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How Do /You/ Meditate?

Clay Hamilton interviews Wade Brill, a cancer survivor and mindfulness meditation teacher who is training at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. "How Do /You/ Meditate?" is Clay Hamilton's ongoing series of interviews with meditation teachers.

Wade Brill is a mindfulness meditation teacher who is training at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and is a certified coach. She is also a cancer survivor who has written about using meditation to help through her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatment. Wade teaches public group meditation sits in Seattle, corporate mindfulness workshops to promote managing stress, and offers coaching virtually in group online courses as well as in one-on-one formats. She also has a modern meditation podcast called “Centered in the City”. Clay Hamilton interviewed Wade in the summer of 2019.

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Briefly describe yourself as a meditation teacher.

I am training as a mindfulness facilitator through UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior. I typically teach mindfulness meditation, but also incorporate loving kindness practices as well as self-designed mantras. I feel passionate about creating space for busy professionals to pause and connect to themselves and community to help people manage stress and feel more connected to their life. I am currently based in Seattle and offer public drop-in sits. I also work with individual clients as well as support corporations creating mindfulness programs around the country as well as facilitate mindfulness based self-development retreats.

How did you first learn to meditate and why/how did you become a meditation teacher?

I first learned to meditate by watching my mother. However, I didn’t start my own practice until I was 19-years old and took a course while in college. I felt a huge transformation with my anxiety and how I fed my body. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer two years later that I decided to deepen my practice so that I could take an active role in healing my body and managing my emotions. Meditation was the best medicine I could take for myself on a daily basis and on the days I wouldn’t meditate, I could feel a dramatic difference. Mindfulness meditation books were my favorite to read. The more I became passionate about this work, the more I wanted to share and support others in their own journey. I am also a certified professional life coach and for me, mindfulness is at the center of introspection and how people start to listen and trust their inner wisdom.

I became interested in Buddhism and studied under Larry Ward and Peggy Rowe who are students of Thich Nhat Han. I craved to learn more science behind this practice so I applied to the UCLA’s Teaching Mindfulness Facilitation program and continue to teach and go on retreats.

What is the greatest benefit you personally get from meditation? 

There are so many! More emotional regulation and equanimity is a big one for me! I use to be super irritable and anxious and my mindfulness practice brings so much ease, compassion and trust into my daily experience. 

Can you say more about meditation during your cancer treatment – was this part of the medical treatment or something you did on your own? How did you use meditation during the treatment and what impact do you think it had?  Any thoughts about using meditation for wellness generally or specifically in medical treatment situations?

When I arrived back home in New York City to undergo PET scans and bone marrow tests to get clarity on my diagnosis was when I decided I needed to reconnect to my meditation practice. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for an examination and I turned to my mother and said, “I need to start meditating again.” The pulse and frenetic energy of NYC, the unknowns of my health diagnosis, the thought of my body being attacked, the anticipation of change, the life interruption, all of it created a swirl of instability so I knew I had to do something to manage my own monkey mind and be in charge of my own healing.

I began meditating in the diagnosis phase, before we knew I had Hodgkins Lymphoma. I started by waking up in the morning and sitting in my living room on a sofa pillow looking at Central Park, closing my eyes and just breathing for 1-2 minutes to help me settle. I created space between the pulse of the city and my own body so that I didn’t let the overstimulating energy drown me. Over time I could sit longer and would make myself sit in stillness and just breathe, sending love and healing energy to my cells.

This practiced helped me stay calm and present when in doctor waiting rooms, while getting my blood drawn, while getting chemo infusions and while waiting for any test results. I would breathe with more presence and try to maintain an open heart and appreciation. I would focus my attention on connecting to the nurse or maybe smiling at someone in the waiting room and send them well wishes. My meditation practice was the best medicine I could give to myself. Some doctors asked if I wanted anti-anxiety medication or anti-depression medication especially after my mother passed away two months into my 6- month chemo journey. But I declined all of those medications and knew I had strength within me.

I personally believe having a meditation practice, especially in this overwhelming and stimulating society is not just a wellness practice, but it is such an important life skill. It helps build what I call Life Capital, the skills and tools you need to live the life you want. To use a Buddhist term, life is impermanent so with change always going to be constant, we get to have skills and tools to help us manage the ups and downs and twist and turns. Practices that help keep us grounded. From personal experience, meditation is one of the most powerful practices to build that sense of inner resiliency and deeper connection to your own wisdom, which can support you in your professional, personal and spiritual life.

Describe your ideal meditation session (location, length, outcome, etc)

I love meditating in my room, in front of a big window with lots of natural light pouring in. I am sitting on my cushion and have a blanket wrapped around me to keep me warm. I sit for 40 minutes uninterrupted. At the end of my sit, I feel a sense of freedom, ease, love, connection to the greater world, abundance, lightness, possibility and creativity. Time feels it has slowed down and I feel deeply connected to myself and the work I get to do.

What misconceptions about meditation do you hear in the media or popular culture?  

That you can only meditate in nature. That you must be wearing yoga pants. That you have to meditate for a long time in order for it to have benefits.

What meditation books have you read and admired, re-read, or do you recommend to others (they can be directly or indirectly related to meditation)?

Wherever you Go, There You Are” or “Full Catastrophe Living” both by Jon Kabbat-Zinn. These to me are like my “mindfulness bibles.” I come back to them again and again. There are so many other good ones now as well!

What books/courses/resources do you have available? What makes them special and how can they benefit a reader?

I have a virtual online group program called “Mindful Moment Immersion”, which teaches people how to create their own practice, have weekly accountability, opportunities for 1:1 coaching support and then each month we meet virtually to explore a different mindfulness pillar and see how the themes of non-judgment, kindness, beginner’s mind and so on can support us in our lives. There are 10 pillars in total I work with. This is a powerful program because people walk away having a consistent meditation practice and more sense of how to bring mindfulness pillars into their daily life and responses.

I also incorporate a lot of mindfulness techniques in my 1:1 coaching relationships. 

You can also check out my podcast called Centered in the City, which has guided modern meditation recordings.

How can readers get in contact with you or find out more?

Visit my website: WadeBrill.com where you can also join my monthly newsletter. Social Media on Instagram and Facebook. Subscribe to my podcast, Centered in the City, on iTunes, Google Play or Spotify.

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[This interview is an extract. CM Hamilton is currently compiling interviews with many meditations teachers for publication in a book in late 2019, which will include Wade’s full interview. More information at http://bit.ly/QAmeditation].

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