A decade after founding Santa Monica non-profit InsightLA, psychologist and meditation teacher Trudy Goodman says the practice of mindfulness is more important than ever in this day and age to give people the inner resources they need to overcome life’s challenges.
From day-to-day stress to overcoming major struggles such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, Goodman says she has created the perfect sanctuary in the form of InsightLA to help navigate people through whatever challenges life throws at them.
Since 2002, the non-profit has been dedicated to bringing the deep joy and peace of mindfulness and compassion to people everywhere through a warm, supportive learning environment where mindfulness and compassion is fostered.
Among InsightLA’s many offerings is its eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and taught in medical centers around the world. Another InsightLA program, “Basics of Mindfulness Meditation,” recently won LA Magazine’s “Best of LA Award” for best stress reduction class.
Goodman said its programs focused on mindfulness and awareness through meditation.
“What we’re doing is systematically training ourselves to pay attention very intentionally in the present moment to what’s absolutely closest to home in our experience and to pay attention in a particular way without criticism, self-evaluation, and judgment,” Goodman said. “That’s the kind of commentary that’s usually running in our minds all day long. We train people to pay attention to their experience no matter what it’s like whether it’s nice, not so nice, challenging, or not even on their radar and to tune into their thoughts and feelings in the moment.”
Goodman said advancement in MRIs had allowed researchers to monitor brain activity under different circumstances.
“We now know that whatever we pay attention to is where are neurons are firing,” she said. “And wherever our neurons are firing repeatedly and together, they actually start to wire together and form new pathways in the brain. And this is an amazing discovery that the brain is actually molded and shaped by experience in our lifetime. When I studied developmental psychology we didn’t know that. We thought it was all done by age five or something and that it all happened in early childhood. It’s very important to realize that this is a lifelong process.”
InsightLA’s programs teach participants to pay attention to an experience, which in turn, can help them be in touch with their inner selves as a way to help them overcome challenges.
“I can’t tell you how many people say to me, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without my practice,’ when they’re describing handling losing their job, the death of a loved one, or any kind of life challenge that they are navigating,” Goodman said. “The gratitude and appreciation is part of what helps me keeping working hard to offer this to our community.”
Goodman moved to Los Angeles from Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2000 for family reasons. Her mom was sick, her dad had recently died, and her daughter was pregnant with her first child.
She said she had no intention of staying long-term, but after she started a small meditation group in a friend’s living room, she quickly realized she was going to need to stay to help out.
“It started out so informally and it was maybe 10 people in a living room,” she said. “I have to be honest, I never had the overarching intention of starting a non-profit and creating a center, but I did want to share the benefits of my practice with people because it helped me so much in my life and it continues to.”
She said she trusted that if it was useful to people and they found it beneficial that the group would continue to grow.
As InsightLA celebrates its 10th year, Goodman said she never thought it would have grown so big and helped so many people.
“It happened kind of organically – kind of like cooking from scratch,” she said. “Just little by little it grew and people discovered the benefits of this practice and I learned how to connect with people.”
With the different programs that are available, Goodman said people could easily learn how to face every conceivable challenge.
“The practice of mindfulness can give us inner resources to be creative in meeting whatever life brings and it can really open people to what’s deepest and best within themselves and bring that to life,” she said. “These tools that I teach are in the form of formal mediation practice as well as tools to use everyday in our daily life. To me, these tools are so effective that I felt it was a birthright to be able to learn how to use our own brain, access our own wisdom, train our attention, and grow our capacity to love.”
When she founded InsightLA, she knew a non-profit model was her calling as she wanted the programs and teachings to be as freely offered as possible.
“Originally I wanted to do it all on a donation basis, but that was a little bit idealistic,” she said. “But that’s the place I was coming from – almost wishing I could offer it for free to everyone.”
InsightLA also hosts special classes and lecture series throughout the year, bringing some of the world’s most renowned authors and meditation teachers – Robert Thurman, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein to LA.
On May 17, Tibetan refugee and royal Tsoknyi Rinpoche will take part in a conversation with esteemed meditation teacher/best-selling author Sharon Salzberg at the Crossroads Elementary School Community Room (www.insightla.org/937/tsoknyi-rinpoche-in-conversation-with-sharon-salzberg).
The following weekend Salzberg will host two days of teaching; on May 19 she will explore compassion and on May 20, equanimity.
For more information on InsightLA, visit www.insightla.org or call 310.774.3325.