meditate on sound first practice with sound meditation, if you want to focus with the breath, begin with the breath. General result is the same, they all have the same result because although the objects of meditation are different the essence of meditation is one, awareness, mindfulness. Awareness with the breath, awareness with sound the general result is the same. But change is good because if you alternate these meditation techniques you can keep your meditation fresh and also you can develop more faster. Science has contributed to our understanding of the effects of meditation on the brain and body. The research that we’ve done on meditation and the brain has focused on two major domains that meditation actually effects, one is attention and the other is emotion. And what we have discovered is that the circuits in the brain that are important for regulating both attention and emotion can be transformed by meditation. The 30,000 foot goal is to use the scientific research to understand the nature of suffering and how it can best be alleviated. Mingyur Rinpoche was one of our first long term practitioners “this will be strapped onto the arm and will get your ratings of how… normal without meditation, yes, yes without meditation” Usually when you do this kind of research with either brain electrical measurements or MRI it takes a lot of what we call post-processing to look at the data. What post-processing means is simply lots of computer algorithms churning at the data after the data is collected and it often takes many many days of computer processing to extract these really weak signals in a lot of noise. It’s finding a needle in a haystack. With Mingyur Rinpoche we didn’t need any fancy post-processing we actually were able to see a signal with our naked eye. Of course the first thing we thought is there was artifact and there’s something wrong. Because this is not something that we typically would see. So then we had to go through the entire recording system and take everything apart and put it back together before we convinced ourselves that this is actually real. Then when we discovered, that it was real, it was really quite amazing because nobody had ever seen these kinds of signals before for this length of time. What we were looking at are gamma oscillations in the brain they’re very fast frequency brain oscillations. They’re seen in any ordinary person, but they’re seen for very short periods of time, typically less than one second. They also don’t have such large amplitude. And when Mingyur Rinpoche was meditating these signals were large they were highly synchronized and they lasted for many many minutes, they lasted for the entire time that the meditation session was in progress. And that’s what made them very visible. So that was really a very important moment because we knew from a scientific perspective there was a “there” there. We can see that a person who meditates for even just two weeks, 30 minutes a day, shows a different pattern of brain activity than when they started two weeks before, and that is really important! Because it suggests that the brain really is plastic, that we really can make these changes and that it actually doesn’t take that much, a total of 7 hours of practice was sufficient to change the brain in very objective measurable ways. Well being and warm heartedness can be cultivated. We can think of them almost as skills which can be enhanced through certain kinds of practice. Science is really the religion of the modern world, and it’s important for us to understand the dynamics and the effects of anything before we’re ready to incorporate it into our lives. I think of exercise as a perfect example of this, if you think 50, 60 years ago scientists really began to look into how you create health and well being in the physical body. It was based really on the research that was done showing that a regular exercise routine had all these benefits for the physical body and for health. And I think now what research is beginning to show with meditation and with looking into other aspects of training and caring for the mind is that you can equally train the mind to be healthy, to be well, and even showing the relationship between the mind and the physical body, with things like the immune system and so forth. We know from neuroscience research that our brains are constantly being shaped. Neuroplasticity is alive and well. However our brains are mostly being shaped unwittingly. Mostly being shaped by forces of which we’re not conscious, the invitation here is that we can actually all take more responsibility for our own minds and brains and shape them in a more intentional way. By cultivating healthy habits of mind we can change our brains in ways that are beneficial. When they engage in compassion meditation you see powerful activation in the brain that you don’t see in other people. You see connectivity in different areas of the brain that you don’t see in untrained people, a whole host of differences that lead the scientists to conclude well when people practice in this way they’re different in the end. And the difference is a very positive one so people will start to think. We’re bringing this to the workplace. We have the aspiration of developing a smorgasbord of options of of simple, short, secular