Help the person recognize that anxiety is a human feature, not a flaw. In evolutionary terms, anxiety serves as a survival mechanism. The stimulation of the fight or flight response (a less psychologically loaded term than anxiety) has been crucial to the survival of our species. Help the individual to identify the issues, thoughts, circumstances that create anxiety and seek to achieve a rational understanding of these situations.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Richard Gold.
Richard Gold is a California Licensed Acupuncturist (since 1983) and holds a Doctorate in Psychology. Richard is one of the four founders of the Pacific College of Health and Science, a regionally and nationally accredited graduate school with campuses in San Diego, Chicago and New York City. Dr. Gold is the President and Executive Producer of Metta Mindfulness Music, a music production company dedicated to creating original music focused on health enhancement, stress reduction and deepening meditative consciousness that is informed by ancient wisdom traditions and modern neuroscience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
From early childhood, I wanted to be a doctor. During my sophomore year at Oberlin College in 1970, as a pre-med student, the cultural forces at play and my own developing interests led me into exploring East Asian religions and meditation. This also coincided with my work as an orderly in a hospital where the actions and communications of many of the Medical Doctors presented a negative role model for me. Subsequently, I dropped out of pre-med and pursued a degree in Religious Studies. During my college years, I attended a month-long Buddhist meditation program that had a profound and lasting influence on me. After my college graduation, I lived for 5 years on 120 acres of backwoods forested land in Kentucky where I pursued organic gardening and forest management in my outer world and simultaneously, living as a hermit, I pursued a deepening meditative experience into my inner realms. During this time, I awoke from a dream one winter day in 1975 with an intense desire to study acupuncture. This intense desire arose from some unknown source as I had never previously met an acupuncturist and only had the slightest notion of what acupuncture even was. There was also one main obstacle facing me in pursuing this ‘dream’: there were no schools of acupuncture in America. Thankfully, I learned 2 years later that the first state approved school of acupuncture had opened in the Boston area. I graduated from the New England School of Acupuncture in June of 1978 and from that time, I have devoted my career to the study, practice, teaching, writing and researching in the field of East Asian medicine, including Japanese Shiatsu and the traditional medical body therapy of Thailand.
Throughout my life, I have always been strongly drawn to the dynamic influence of sound and music. As a practitioner and teacher, I have utilized music in my treatment room and classrooms. Starting in 2005, I began to use music as a tool to enhance my meditation, especially after I learned about the emerging neuroscience discipline of the effects of sound on the brain. This personal and academic pursuit set the stage for a chance meeting I had in 2011 at Esalen Institute. I was at Esalen teaching traditional Thai medical body work when I met Yuval Ron who was there teaching a course in sound and neuroscience. Yuval is a professional composer and performer, with over 20 years of experience working in Hollywood and as the leader of a touring Ensemble. In a casual conversation, I told Yuval that I experienced much of New Age music as not being musically interesting and the music created to enhance meditation was particularly uninteresting. Without any forethought, I inquired if I could commission him to compose and record music, informed by neuroscience and that was also musically compelling. In addition, I wanted the music to be based on ancient wisdom traditions. Yuval was immediately intrigued and willing to proceed. What we thought initially was a one-off production, has now become a 9 years creative partnership with over 100 original tracks. Our production company, Metta Mindfulness Music, contains within it’s name much of our mission, to create original music that enhances Metta (Loving Kindness) and Mindfulness.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting ‘story’ of my career is the unexpected and quite frankly, unbelievable growth and acceptance of acupuncture, East Asian medicine, stress management and sound healing that has occurred in the Western world. Starting in the late 70’s, there were tremendous obstacles facing all alternative medical techniques in the West (i.e. by the medical establishment and media). Speaking candidly, when I started my studies, I never imagined that I was on a professional career path. I was pursuing a dream on my spiritual path. Now, there is an amazing awareness and acceptance of these approaches to health and wellness. Witnessing and contributing to this growth and acceptance brings me great joy, personally and professionally.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Disagreements are certainly allowed and at times, even encouraged. But seek to never be disagreeable.
