Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn

MENG: Hi. Good morning, my friends. For those who don’t know
me, my name is Meng. And for those who know me,
my name is still Meng. Surprise. I’m Google’s Jolly
Good Fellow. And one of the people I blame
for my jolliness is Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. When I was young, I read his
first book, this book. And this book deepened my
interest and my understanding of meditation. And it is from this meditation
that I found inner peace and happiness, and I’ve been
jolly ever since. So it’s Jon’s fault. I blame you. And Jon has been a hero
to me ever since. Now Jon has accomplished many
great things in his life. He has a very long bio, and
I’m not sure I want to go through his whole bio. So I’ll just mention
one thing. If history remembers Jon for
only one thing, that will be for being the first person to
successfully bring meditation into mainstream medicine. And I believe his impact
on humanity can only grow over time. And we’re honored to have Jon
give a meditation class today. My friends, I give you
Jon Kabat-Zinn. [APPLAUSE] JON KABAT-ZINN: So what a nice
turnout for this time of day, when there are all sorts of
other gala events happening, I guess, on campus. I guess the meditators,
or those interested in meditation, know that sometimes
more hoopla is not necessarily where it’s at. Nice to see somebody with
a US rowing shirt. One of the adventures that I was
in some time ago had to do with training the US Olympic
rowing team in mindfulness, back in 1984 at Lake Casitas. And it was really quite an
interesting experience, in part because rowers compete
sitting down. So learning how to sit
is not in some sense relevant to them. They also compete going
backwards, which is very interesting. And if you’re not in a single,
then you’re competing with other minds and other bodies
in the same boat. And to get that into some kind
of harmony and synchrony is non-trivial, and doesn’t just
have to do with the body. When the mind and body become
one, then the boat and the water and the wind and all
the minds become one, and something very interesting
happens. So I’m really touched that
you’ve come out in the middle of the workday to
partake of a– what do you want to call this,
a class or a workshop on what could most easily be described
as much ado about almost nothing. It’s not quite nothing, but it’s
not so much about doing as about being, or as
the Taoists would call it, it’s non-doing. And there is a way in which
that seems awfully anti-American, since we’re such
go-getters, and it’s all about doing, and getting it
done, and crossing off everything on your to do list. But if we get out of touch with
who’s doing the doing, actually that can
be quite tragic. And not just from the point of
being so stressed out because you’re always running
on a treadmill and– have you noticed there’s no
end to work at Google? There’s no end to the workday. I mean you guys define it,
because the campus is structured so that you’ll
never have to go home. You can have a real life, if you
want to separate life into that kind of a way. But it’s actually, even before
there was Google, the digital revolution is actually
delocalizing everything, so that there’s no workplace
anymore, really, because you can work anywhere. There’s no work week
anymore, because, I mean, there’s no workday. So all the boundaries
are being confused. But we’re still really saddled
with a Stone Age mind in a Digital Age world. And that Stone Age mind, unless
it has a certain kind– unless it engages in a certain
kind of self-education, can really wind up getting stuck
in some realms of serious confusion, suffering, being
lost, and in fact maybe even– and I just want to throw this
out as a possibility– impeding creativity,
imagination, real thoughtfulness, real
breakthrough-type leadership sensibilities, because we’re not
running on all cylinders. Or, to use even I think a better
metaphor, and one that I like a lot, is that
we’re living in a multi-dimensional universe. And if you listen to the
cosmologists, and the string physicists, and the vacuum
energy physicists, and so forth, we’re living in a
universe that’s not even 4-dimensional, it’s more like
11, or 26, or whatever it is. And we still haven’t really
grokked Einstein’s contribution of spacetime
as four dimensions. So if we are not in touch with
the multiple dimensions of our own being– and there are many
hidden dimensions to being embodied in the human lifetime
for an unbelievably short period of time– then, in fact, we’re kind of
in some way trying to get somewhere and get all
this doing done without tuning the apparatus. It would be like the
Philadelphia philharmonic or some great orchestra, let’s
say San Francisco Symphony orchestra, playing Beethoven
without tuning first. And no matter– they could have the greatest
musicians with the greatest instruments in the world, and
they still tune first, to themselves and to each other. And so in a sense, I like to say
meditation, in some sense you could say it’s like tuning
your instrument before you take it out on the road. and tuning it in the morning can
make a big difference in how the whole day goes, just
on a kind of mundane level, never mind all the hidden
dimensions of possibility, imagination. And yet it does seem really, in
some sense, outside of the common norms of our culture. And so, whether it’s in the
Bay Area or sort of less charged places like that, it’s
very easy to kind of accrete a kind of feeling on the part of
other people that there’s something weird about stillness,
or about silence, or about self-reflection,
about non-doing. And I want to say there’s
nothing weird or anti-American about this at all, or
un-American about this at all. It’s in some sense a recognition
of sanity, and that doing and being have
always been intimately interrelated, and without some
kind of deep reflection, well, where do you think scientific
breakthroughs or engineering breakthroughs come from? They all come out of
the human mind. And very often they come
serendipitously, in the middle of the night or in dreams
or whatever. And there have been Nobel Prizes
that have come just from like a dream, like a snake
eating its tail, and voila, you’ve got the
benzene ring and all the molecular orbitals. And there are lots of instances
like that, that in science, it’s not
what you know. It’s what you’re willing to know
you don’t know, and then to linger at that sometimes very
uncomfortable place of having banged your head, and
banged your head, and banged your head, and gone through a
lot of different kinds of solutions, none of which
actually lead to any kind of a solution. And all of a sudden
you just like, OK. And you don’t try to force
anything anymore. And you just open. And you go, in some sense,
beyond thinking. You go beyond thinking. It’s not like you’re discounting
thought, but in some sense you’re giving
yourself over to something that’s just much bigger that we
never get educated around. It never hardly is
ever mentioned. Sometimes it might be
called intuition. Sometimes it might be
called creativity. I call it awareness. When was the last time you had
a course in awareness, or it was even mentioned as important
in school, aside from, say, people yelling at
you if you were looking out the window and the teacher
caught you doing it and said, pay attention, as if paying
attention was some kind of military discipline,
and a bad thing. So from the point of view the
meditative traditions, the entire society is suffering
from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
certifiable diagnosis. From the point of view of the
meditative traditions, because it’s all about doing
and there’s no recognition of being. So in a sense, there’s