practices that are designed to be done at work. They’re practices that may range from between 3 and 10 minutes, they can be sprinkled throughout the day. And allowing the eyes to close if that’s comfortable but it’s perfectly fine to keep the eyes open. And if you keep your eyes open you want to just gaze outward and down a bit. Letting go of what has already happened so far today. So I think that the capacity for kindness and for understanding, for compassion, that those kinds of qualities that are naturally cultivated through this practice then filter out into the workplace and really impact people’s lives in a very very positive way. You can’t divorce the two you can’t say well I’m the meditator over here, and I’m the secretary over there, and the two shall never meet. Because that’s not just how we function. So it was quite delicious for me to be with people who were not only becoming more proficient at their jobs because their attention spans were developing and their hearts were opening. But also to see that their hearts were opening and their attention was developing, and so it’s impossible for that to not pervade your life. Because it’s a transformation of your heart and your mind, so you’re bringing all of that to your job but your also bringing it to the rest of your life. You have kind of a formal session which you call your meditation time but it’s not that you stop watching your mind or being aware, that continues for better or for worse throughout the day, and it can help you manage the upsets the crises or the turnabouts of daily life because you’re simply more aware of what’s going on in your mind. Bay State Medical Center in Springfield is leading health facility in western Massachusetts. The center offers weekly mindfulness group practice sessions free to all employees, and many are making time to practice and integrate the techniques into their busy lives. I’m able to manage the challenges and stresses of everyday a little bit easier. If you’d like to allow your awareness to expand to include the entire body from the top of the head all the way down to the toes. People feel like they have more sense of control in their lives, control over the reactions that are happening from moment to moment. So when something really challenging happens at work they’re able to catch themselves, shift and change a little bit and have it have not so much wear and tear on them. I’ve always worked on the trauma service, we also take on acute care surgery, so we tend to take care of the really sick patients. We see people who are energized, who are having the fight or flight response based on having recently had a trauma, or are in the midst of a critical illness, either they are very ill and their family members around them are also very engaged and are usually fearful or anxious, or worried. And they may or may not have had any warning about the illness that’s going to happen or the trauma that occurs. And so it is a time of extreme stress for families and being able to walk through that with them can be difficult. After realizing that my own response to stressful situations wasn’t as ideal as I would like it to be and that the overall stress of the job and dealing with, not just the resuscitations and patients but dealing with the paperwork and logistics and all the other things of being a physician, I was recommended to go to a mindfulness meditation retreat. I’m just going to take a look at her films and see how the films look and go from there. I think the mindfulness helps you be aware of what you’re doing. It helps you be in the moment to the degree that you can be there with the patient but yet be aware of how you’re being with the patient. …and noting what’s happening with the mind if it’s with the breath, staying right here, know if it has wandered off or getting distracted, see if it’s possible to come right back. The more calm that I am as the surgeon as sort of the leader of the team, the better the situation can go. If I get anxious or lose my cool, the room will quickly devolve. Because you do see that happening sometimes, you can see where you get a little anxious and a little louder than you otherwise would be and then the room kind of really pays attention and takes notice, and then they take their calm from you, so the more calm that you can be the more calm the room can be and the more efficiently it can function. And it’s absolutely critical, the more critical a patient is. I think mindfulness has been really helpful for me in allowing me to focus and actually have a plan about how to take care of myself so I can help take care of them. So that my anxiety in the situation isn’t the forefront, I can help them take care of theirs. Hey Jason, how are you? You can be a better interviewer and get more information from your patient if they really feel that you are connected with them, that you are paying your full attention to them as a person, they’re going to be much more open with you you’re going to get more information, and you’re going to be able to process that information in a better way. And you’re also going to be able to avoid some of the fairly common errors that happen if you’ve had some mindfulness training and are aware of the potential for these kinds of errors and you have trained your brain