An interesting thing happened on my way to one the Hammer Museum’s free weekly Mindful Awareness sessions. Wilshire was at a crawl (quel surprise) due to construction and as I sat in the traffic, nearly late for my first 12:30 session, I noticed someone’s bubbe at my passenger side window. I rolled down the window. She said she needed a ride, that she’d been waiting a long time at the bus stop and was ready to go. Interestingly enough, this has happened to me before. A few years ago, on Third Street, another bubbe tried my doorhandle. When I opened it for her she asked me to drive her down to the Farmer’s Market, which I did. As I was late to meditate, I told the latest bubbe that I was sorry and late for an appointment. I inched on along Wilshire wondering how I became a bubbe bus.
I’m new to the Mindful craze. I’d just read Ben Kallen’s Well-Being column in March and I’d gone to David Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation to-dos in the past. Lynch’s Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace are filled with troubled comedians looking for inner quiet (like Russell Brand and Jerry Seinfeld). Is Mindfulness TM for 2013? I was still feeling guilty over passing up the lady in need of a ride as I entered the nearly-packed Billy Wilshire Theater. Apparently, people are itching to slow down. Despite a sign outside that told people to turn off phones, many texted away. I sat down and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) education director Diana Winston (mentioned in Kallen’s column) sat down quietly onstage and told the group to close their eyes. She told us, “be kind”—and the stranded woman’s face popped into my head—then finished the phrase with “…to yourself”—and it disappeared in a poof. What a relief. If I was being kind to myself, I needed to get here to de-stress from a truly hectic day. I shouldn’t feel bad? Wait. Is Mindfulness, just rationalization? I’m terrific at that. Winston continued, “Sometimes people are really checked out of their lives. The capacity to be present can be cultivated.” Then she told us to stop judging ourselves. I thought of my tummy getting bigger than my bosom (see Amy Wallace’s fitness piece) acknowledged the thought, and flicked it away.
Everyone’s eyes were shut, we were concentrating on our breathing and we were supposed to be dealing with thoughts as they popped up…with kindness. I couldn’t escape that word. Next to me someone was beginning to snore softly and as twenty minutes went on, I truly did feel better, more relaxed and I’d thought of every hectic thing that wandered into my head and dealt with it. I left the 30 minute session refreshed. I get it and I see how it’s helpful and will probably use this on a weekly basis and be back for another session at The Hammer (it’s actually $3 if you count parking – get validated up front).
So to the bubbe I didn’t pick up on Wilshire, I’m sorry. But if I’m being kind to myself, I did pick up the last one.