no place to rest. And what this work is really all
about is saying, there is plenty of place to rest, and
there’s plenty of time. It’s not like, oh, you’ve got to
squeeze this into your busy day, because awareness is
boundless and infinitely available in every moment, no
matter what you’re doing. So if the doing is coming, in
some sense, out of being, out of awareness, then it’s not
like, well, I have to find an hour to meditate, and if
I can find an hour then to hell with it. Because that’s a kind of
idealization, that’s what in some traditions they call a
gaining idea, that now I’m going to meditate to get
better at something. I’m going to meditate so that
I can be more like a samurai mind, cuts through all, discerns
all problems clearly, cuts through the Gordian Knot
of it and goes right to the solution, breakthrough
after breakthrough. And of course, that’s
an idealization. Non-doing really means
non-doing. And radically speaking, it
means giving up wanting anything else to happen in even
the next moment, never mind at the end of the day or at
the end of a year, in terms of the bottom line, and being
willing to just stand in how things are in this moment. Now, I would like this
to be interactive and conversational. I can talk for hours
about this stuff– I mean, really, I’m embarrassed
to say it– because it’s so much– well, I would say that for me,
meditation is an act of love, and, as I was implying, an act
of sanity, just to stop for a fraction of a second and drop. Sometimes I even bring
a tennis ball in, like drop into being. You think, well, if I do that,
maybe I’ll lose my mind. I don’t want to go
into my mind. Many people I knew and grew up
with were Nobel laureates. And I asked one, George Wald,
actually, at Harvard, who won the Nobel Prize for color
vision, and we– he was my yoga student,
and meditations through many years. But before that he said, I
don’t want to get into meditation. I spent my whole life
fine-tuning my thinking mind so that it works. What if I go into meditation,
I lose my mind? I say, yes, what if you
go into meditation and find your mind? Imagine. You’re a big boy, George. You’ve already won
the Nobel Prize. Why are you so worried about
losing your mind? We’re talking about befriending
your mind. We’re talking about, in a sense,
making friends with this aspect of being that is as
worthy of paying attention to as the cones and
rods in the eye. So he got into it. And in his old age, he’d
sit on the beach and bang a drum and chant. And he was really into it. It didn’t make him
any stupider. So what I think might be best
today is if we actually, rather than me just talking
endlessly about this from one angle or another and really
have it be kind of advertisement, that we actually
practice a little bit, like a laboratory, and we
drop in on our own minds, in this moment. Whatever reason you came, I
mean, everybody’s busy, right? So if you walked into this room
there’s something really interesting about that. I don’t know what it is. And my guess is, on some
deep level, you don’t know what it is. OK? But it’s interesting. You made some kind
of a choice. And each one of us will
have made that choice for different reasons. Even my choice for why did
I come here today. I’ve got other things
to do too. So there’s something very
interesting going on, a little bit indeterminate, and I
see it as an adventure. To sort of just loop back to
what I was saying, it’s an adventure in finding out who
you actually are, and then embodying that in ways that
could actually add dimensions, and therefore value, to your
life, in ways that are really not conceivable. You can’t think your way to what
the outcome of this will be and then try to get there,
because the irony is, you’re already here. You’re here in this room. You came. But you’re always here. There is no there. Yes, we can formulate goals. That’s one of the most amazing
things about thought and imagination, is we can project
out into the future. And we can develop models for
how we’re going to go from here to there. But if we don’t know here, then
the there is going to be colored by what we, in some
sense, are unfamiliar with, and unwilling to look at. Tacit assumptions, for instance,
have sunk many, many boats in the world of science
and engineering, just tacit assumptions that we haven’t
really paid attention to, because– for whatever, usually
emotional reasons. Do emotions–? Do you know what I’m saying? So to be able to– for one period of time, here
today, as a laboratory, whether you’ve been meditating
for years and you just want to see one more person coming
through Google talking about mindfulness, or whether this
is totally new to you and somehow you don’t even
know why you’re here, but you’re here. It’s what Suzuki Roshi used to
call “beginner’s mind.” And the beginner’s mind is not
something that you only have at the beginning. The whole point is to cultivate
beginner’s mind moment by moment. One Korean Zen master
that I studied with, named Seung Sahn– who talked in this fantastic
English, because he never bothered to learn English
grammar, syntax, or words, for that matter, so he could
communicate to Americans in ways that just– he just called it “don’t know
mind.” And he would talk about it like this, who am I? He’d do this like, who am I? That’s a fundamental meditative
question. Who am I or what am I? And then he’d sit in his robes,
and bald head, and gnarled Zen stick that he used
to beat his students with metaphorically. He’d say, who am I? And he’d say, don’t know. And keeping that not knowing is
the best way to interface between the known and the
unknown at the edge of creativity and science,
or, for that matter, in family life. You think you know who
your children are? Forget it. You’ll never know who
your children are. You think you know who
you’re sleeping with? Forget it. You’ll never– or, at least, you’ll have to
get out of your own way an awful lot to not just see the
projections onto that person of your own mind. And then it’s like it does,
in some sense, denature relationships. Even if, I love you, honey, but
if it’s all about me, it may actually turn toxic. Is it any wonder like, you
know, my wife left me. What happened? I don’t know. She just left one day. Oh, I see. That was the first symptom? Yes, it might have been, if
you’re– in unawareness, you don’t pay any attention to the
signs and symptoms, and all of a sudden like whammo, you’re
hit with a heart attack. But it’s very unlikely that that
was the first symptom. Sometimes, with sudden cardiac
death actually, the first symptom is your last. But
usually, there are all sorts of prodromal warning signs,
whether it’s relationships or relationship to your own
body and health. And if you’re not paying
attention to them, the body or the world is going to up the
ante to try to get you to wake up while you still have a chance
to come to your senses. And it’s the senses,
in a sense– it’s the senses that are
fundamentally the only way we can know the world. And there are many more than
five senses. and the Buddhists include mind itself as a sense,
because you can see without seeing. If your mind is not tuned in,
you can see all sorts of things and not see them. You can hear all sorts of
things and not hear. I mean, have you ever had
anybody who loves you a lot say, well, you never
listen to me. Of course, because we’re just
listening to ourselves, the story of me, and where I’m going
and how great it is, or how depressing it is and
how unworthy I am. And it’s like, me,
me, me, I, I, I. So the heart of this whole
thing is to begin to examine, who am I? Because you’re not
what you think. And someone once gave me
a t-shirt that said, “Meditation. It’s not what you think.
