"People tell me all the time, I can't meditate, I can't clear my mind," said La Jolla resident and meditation teacher Julie Potiker. "I tell them you are not supposed to clear your mind, your mind is clear when you are dead!"
As she explained, "Meditation is focusing your attention on something. It could focusing on an object. It could be standing upright and focusing your attention on your feet and how they ground you. If I'm focusing on that, I'm not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. And your mind will wander, but every time you notice your mind wandering and you bring it back to whatever the focus of that meditation is, that's the good work. Anyone can do that."
To teach others how to meditate, through drop-in class and longer courses, the Balanced Mind Meditation Center will open at the end of this month at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (JCC), 4126 Executive Drive, offering meditation classes and a guided meditation.
As a part of the grand opening celebration, a series of free previews are lined up for 1-5 p.m. Sunday Sept. 25, including meditation with your dog, balanced mind meditation, movement-based meditation classes and a guided meditation. RSVP requested: lfjcc.org/bmmckickoff
When the center opens, half-hour drop-in classes will be offered weekly and on Sundays, as will six- and eight-week courses. A certified instructor since 2014, Potiker said she wanted to open the center to give back for all that mediation has done for her. "There was a time in my life that I realized I needed help with stress and better tools for managing the stress that comes with raising three teenagers. At the time, I was also serving on the boards of various organizations, so I was pretty busy," she said. "I started having the wrong words come out of my mouth — capatini instead of cappuccino, maginal instead of magical — which, on one hand became part of my family's lexicon in a humorous way, but on the other, made me wonder if I had a brain tumor."
So she went to a neurologist (and does not have a brain tumor) who recommended Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, a practice that has been developed and studied for efficacy using MRI machines and academic research since 1970. Potiker proceeded to take classes and workshops, soon evolving into retreats and courses. Two years ago, she took a course in Mindful Self Compassion at UC San Diego to become a certified instructor.
Since then, she said she has watched people heal and improve their lives and relationships. "It became a calling for me to spread this science-based practice of self-love and love for mankind," she said. But as for the perception that one needs to be sitting cross-legged on the beach to meditate — not so, says Potiker.
"I do it in my car all the time," she laughed, specifically using an app called "Insight Timer," which allows you to customize the type of meditation based on how much time you have. "I don't like to be late, so I'm often early, and when I get somewhere early I pull up a meditation for however many minutes I have and do it there. That's my meditating for the day. It's great for mommies in the pickup line at school. I would do that when my kids were in school and by the time they got in the car, I was calmer and more at ease. Soon I realized I was less reactive."
In addition, meditation is credited with helping to reduce anxiety, depression, blood pressure, tension and more, she pointed out.
In need of some stress reduction, Potiker said she is "a recovering attorney" from Michigan. With parents living in La Jolla, she and her family moved to La Jolla nine years ago. She soon volunteered with the JCC and when it came time to open a meditation center, she could think of nowhere else.
• IF YOU GO: Classes will be $10 for non-members, free for JCC members. (858) 457-3030. balancedmindmeditation.com