to be in a sort of awareness mode all the time, you can, I believe, prevent a lot of the errors that happen in medicine now. Meditation and making art are the same for me they have never really been different. It is simply, it’s so simple, it’s just paying attention, that’s all it is. I like to make something that is something that people already know, they already know that very well, and you just kind of have to show them in a slightly different way and they know it, and so they recognize it, that feeling of “Ahhh!” But it does need to be woken up. Works of art can do that nature can do that, any time you just open your eyes in a wholehearted way will do that. I think meditation gives you the opportunity to pay attention and so does art. So many of the things that are within the practice of balance and clarity are very inspiring to me as an artist. Now I don’t think I pile things on top of that and go great now I’m going to meditate or I’m clear and now I can make things! It’s all the same thing, it’s all the same thing, so playing for me I am in that state, and I’ve written a lot of songs in that state, and I would just call it awareness, just paying attention to what it is. Meditation isn’t helping me as an artist it is the exact same thing…. I think that I have a greater capacity to appreciate things now, and to be less forceful about changing them…. We don’t know what’s going to happen, choose to love it, choose to be happy. Thank you and good night! Schools are another promising setting for teachers and students alike to reap the benefits of mindfulness practices and encourage the development of healthy habits early on. I can’t think of a parent in America across the political spectrum, urban, suburban, rural, if you went up to them and said we want to implement programs into your child’s school that will help her pay attention, focus, concentrate, be more present, probably a little more creative, listen better. Who’s going to be against that? We’re just going to count our breaths for a few moments. Just remembering that our minds might wander away, we might be distracted by a sound, or a thought, or a feeling, and that’s alright, that’s normal, we’re just going to see if we can notice when that happens, and then bring our minds back to counting our breaths. I used to teach just a conflict resolution program and some kids were really using it well on the playground. But a lot of kids really weren’t and I would be sort of shocked to find out that kids that I thought were really understanding what I was telling them, they were down in the office getting in trouble all the time. So I felt there was something missing. I kept thinking they need to understand and recognize when they’re angry or when they’re starting to get angry, and they need a way to be able to calm down. Otherwise all these great strategies I’m teaching them are kind of pointless. So I was doing some reading trying to figure out what I could do to help with that part and I started reading more about mindfulness. And I had known about meditation and mindfulness but I didn’t really know that people taught it to children so I started reading about it and I thought this is exactly what I need. And I really wasn’t sure how they would respond to it but I just tried it out and right away I could just feel this was the foundation of everything I was teaching and it was what had been missing. And so now when I talk about conflict resolution we start out with mindfulness, we start out before I get into any kind of strategies of how you can talk things over or how you could work out a conflict we talk about recognizing our feelings, starting to feel in your body when you’re getting angry, and we practice a lot of different strategies, deep breathing and stuff to try to help you to take care of your anger. So that you have a clearer mind and you can think oh I know, I really want to push this little boy who just took the ball from me, but if I push the little boy this will happen. You have that little time for mindfulness to to wait before you react and that just seemed like the best thing I could be giving the kids. Now the conflict resolution skills are almost like gravy. They often use them but without that step, without that space between their feeling and their response to their feeling the conflict resolution stuff didn’t really work. I think mindfulness really has really helped our school. It really helps kids calm down. When kids are on the playground fighting, which a lot of kids do, I’ve seen happen. It’s just really helped our school so far. Well it helped me calm down and it helped me and my friends like, not be so angry at each other anymore. It definitely makes me a better friend because mindfulness makes me kinder. One of the big changes is that we used to have a refocus room, and the refocus room was just what it sounds like, a room for kids who are having difficulty to get refocused in terms of behavior. Take three deep breaths… And the fact that we no longer have a need for a refocus room I think speaks volumes and I think in large part is due to the mindfulness program and kids being taught and trained how to handle their emotions better because most of the refocusing had to do with incidents that occurred because our emotions get out of control. So