” And it’s true. So one thing in medicine that’s
really important that we train the medical students in
a lot now, but it’s amazing how you have to even train
people in this, because it’s not so common sensical. Don’t put a desk between
you and the patient. Don’t sit back as the big
authority and say, well, let me help you. Move in. Cultivate a certain kind of
appropriate distance, not instant intimacy, but at the
same time something even deeper than intimacy, which is
what I would call recognition. Oh, a human being has walked
in, usually in pain of one kind or another, frightened,
doesn’t know what they have. Just fixing them is not
adequate medicine. So medicine, as this man was
implying, is changing tremendously. And I’ll just say, as part of
my little advertisement for some of the dimensions in which
we work– because it’s much bigger than health
care and medicine. I started out doing this in
medicine, in terms of bringing mindfulness into the mainstream
of institutions. Medicine and meditation sound
a lot alike, don’t they? They come from the same
root meaning. So there’s something about being
human that we have been ignoring, and I would say
up to now, at our peril. And if we can bring being and
doing together, the doing is going to be much more
magnificent, and at the same time, perhaps much more
balanced, much less smoke and heat, and much more light, and
clarity, and breakthrough. And at the same time, we can
do that in a way that’s not dualistic, like at the expense
of our lives or of our relationships, or our children,
or, for that matter, our health and our body, or
other aspects of our mind that we feel like are interests that
we never have time for, because we are so addicted
to getting things done. All right. So how many of you are old-time
meditators, whatever that means to you? Raise your hands. How many of you are brand new to
it, this is the first time you’ve come to anything having
to do meditation and you’d rather be wearing a mask or
something to disguise you. OK. Wonderful. And then everybody in between. How many of you used to have a
meditation– none of you are old enough, maybe, or very few
of you are old enough, I can see, to used to have a
meditation in the ’60s or whatever, and then fell off the
wagon and wished you could get back, but every time
you try it’s too hard and you don’t. Anybody like that? Yes. Welcome. OK. So let’s start from first
principles, OK? We talked about beginner’s
mind. Let’s just start from
the beginning. We only have moments
in which to live. The future is a concept. A very useful concept, I’m
not putting it down. The past, memory, is
also a concept. But the only time in which our
lives are unfolding is now. And now has some very, very
interesting properties that if we learn to inhabit now more,
with awareness, it’s almost as if the universe becomes
your teacher. Because there’s no boundary
to this, there’s no boundary to awareness. You can’t put your finger on
where your awareness stops. If you want to go and right now
have lunch with somebody in a restaurant in LA, even if
the restaurant’s not open, you can open a restaurant, have
dinner, lunch, dinner, whatever, with that person,
right now, because of imagination. No problem. You can have a Google mind and
just hold the whole world, and everything that’s being searched
for right in this moment in Google. And you can go meditate on
whatever that selective span of Google searches is that’s
going on in the main lobby. And it’s only some fraction
of what’s really going on. Even in your own mind, if you
start to pay attention to anything in your mind, it’s only
some small fraction of the universe of things that
are going on in your mind. And yet if I ask you to
show me your mind, where would you point? You’d point to the head. Sorry. Mind and brain may not
be the same thing. The brain we can point to. The mind is a little
more interesting. That’s why Zen masters will
often say, show me your mind, and then wait to see
what you do. It’s a little bit like taking
a number on one of those old fashioned adding machines,
and dividing it by zero. And you still– cachunk,
cachunk, cachunk, cachunk, cachunk, and nothing
ever happens. And that can be a very powerful
way of waking people up to these other dimensions. OK. So what we know, we have a body,
relatively speaking, and we’re here now. So let’s see if we can tune in
to now, for no other reason than just for fun. OK? Just not to get anywhere, to be
more relaxed, to become a great meditator, to break
through some problems that you’re having, whatever it is,
but to just see if you can hold this moment in awareness. You don’t even have to
shift your posture. Just hold this moment
in awareness. Now, there’s a lot going on,
because as I said, I mean even if we limit it to five senses,
if your eyes are open they’re seeing. Your ears you can’t close,
so there’s hearing. Your nose you can’t close, so
there’s some kind of sensing going on through the nose, some
aroma of rug and wall. There’s whatever the sensations
are in the mouth. And there’s the contact of the
back with the back of the chair, and your butt
with the chair. And if you’re on the floor– so there’s what’s called
proprioception. Let’s see– and there is,
of course, one aspect of proprioception which is,
interestingly enough, without any effort on our part– thank
god, because otherwise we would have died long ago for
just like forgetting, getting distracted. We’re breathing. If breathing depended on the
conscious mind, as I said, we’d all be dead already. Oh, I got busy, forgot. Oh, yes, I’m supposed
to breathe. Luckily, the nervous system,
the design of the nervous system, is much too clever
to leave that to conscious control. Yes, you can fiddle with it
a bit, but what’s being suggested is, see if we can just
drop in on the sensations of breathing without fiddling
with the breathing at all. It knows how to do it really
well, much better than you. So see if you can just feel
yourself breathing, without intentionally drawing an in
breath or an out breath. If it helps, and of course the
breath is in some sense constrained or formed by how
we’re sitting, so if you’re sitting like this, it contracts
the chest. And so there may be a natural tendency
to sit in with a spine that’s elevated and erect,
in a position that embodies dignity, just so that
you can meet this moment in its fullness with alertness,
whatever that means to you. It could be lying down. It doesn’t have to be sitting. It could be hanging from your
toes from the ceiling. And let’s see if we can
feel the breath. Not think about the breath,
but just feel the breath moving in and out of the body,
as if we were in some sense approaching a shy animal sunning
itself on a tree stump in a clearing in a forest. It’s
like, we want to approach gently, and just drop in. And ride the waves of the breath
in the body, maybe down in your belly, where there’s all
sorts of stuff going on, on the in breath and