Arguments are not for convincing the other person, but are an opportunity for gaining further understanding.
Elevated communication skills are essential.
Ultimately, all participants need to be rowing in the same direction.
There needs to be a shared vision of the mission.
Clear boundaries need to be established and respected.
The physical environment should have ‘flow’ and ideally allow for a connection to the outdoors.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
‘The Way of Zen’ by Alan Watts
Looking back, I see that this book lit a fuse in my being that caused a revolution in self and awareness. Alan Watts introduced me to ideas of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism that I had never previously encountered. Watts writes beautifully and is able to capture the essence of complex thoughts and communicate them for a beginner’s mind to have a chance at comprehension. Prior to reading this book, in 1969, I must say, I was mostly deaf and blind to any thoughts and ideas that deviated from my upbringing in suburban America of the 1950’s. After reading this book, there was no turning back.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
The state of being mindful means that we are focusing our awareness on and in the present moment.
If we are having thoughts, these thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Ideally, there Is a sense of mental equanimity: a place of pure beingness, without thoughts.
Mindfulness means living in the moment and being fully aware of our inner and outer experiences. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a stance of detachment, without judging them as good or bad.
Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Mindfulness practices can help us to increase our ability to regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can also help us to focus our attention, as well as to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment. In addition, the following benefits can be realized with a consistent, dedicated practice:
- Helps control hypertension
- Promotes emotional health
- Enhances self-awareness
- Lengthens attention span.
- May reduce age-related memory loss
- Helps us to generate kindness
- Helps in recovery from addictions
- Improves sleep
- Helps lessen, mitigate pain
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times?
- Express gratitude daily, especially before taking in any news
- Daily exercise
- Spend time outside in nature
- Improve our diets, avoid stress eating
- Be faithful to a daily meditation practice
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Help the person recognize that anxiety is a human feature, not a flaw. In evolutionary terms, anxiety serves as a survival mechanism. The stimulation of the fight or flight response (a less psychologically loaded term than anxiety) has been crucial to the survival of our species. Help the individual to identify the issues, thoughts, circumstances that create anxiety and seek to achieve a rational understanding of these situations.
- Recommend Vitamin D3 daily. Vitamin D3 breaks down cortisol (stress hormone) in the blood stream. Vit D3 also helps regulate insulin levels and enhances immune functions.
- Limit caffeine intake. Although caffeine does have some benefits, excess caffeine can result in anxiety, agitation, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and trouble sleeping. Too much caffeine may also contribute to headaches, migraines, and high blood pressure in some individuals.
- Encourage the individual to spend time outside in nature. Time in nature helps us gain perspective on our minds and life.
- Lead the person in breathing and mindfulness activities.
- Physical contact, especially long hugs.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
1. Commit to a regular and consistent meditation practice of a minimum of 20 minutes daily.
2. Commit to a regular and consistent exercise program
3. Listen to music informed by neuroscience that enhances meditation
4. Preparation of your own food. Recognize the potential of cooking as a mindfulness practice
5. Time spent outdoors surrounded by the natural world
7. Spend quality time with friends and/or family
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
During my 40+ years of clinical practice, I have found that my own authenticity and commitment to healthy practices are the crucial ways to inspire my patients to make the changes in their own lives to regain and maintain their own health. I cannot ask my patients to make difficult choices that I myself cannot make in a similar situation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I recognize that an expected answer would be to meditate or volunteer or something along those lines, but I want to encourage that as many people as possible in as many different situations they might be found in to grow at least some of your own food. Even just a single container can provide fresh salad greens or herbs or an abundance of tomatoes. Any movement toward self-reliance can be empowering. Go ahead, get your hands into some dirt!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
The website: www.mettamindfulnessmusic.com
Metta Mindfulness Music
I occasionally post on Facebook and Instagram, but in no way am I a frequent content provider.