when we’re talking about kindness we’re talking about beeing mindful of other people’s feelings, we’re talking about being mindful of kids who are being left out. We’re talking about being mindful of being patient with kids who might be different from you or who might have some challenges and I sort try to incorporate the ideas of mindfulness into all the ideas that I’m teaching now. May I be healthy and strong, may I be peaceful, and just take a moment to notice what that feels like for you. Any way that you feel is fine, just try to notice it. We start the day with just breathing in and out. And breathing in all of our stress and things and taking it out. And then we’re ready for the day, we’re ready to take maybe some challenges that may come in for the day. I think kids use it to help them with their focus, to help them just be calmer and happier. I can tell that this is a happy group of kids and I really think that the majority of that has to do with the fact that they’re able to identify happiness in themselves and identify their feelings and their thoughts and it just works for them. It makes me feel better and more relaxed than how I was because when I’m mad I get really mad and I just feel like I’m going crazy because I don’t know, I just don’t really know how I feel at that point. But then when I start breathing I feel more relaxed and calm and more peaceful. She’s aware now when she’s starting to get frustrated and so before it builds up in the way that it used to. She kind of knows what to do, she’ll go off to herself, she’ll go in her room, she’ll close herself off, she’ll do some breathing, she’ll come back and we’ll talk about it. Something about breathing in and out just helps your body feel a lot calmer and gets you back on course. During tests, big tests, sometimes I’m like aarrrggg what if time runs out, I’m never going to get this done, and then I’m like wait a second, I have mindfulness what if I just do that? And then once I do that I realize that hey this isn’t so hard after all, if I just calm down. Let’s get in our mindful bodies so get up nice and tall. They understand that it feels good to their bodies, they do like it and they do ask for it and they’re excited for it. They love listening to the bell, they love taking deep breaths. It’s something that you can bring anywhere, it’s like a bag, that’s how I imagine it. Where you can breathe and like …earlier today somebody was… I said something to somebody and then they got mad at me, then I was really mad at them. But then I remembered how sometimes they got teased a lot and maybe it was because it just made them feel better, and mindfulness helped me not be as mad at them because even though they hurt me or whatever they were just doing it because that’s how they felt and and that’s how they wanted to recover, and I was fine with that. My anger just like totally just washed away. It’s sort of like an ocean you know how the water goes up against the shore. That’s sort of how it felt to me. I started out learning it for them and then it’s had this huge impact on my own life and on my teaching. Mindfulness is like awesome! I love doing it! And if you really want the kid to be successful and go out into the world and be able to survive and succeed and thrive, this is the best skill you could give them. So meditation is a way to help us find the way back to home, what is home? That quality of sort of stable, open, clear, just sense of well-being. This is what Mingyur Rinpoche’s talking about when he talks about joy. I can watch myself now in situations that I know would have just gotten me so immediately angry. That reactivity that absolutely had its way in my life, it really doesn’t have much of a chance any more. I’m more able to be aware of what’s happening while it’s happening and I think that creates space for me then to respond to what’s happening rather than just react. Inner peace, stillness, contentment, confidence, compassion, wisdom, all these things that we think that we have to develop, or that we don’t have and we somehow need to cultivate or obtain or attain, it’s more a matter of exploring one’s mind and one’s experience and seeing that actually all these qualities are there in the present moment and we just haven’t recognized them. I think it just helps… slow things down. I am so much more comfortable in my own skin because I’m not reactive. It’s not that we need to shut off our emotions or shut off our thoughts, but we’re no longer ruled by them either. So we have a choice. And what’s really powerful is you watch it, it arises, it’s there, and it passes away. The meditation, it changes my experience of the world, and so that in turn, changes the world that I was experiencing. When we begin to consciously engage with our experience in the moment we begin to see truly how our mind works and the connection between external experience and our internal experience. The story of our lives, the experience of our lives, really has its origin in our own minds. How we see things, how we perceive things, how we react how we respond, that’s all within ourselves, and to learn about that, that we don’t have to be caught in the habit patterns of our conditioning, to see that there are options for how we respond to circumstances, it’s a hugely freeing thing!