the out breath. You’re not breathing deeply. You’re not pushing. You’re not pulling. And if you’d like to concentrate
more, focus on the abdomen or wherever the
sensations are most vivid, I invite you to close your
eyes if you care to. It’s not at all necessary. And just ride, surf, on the
feeling, the sensations, of the breath moving in and out
of your body, moment by moment, by moment. And let everything else going
on in the mind, in the room, the sounds, everything,
just be in the wings. You’re not suppressing
anything. You’re just featuring the breath
center stage in the field of awareness, as is your
life depended on it, of course, which it really does, in
more ways than one, in more ways than you can even think. Now, whether you’ve been
meditating for years, or this is really your first exposure to
what you might call formal meditation instruction, it
doesn’t take long before you realize that, having just given
yourself this very, very simple assignment to feel the
breath moving in and out of the body, and resting in that
awareness, attending to the sensations, that the mind kind
of has a life of its own. And it won’t just stay on the
belly, or the nostrils, or wherever you’re following
the breath. And it’ll start commenting on
your experience, that maybe you’re already wishing you
hadn’t come, and are looking for a graceful way to get
towards the exit while our eyes are closed. Or that this is stupid and
boring, and how could this tap into anything useful? Or, the mind may just kind of
drift off into reverie, or thinking about how much you’ve
got to get done by the end of the day, and going through
your to do list and maybe getting more anxious. Or feeling so happy you’re here
that you don’t want to go back to work, and thinking
you’ll take the rest of the day off. Whatever it is, you’ve lost
touch with the breath. That’s for sure. So it’s important that you
know, whether you’ve been meditating for 50 years or more,
or this is your first experience of it, that this is
just the way the mind is. It’s normal. There’s nothing wrong
with you. And it’s not like, oh, you’ll
make a bad meditator because your mind is unruly. That’s the nature of the mind. It’s just like the
Pacific Ocean. It waves, depending on the
atmospheric conditions. But even when it’s at its most
tumultuous, if you learn to drop down 20 or 30 feet under
the water, there’s just gentle calmness, undulation,
stillness, and it’s always present. And it’s the same
with the mind. The surface of the mind can be
very agitated, embroiled in thought and emotion,
but awareness itself is like the depths. And although we’ve never been
exposed to this in any systematic way, you can learn,
by just coming back to the breath over and over and
over again, that it’s not about the breath. It’s about the awareness. That includes knowing that
your mind wandered in the first place, and what it
got embroiled with. So the added instruction at this
point would be any time you notice that your mind is no
longer in your breath, let your awareness take note
of what’s on your mind. Sooner or later it will, and
you’ll have a little mini realization. Oh my god, I’m supposed
to be on the breath. I thought that was so simple
to do, and I’ve been off someplace for who
knows how long. Not a problem. Guess what? It’s still now. So in this moment, just– your body’s still breathing. Can you reconnect with featuring
the breath center stage in the field
of awareness? It’s not about the breath. It’s about the awareness. And the breath is simply a
skillful means for befriending this deep capacity of the
heart and mind that is sometimes called awarenessing. I sometimes call awarenessing
too, in distinction to thinking. It’s just bigger than thinking,
because it can hold thought, as well. So if the mind wanders, you
know what’s on your mind. You bring it back. If it wanders 10,000 times, you
know what’s on your mind 10,000 times. And without judging, condemning,
forcing, blaming, just come back to this
moment, this breath. Each breath, a new beginning. Each out breath, a complete
letting go. And voila, here you are again,
right here, and no agenda. Just this moment. Just this breath. Just this sitting here. Outside of time, if you will. Ensconced in the now. Timeless. In awareness. So this sounds simple,
and it is. But it’s not easy. This is a very, very challenging
discipline, actually, because the mind is
so unruly and so conditioned to fall into liking and
disliking, and wanting to be entertained, and so highly
conditioned, that to just get really basic and befriend any
aspect of experience and sustain that attending with a
certain kind of tenderness, as a radical act of love and
kindness, just towards yourself, simply to stop and to
be, requires a certain kind of motivation to befriend your
experience in this way, the moments that you do have while
you’re alive, wherever you are, whatever is up for you. And silence, this kind of
silence that’s pregnant with awareness itself, with what you
might call pure awareness, is available 24/7. Whether you’re in front of your
computer or not, whether you’re at home or here, wherever
you are, it’s part of the repertoire, and a very
fundamental part of the repertoire of being human. Silence. And I apologize for talking
so much about silence. Ultimately, the more you
practice the less there is any need for talk or thought. And the meditation practice
winds up doing you much more than you are doing the
meditation practice. And the world, and everybody,
and everything, becomes your teacher, and not in any
grandiose new age bullshit kind of way. Just obvious, basic. So let’s play in the few
remaining moments that we’ll stay with this guided
meditation, keeping in mind that my voice is merely meant to
be like pointing out places to look or to feel or to see,
and so if you don’t find it helpful, than just finding
your own way to be in relationship to the
present moment. But remembering that I’m not
trying to give you any experience, certainly not
relaxation or a sense of well-being or anything. It’s not about that. It’s simply reminding you, and
in a sense, hopefully also, although you can’t say it in
English, re-bodying you to rest, to learn, to remember how
to rest in awareness, an awareness that can hold anything
and everything in this only moment we ever have
for knowing, for learning, for loving, for working,
for seeing beneath the surface of things. So let’s play with expanding the
field of awareness around the breath, wherever we’ve
been featuring the breath sensations, until it includes a
sense of the body as a whole sitting here breathing. And if you’ve sort of slumped or
collapsed in your posture, at this point why don’t you
see if you can reestablish yourself in a posture that
embodies dignity, to your full dignity and wakefulness to
you, whatever that means. Not in any kind of idealized
way, we’re not talking West Point or military academy, we’re
