Living in the Moment: La Jollan pens 'mindfulness memoir'

Having established the Balanced Mind Meditation Center at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in August 2016, La Jolla resident and meditation teacher Julie Potiker has taken the next step, writing the how-to book “Life falls apart, but you don’t have to: Mindful methods for staying calm in the midst of chaos.”

To celebrate what Potiker calls “a new genre” (a mindfulness memoir filled with personal stories and lessons in meditation) a book launch was held at Warwick’s, July 18.

“Some are my stories, some are my friends’ stories, some are from my students, people I’ve met, etc. The stories illustrate the mindful methods for staying calm in the chaos. And it’s a very short read, you could go right to the prescriptive part that covers the methods for staying calm in chaos and skip the stories; but the stories make the self-help come alive, so I recommend reading it all the way through,” she said.

The topics covered include bankruptcy, adultery, parenting and others. And most came to Potiker voluntarily, save for one. “It was from a woman I met at a retreat whose husband, unbeknownst to her, bankrupted her family. He borrowed money from family members and cleaned out their accounts: bank, retirement, college, everything. Then he wouldn’t leave the house. … She is still trying to patch her life back together. But teaching Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) classes saved her, because she had to walk the talk to keep her practice up.”

When it came to telling her own stories, Potiker delved into her battle with depression and how she overcame it using mindfulness techniques.

“It’s possible to look at someone like myself from the outside and wonder what suffering could I possible have?” <FZ,1,0,27>she explained. “I live in La Jolla, in a nice house, I have a happy marriage, my children are healthy ... but the truth of the matter is we all have suffering, just as human beings. I had a battle with depression that started with post-partum depression and went on for decades. It wasn’t until I learned how to manage difficult emotions and how to pause and meditate … that enabled me to rewire my brain for more resilience.”

Hoping to give others the same ability, her book also describes what she’s learned over a decade of studying mindfulness.

Potiker said she discovered MSC and meditation during a health scare that prompted her to get every brain scan you could think of. All said, she was fine, but her neurologist suggested the MSC practice. Soon she was hooked. She studied every type of psychology and mindfulness she could find.

“I needed to heal me, and when the MSC class was piloted at UC San Diego, I took it. That’s the class that was the most healing. Years later, I jumped at a teacher-training program,” she said.

After that, she wanted to create a curriculum that combined all her different courses and fields of study, including MSC, positive psychology, meditation and the teachings of various mentors. The class became known as “Mindful Methods for Life.” When it came time to write a book, it made sense to incorporate that name into the title.

As for creating the content, the process started somewhat organically, she said. “I was on a week-long science and meditation retreat and I started writing at night in a journal and I just couldn’t stop. Maybe that was because this was an eight-day silent retreat, but it enabled my mind to grow quiet enough that I could really work through the thoughts and feelings that were coming up. I just started writing and writing and never stopped,” she explained.

The stories and lessons from that journal make up some of the stories in the book. By sharing these stories, Potiker said she hopes to convey the reality that people can have less suffering in their lives, but it takes practice.

— To learn more about Julie Potiker, her book, and mindfulness-based podcasts and blog posts, visit mindfulmethodsforlife.com

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