Advice from a Goddess: Carol Rotko, Mindfulness Instructor + Clinical Psychologist
Mindfulness is a rather new concept to me. Earlier this year, I knew I need a change, but I didn't know what kind of exact change I needed. Through a series of in-my-face signs, I ended up signing up for a MAPS1 (Mindful Awareness Practices) for Daily Living class through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).
That's when I got the pleasure of meeting Carol. Carol was our gentle but fearless leader and an honest joy to learn from.
For six sessions, we would collectively meditate, discuss different concepts of mindfulness, and talk through our experiences in trying to make positive changes in our lives.
I knew Carol would be the perfect Goddess to reach out to about mindfulness. Her teachings were always very relatable and easy to digest. Plus, she has a wealth of knowledge to share! Not only is she a MARC UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, but she is also a Clinical Psychologist and Wellness Coach!
So without further ado... Here is some sage goddess advice from Carol -
What does it mean to be mindful?
I believe that mindfulness is a natural human capacity that we all have access to and that it can be cultivated through practice. Most of us can think of only a few times where we have truly been present in the moment in a curious and non-judgmental way.
I think of mindfulness as an ability to see clearly what is here and the ability to be with it. Sometimes this gets confused with passivity, but I see mindfulness as bringing consciousness to our experiences so that we can respond rather than react.
What is a major benefit(s) people can get from becoming more mindful?
I think that there is great benefit in seeing ourselves and our lives clearly. When we move away from autopilot and reactivity, this allows us to notice the spaces in our lives where we have choices, so we can respond in a way that is in line with our goals and our values.
What are a couple of easy techniques people can start trying integrating into their busy lives?
One of my favorite techniques is simply bringing awareness into the body. Your mind is often in the past or the future, but your body is always here in the present moment. Where else could it be? Find a place in the body that feels neutral, like the soles of the feet or your hands, and bring your attention there for a few moments.
Another fairly easy technique is an exercise called STOP which stands for:
- S - Stop what you are doing or thinking about
- T - Take a Breath or a few breaths
- O - Observe your experience (what thoughts are going through your mind, what emotions might be present, what body sensations are you aware of...)
- P - Proceed with a little more mindfulness. You can set a timer to do this a few times a day, or choose to do this every time you wash your hands, check email, get a text...
What are some suggestions or advice for someone who is just starting a meditation practice? What are ways to help them stay consistent?
Be patient and kind with yourself. Become a scientist of your own experience, and see if this is something that works for you. Give it some time and support your new habit by creating some space in your life for it. I have known some people who have been able to learn on their own through apps or books, but many find the support of a teacher, class, or group makes a huge difference. I like the structured classes that follow a curriculum like MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), MSC (Mindful Self Compassion), or the UCLA MAPs (Mindful Awareness Practices) classes that I teach. You may need to try a few different things before something clicks for you. If you have any significant medical or mental health issues, it would be best to check in with your doctor or a therapist first.
How do you incorporate wellness into your life?
Wellness has become a priority, so I make time for it every day. Most often, it involves quality time with family and friends, mindfulness meditation, exercise, time in nature, acupuncture, or learning new things.
Additional Suggested Links to Check Out -
- Greater Good Magazine - https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/
- Mindful Magazine - https://www.mindful.org/
Advice from a Goddess is a blog series featuring powerhouse women who work in the health and wellness industry. I'm talking about Life Coaches, Reiki Healers, Meditation Teachers, Relationship & Dating Coaches, Tarot Readers, and so much more! Click here to catch up on all of the amazing advice these Goddesses have dished out!