simply talking about letting awareness fill the body,
and find, if you will, an optimal way to be in
this moment, sitting. So that the breath flows most
freely and most unimpeded. So that the mind has a quality
of lightness to it, and a light touch. And seeing if you can feel your
skin breathing, perhaps, because of course it does. And if you can’t, just imagining
that you can feel your skin breathing or just feel
your skin, the envelope of the body. And all of the sensations within
the body, however they are, just let them be what they
are, held in awareness. The breath of course is a part
of that, so the awareness can be very narrowly columnated,
where the attention is very, very one-pointed, or it can
be much broader, like a wide-angle lens, 360. And let’s actually allow the
awareness to also include sounds, since the ears,
as we said, were open. And they’re happening in this
moment as well, so we’re not excluding anything. Body sitting, breathing,
and hearing. And the awareness can just
already hold it. You don’t need to know
how to do it. It already knows how to do it. It does it all the time. But we’re not aware
of awareness. So this is new, perhaps. And then why stop here? Let’s allow the field of
awareness to include any thoughts or feelings that it
might be flitting through the field of the mind, which
you might think of as like the sky. You know, vast, and, in
some sense, boundless. So thoughts come, they go. They’re usually associated with
emotions of one kind or another, pleasant, unpleasant,
neutral. Intense, mild, moderate. And just let your awareness
take in the whole thing, without pursuing anything,
without rejecting anything, what you might call resting in
a choice-less awareness. Now, not focusing on any object,
but just allowing whatever objects of attention
arise to be seen, felt, and known in their arising,
in their passing away, moment by moment. So it could be just
the breath. Or it could be just this vast
panoply, and you can decide where you want to focus your
attention, on the objects, or on an objectless awareness, a
choiceless open spaciousness, that you could think of as
awareness without objects. Pure, and filling the body,
surrounding the body, filling the heart. Calming, if you will, the
agitations of the mind simply by this tenderness in the
attending moment by moment, by moment, by moment, by moment. Without any judging of your
experience whatsoever, no condemning, no pursuing,
no pushing away, no liking, no disliking. Of course, that’s a fantasy. You’ll have all sorts of
likes and dislikes. But just allow your awareness
to know the liking and disliking, without judging
even that. Resting in an awareness of
awareness itself, moment by moment, as we sit here
breathing, fully awake. If you get lost, you can always
come back to the belly and to the breath. And remember it’s not about
the belly or the breath. It’s about the awareness that
is, in some sense, re-invited to the table by focusing
on the object. But it’s actually always here. You’re just not used to taking
up residence in awareness, because we are so in our heads,
so carried away by the thought stream, and by
emotions that we find difficult to deal with, and that
reinforce the sense of me, my problems, my
life, my ambition. The story of me, and where I’m
going, which is just a story. It’s just more thought. How about letting your awareness
be part of who you are, maybe a much bigger part
than the stories you tell that are intrinsically limited,
limiting, and inaccurate. I’d like to invite you, if your
eyes are closed, to allow your eyes to open while
maintaining the same quality of awareness. So nothing is any different,
it’s just that now if your eyes were closed, there’s
also sights. But you can maintain the same
awarenessing even as you turn your head or shift your
body or stretch. And just to kind of formalize
the close of the formal practice, guided practice, I’ll
just rings some bells. We should just– you won’t hear the bells, what
you’ll hear is [CHIME]. Nobody hears bells. What you hear is sound– [CHIME] and the spaces between them,
and the silence inside and underneath sound. So although the formal
meditation practice, in some sense, comes to an end, and has
to, the real meditation practice never comes
to an end. It’s your life. It’s no more at an end than,
say, your breathing. OK. We’ve finished meditating,
stop breathing. No. Breath will go on. Sensations will go on. Seeing, hearing, smelling,
tasting, touching, proprioception, knowing,
thinking. And so the real meditation
practice is your life, and how you carry yourself
in each moment. Now that’s, oh, great. Then I don’t have to meditate. I’ll just go out and do
mindfulness in daily living, and it will be great. You get to the door without
forgetting. You get carried away and
entrained into whatever is next on your to do list. So
there’s something very beautiful about the combination
of formal meditation practice, even if
it’s for 30 seconds or 5 minutes every day, but the fact
that you will anchor it, that you will at least tune a
little bit before you play the great symphony, and then
see what happens. And I’m sure you will find, and
many of you can probably talk about– and I’m going to
now converse about that, because the outer counterpart
of meditation, especially– how many of you sit in meetings
during the day? Do you meet with other people at
Google, or has the computer done away with that, only
virtual meetings? Well do you sometimes find
yourself in meetings and just like wondering what the hell
this meeting is about? They go on and on sometimes,
even at Google. And it’s like, you don’t get to
the point, or everybody’s got to shoot their mouth off
about their own favorite thing, and be an obstacle to
getting anything done. Does that happen here? OK. So imagine if people tuned
before they walked into a meeting, or took– I often give CEOs or department
chairs, whatever, I give them a set of
these bells. And I say, hey, listen. Why don’t you take the first 5
minutes of a 30 minute meeting or an hour meeting
and just [CHIME] ring the bells. No meditation instruction, the
instruction is just sit and watch your mind, and
be aware of the people around the table. Five minutes of that, [CHIME] then have your meeting
and see what happens. It may turn out to be a totally
different meeting, because people will be there. Most people, they’re
in the meeting, but they’re not there. They’re text messaging under
the table, or Googling, or whatever the hell
you people do. But you’re not fully present, if
you’re [INAUDIBLE], what’s the point in having a meeting? The meeting is about meeting, so
that something can happen. But for that, you
have to show up. Turns out showing up
is non-trivial. It’s the hardest thing in
the world, to show up. Even in your body, most
of the time we’re like, not in our bodies. There’s this wonderful line in
James Joyce’s Dubliners– it’s a book of short stories– that starts out, Mr.
Duffy lived a short distance from his body. So let’s have a conversation
about what your experience was. And I just want to say that if
you read business books, leadership books, like Peter
Senge at the Society for Organizational Learning, and
think about organizations and how they have– like they’re
organisms, and they learn, and they grow, and they have heads
and tails, and they can orient and move, in time and space,
and beyond time and space– that that’s the outer
counterpart of quiet meditation. It’s like when you get 30 people
in a room around the table, and they do this kind of
tuning, then the dialogue is very, very different from if
you think you’re going to be in discussion. Discussion, for instance, like,
oh, we’ll get together and we’ll discuss this problem
or this issue– discussion, I would just remind
you, comes from the same root as concussion, and
percussion, and succussion. It’s all about shaking
violently apart. That’s the root meaning of
discussion, is to shake violently apart,
maybe something will sort itself out. But what about dialogue, where
everybody is really tuning, and not like totally in their
ego, but a kind of inquiry. What is this? What is our job? What is the purpose
of this meeting? What could we do together
that we can’t do alone? And maybe if I don’t know
everything, or I take my big pet, whatever favorite thing it
is, and for a moment just bring don’t know to it, so it’s
not like, yes, I’ve got to come out of this meeting
with an agreement from everybody that I’m the greatest
person in the world. My idea is the best idea. Out of that, what happens when
minds do this together, you get some kind of property
emerging that’s bigger than any of the individual minds
in the room, and [SNAP] something. That’s beginning to become more
and more recognized in business and in all sorts of
organizations, because the old models are just like
Tyrannosauruses and Brontosauruses swishing around
and banging each other’s tails and dying. OK. So anybody want to comment on
your experience of this, or anything that you experience? Let’s keep it not like– let’s
not go into speculation about meditation and its value
in the world. But more like, what did you
experience during the guided meditation, first person
experience. AUDIENCE: So, Dr. Kabat-Zinn,
I have been a practicing mindful meditator for
almost 10 years. And by practicing, I mean, I
struggled with the same thing, and continue to struggle with
the same thing, which is, I fall asleep, all the time, and
it happened to me here. JON KABAT-ZINN: Anybody
else fall asleep during the session? Raise your hands up high. There’s nothing embarrassing
about it. I mean, basically we’re all more
or less asleep anyway, even if you’re here. It’s the same thing
as in school. The bodies show up but
that doesn’t– And yes, so as soon as we get
calm and still, we go, plop. First of all, how many of you
would say that you’re sleep-deprived, just on the
purely Monday level. Of course we’re sleep
deprived. Google doesn’t expect
you to be sleeping. That’s for the next lifetime. I don’t know. So what are the practical things
that you might do? So I get very basic
around sleep. Sleep is an occupational
hazard of meditating. And in the hospital,
we don’t ask people to meditate sitting. We get them down on the
floor, doing what’s called a body scan. So you get more and more
relaxed, the first thing you do is go, plop. So you hear a tremendous amount
of snoring in the room. We do this with sometimes
200 people on our day-long retreat. And people take offense. I’m trying to meditate here,
and I’ve got a snorer over here and a snorer over there. It’s an occupational hazard
of meditating. Meditation is all about
falling awake. But the first thing people
do is fall asleep. What can we do? Well, to one degree it’s like
I would ask you about your motivation? How motivated are you to
actually be awake? OK? If you are, have you ever been
driving down the highway late at night and falling asleep? OK? I mean, sometimes when it’s
really bad, I’ve had to slap myself across the face. Why? Because I could crash
into a tree. I mean, it’s like, oh,
you’re so violent. Well, under the circumstances
it’s better to slap myself every once in a while, or turn
on some great rock and roll and open up all the windows,
to stay awake. In other words, whatever
is necessary. So one thing you could do– do you do this early in the
morning, as a rule? AUDIENCE: I’ve tried
everything. I’ve tried early
in the morning. JON KABAT-ZINN: Have
you tried a cold shower before you meditate? I’m not joking. AUDIENCE: No. I have not tried that. JON KABAT-ZINN: OK. Try a cold shower. See, if this is really
important, if this is really about life or death and sanity,
and I believe it is, then do whatever the hell
it takes to wake up. And then be gentle with
yourself when you fall asleep anyway. OK? Because part of you knows you’re
falling asleep, so another thing to do is, while
you’re falling asleep– and this I wouldn’t recommend
driving– but while you’re falling asleep,
bring awareness to the feeling of falling asleep. And ask yourself, is
my awareness of falling asleep asleep? And look at it, feel it,
see for yourself. And you may find part of
you is still awake. And instead of struggling
or battling with I’m falling asleep– how many of you have had the
experience of one moment you were just asleep, and
the next moment you were completely awake? We’ve all had that experience. It’s a repertoire of different
kinds of things. So motivation has a great
deal to do with it. And then also, do you blame
yourself for falling asleep. Are you frustrated by it? Do you think you’re
a bad meditator? AUDIENCE: Yes. JON KABAT-ZINN: OK. You’re not a bad meditator. Everybody falls asleep. I mean, if you go and read a
book about the San Francisco Zen Center in the old days,
called Crooked Cucumber, there’s a very interesting
little chapter in there where they invited all these great Zen
masters from Japan to come to inaugurate some temple at the
San Francisco Zen Center. And there were like six or
seven of them there, with Suzuki Roshi, every single
one of them was nodding off on the cushion. They’re not supposed
to do that. They’re like samurai
meditators. That’s why the young people
are supposed to study with them, and they’re [SNORING]. So as long as you’re thinking
there’s some kind of ideal here, where like if I was really
meditating I’d never fall asleep. Nonsense. Maybe they were jet-lagged. Maybe they were old. Maybe they were dead. Who knows? But you’re not, so [SNAP] what can you do? So in a sense, by asking
yourself the question and being spacious and bringing a
sense of humor to it, falling asleep is not even a problem. The part of you that knows
you’re falling asleep isn’t, and that’s the part that
we’re interested in. And it’s by moment by moment,
so it’s not, oh my god, now I’ve fallen asleep. As soon as you wake
up, that’s it. You’re here. It’s another moment. Yes? AUDIENCE: I’d just like
to add to that. My wife’s a pediatrician, and
she studies sleep deprivation among all sorts of
young people. So when we got married and I
was meditating and falling sideways, she fixed it. She said get your eight
hours’ sleep. There may be a conflict with
your work, but it’s also a critical element of your
longevity, your sanity, your health, so– JON KABAT-ZINN: Thank you. AUDIENCE: Lack of sleep, I
think, is a big issue. JON KABAT-ZINN: Although
you’ll also find– I’ve certainly found
over the years. I’ve been meditating
now since I was– I got into it when I was 22. And I’m 63, so I guess
that’s 41 years. It seems like 41 seconds. But when you really devote
yourself to meditation the kinds of ways that I’m
suggesting, and then every once in a while you periodically
go off on retreat, and say maybe do this
for 10 days, 18 hours a day, and in places like
Spirit Rock– I mean, there’s no better place
in the world to do that than in the Bay Area, where
you can really cultivate mindfulness in this kind of
laboratory where you’re simplifying life, and you leave
your computer and your cell phones at home. That itself is very hard to
do, but you nest it in a certain way. I’ve found over the years I
don’t need this as much sleep as I used to need. Now part of that is just
getting older. But part of it is that there’s a
kind of rest that happens in wakefulness that you don’t
get even in sleep. And now of course– I don’t have time to
talk about it. When I was here last I gave a
slide talk with some evidence from neuroscience about what’s
going on in our patients and other people when
they meditate. But it’s activating regions of
the brain that ordinarily just aren’t ever trained. And there’s a phenomenon now,
for the past 10 or 12 years, in neuroscience called
neuroplasticity, which is demonstrating that the old dogma
that your brain just loses neurons from about the
time you’re two and it’s just downhill from then,
that’s not true. We’re making functional neurons
in very important aspects of the nervous system
right up until the day we die. And they’re driven by a kind
of repetitive attending. Physical activity is a
huge part of that. So it’s not just meditation
on the cushion. I mean, running could
be meditation. Swimming could be meditation. Cooking can be. There’s nothing that
isn’t meditative. Making love, I mean, it
helps to be there. [LAUGHTER] JON KABAT-ZINN: I’m making
a joke of it, but I’m deadly serious. So this is the kind of thing
where life itself can actually inform you. And then yes, over time, you’ll
find how to fall awake. You will find it. It will find you, so to speak. But the more we bring baggage
to it, the better. And if you do need to sleep,
for god’s sake, sleep. Don’t meditate. Yes. Where’d the microphone
migrate to? Thank you for that. We’ve only got a few
more minutes. I didn’t maybe time this
quite right, but at least until 12:00. But I do want to give you an
opportunity to talk about your experience or ask questions. And if you want to stay past
12:00, I’m not going anywhere, I don’t think. MENG: For half an hour. JON KABAT-ZINN: For
half an hour. OK. AUDIENCE: I find that when I’m
meditating, I’m so excited that I’m actually meditating
that I can’t stop thinking about the fact that
I’m meditating. JON KABAT-ZINN: Oh, yes. That’s a big one. I’m glad you brought that up. AUDIENCE: And all the good
things it’s doing for me. JON KABAT-ZINN: Yes, the
internal commentator about how great it is to meditate. Wow, I’m meditating and my mind
isn’t wandering at all. I’m on the breath, down breath,
in breath, out breath. Wow, this is great. Aren’t I great? I’m meditating away. and really there’s no
meditating at all. It’s just commentary. It’s just more thinking, but
now the content of the thinking is meditating. Wonderful. Now, who knew that? You don’t know, right? So, you see the power
in not knowing? Yes, some part of you knows
that there’s all this commentary going on, and you can
laugh at it, and it ain’t what it’s really about. But yes, of course, that’s the
way we live our lives, is we’re always commenting
on how we’re doing. We’re continually taking the
temperature and the wind changes, and how am I
doing, and what do people think of me? I was in Finland not long ago,
teaching, last year. And every culture has
its own stereotypes. And I don’t want to fall into
generalizations and stereotypes, but a lot of the
Finns told me that their biggest insecurity is, what
do you think of me? They’re a very shy culture. And they always wonder what
do you think of me, but they never ask. Se everybody is worried
about what everybody else is thinking. Feynman one of the greatest
scientists on the planet wrote a book called, What Do You Care
What Other People Think? But he could have called
it, What Do You Care What You Think? It’s the same kind
of thinking. Our opinions about ourselves
actually get in the way of being ourselves. So that’s perfect. This is like you’re meditating
on awareness of the commentary about meditating. At a certain point, you’ll
get tired of it. And it’s like touching
a soap bubble. What awareness does is
it’s liberating. Not like if you go to a cave in
Tibet an study with these great Tibetan masters. It’s liberating just by
virtue of the seeing. Touching a thought with
awareness is like touching a soap bubble with your finger. It self-liberates. It goes poof, because it’s seen
and known for what it is. So it’s not like you have to
shut off the commentary. This is the deepest
misunderstanding about meditation, is that meditation’s
about making your mind blank, shutting
off your thinking. All you’ll get if you try to
shut off your thinking, whether it’s commentary on
meditating or anything else, is a headache. And then you’ll start to say–
the little thoughts will secrete themselves, and your
mind says, I can’t do this. I can’t meditate. I’m no good at it. Everybody else is good at it,
but I’m not good at it. That’s bullshit. It’s just– well, I won’t
call it bullshit. That sounds a little judgmental
and I’m talking about [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. What it is just thinking. It’s thinking. And if you do awarenessing, you
will see the thoughts with much greater clarity, and
they will have less of a stranglehold on you. So that’s just part of the
curriculum, the commentary on how your meditation
practice is going. Ultimately, it is never about
the meditation practice. That’s not the problem. The problem is the I that’s
claiming to be meditating. So I’ll just throw that out. That’s a provocative
statement. I don’t expect you to
necessarily get it, but to keep asking yourself,
who’s meditating? Who is this? And you might say your name,
your age, all of your credentials, your CV, all
sorts of things can come online in that moment
as who you are. None of them are really
who you are. They’re all just accretions
so to speak. They may be aspects of who you
think you are, but you’re much bigger than that. Usually we think we’re so small
that we have to build ourselves up with CVs, story,
how great I am. But what if you were infinitely
bigger than what you think you are? Walt Whitman said that–
“I’m large. I contain multitudes.”– in Leaves of Grass. This is really big. It’s about understanding what
it means to be really human. And of course, we don’t
know what it means to be really human. But the understanding comes
from intimacy, from cultivating intimacy, or
what the Tibetans call familiarization. In fact, the word in Tibetan
for meditation is familiarization. Anybody else? So thank you for that. MENG: One last question? JON KABAT-ZINN: OK. It’s the last question. I’ll let Meng exercise
control. AUDIENCE: I just wanted to say
I think there’s something really funny about those
whiteboards being up during this talk. Jut giant salaries, no
deal, and all that stuff all over it. JON KABAT-ZINN: JON KABAT-ZINN:
Oh, yes. You were reading them. I didn’t read them. It’s hard not to notice. Yes, well, the world is
multidimensional and complex. And so did they trigger a
lot of thoughts for you? AUDIENCE: I feel like somehow
meditation is the opposite of money. JON KABAT-ZINN: Oh. Well, be careful, because the
mind is now creating opposites and maybe obstacles, whereas,
in a complex universe, that may just be another opinion
or another thought. Seen one way, yes, it’s
us against them, and they are no good. But seen another way, we’re all
part of the same thing, and you wouldn’t be here if
someone wasn’t thinking about money, and I wouldn’t either. Not that I’m getting paid,
but that’s not the point. I mean, I had to pay for gas. It’s all interconnected, so it’s
very useful to look at our own likes and dislikes, as
I was suggesting, whatever they are, whether they’re
principled or not. And that’s not to say we
shouldn’t have principles. If nothing, it’s a totally
ethical way of being. If it’s not ethical, it
isn’t mindfulness. But that requires a certain
deep contemplation to understand what ethical
behavior is, because sometimes– And I see Philip Lombardo is
coming to talk about the banality of evil. I mean even in his own Stanford
Prison Experiment, he got so pulled into
the experiment– I don’t know if you know about
this, but you should go and hear his talks– back in the ’60s that his
laboratory technician had to tell him to stop the experiment
after six days, instead of the three weeks that
it was supposed to be happening, because these staff
and students, who were divided up into prison guards and
prisoners, the guards were abusing the prisoners. These were all just Stanford
students, but they got into that mentality, and they would
have killed people. They were creating huge harm,
unbelievable abuse. You think it’s just
at Abu Ghraib? I mean, the guards at Abu
Ghraib, they’re just like Stanford students. They’re just 18, 19, 20 year
old Americans who don’t get why they’re there. And yes, so see, as a rule, I
tend to stay away from the word evil, and I prefer
ignorance. So when we’re ignoring certain
aspects of our own experience, and how easy it is for anybody,
even ethical people, to get entrained into a
situation where they will do seriously immoral things. That’s important to be aware of,
because it’s not like, oh, just them, those people
out there who don’t have moral fiber. That could be you, if the
circumstances were different, unless you’ve really developed
an unwavering sense of stability in your own authority,
even if everybody else is saying that
you’re wrong. That’s a really hard thing to
do in a place like Nazi Germany, or in a place like
Burma, or in a place like Rwanda, or anything else where
your family could be wiped out, or may have already been
wiped out, by you just like looking the wrong way or
belonging to the wrong tribe. So this has profound
implications not just for economics, and running a
business like Google, but for a place like Iraq, where– war. You walk into a culture. You have no understanding
of that culture. And then you’re going to make
the world safe for democracy. And we wonder why America is
not more liked, since we’re obviously the good guys
in the world. What’s the matter with us? We’re like chickens with
our heads cut off. We’re idiotic. We’re not making use of the
full repertoire of our capacities. So this mindfulness, it’s not
just about having a good experience, lowering your blood
pressure, improving your T cell count, or anything
like that. There’s a full spectrum of true authenticity in the world. And I might say, and I’ll
leave it at this, asking yourself on a deep level what
is your work in the world? I know Google hired you to
do something, but still. Really why they hired you is
because of who you are. And they need you to be you, in
order to know how you can fit into the larger picture
and contribute in the imaginative ways that are
really unthinkable. That’s what they want. They want the unthinkable
that is actually doable. So how do you get there? Often it’s not just
by thinking. It’s by trusting in certain
aspects of yourself that we just don’t get educated
around. That’s what this can develop. And now as I understand, and
I’ll leave it at that, there’s an MBSR program,
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction– just what Meng was
talking about, with full catastrophe living– here at Google. And there are going to be more
programs in the Google University around emotional
intelligence, and mindfulness, and business, and leadership,
and je ne sais quoi, but that’s a very kind of
interesting work environment, where many people among the
leadership really feel like this kind of nurturance is not
second order fluff to keep its workforce happy, but, in fact,
absolutely fundamental to the core principles of
the business. So I want to thank you
for your attention. And just leave expressing the
thought that if anything that I said, even one word, or even
not any words, but just what was pointed to underneath the
words, rings true to you in some way or disturbs you in
some way, trust that. And see if you can pour a little
bit more attention into it and over time wonder,
perhaps, whether there’s not something inside you– it has
nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with
meditation or Buddhism or anything like that. But whether there’s not
something here– I won’t say there– that really is important
to attend to. And then attend to it with
tremendous kindness and self-compassion. I don’t think that you can– it’s impossible to go wrong if
you take that kind of attitude towards it. This is not attaining
some ideal. This is recognizing who you
are already are, and the beauty that’s already you. So I’ll leave with
a little poem. Would that be OK? One of my favorite poems, by
Derek Walcott, who is a Nobel laureate in literature, from
the island of Saint Lucia, Afro-Caribbean heritage. He writes very, very long poems,
most of which I have never read. But this is a very short poem,
so try to drink it in in the same way as you were drinking in
the breath, and the sounds in the room. The time will come when, with
elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own
door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s
welcome and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger
who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to
yourself, to the stranger who has loved you all your
life, who you have ignored for another. Take down the love letters
from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate
notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. Thank you, folks.

Author: Kevin Mason

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