Shauna Shapiro: “Mindful Discipline” | Talks at Google
Shauna Shapiro: “Mindful Discipline” | Talks at Google

EMMA: OK. Welcome, everyone, to this
G [? Pause ?] author’s talk. And I’m delighted
to be welcoming Shauna Shapiro to talk to
us here at Google today about mindful parenting. And I was thinking, who better
to talk to us about mindful parenting than
Shauna, as she has 20 years’ experience as
a mindfulness meditation practitioner, having studied
both in Thailand, and Nepal, and here in the West? And she also has a scientific
academic background, with a PhD. She’s a clinical
psychologist and also professor at Santa
Clara University. And, maybe most
importantly, she’s a parent to her
nine-year-old son Jackson. I met Shauna first
here at Google when she attended one of our
Search Inside Yourself classes. And the students
reported how much value she added to the class,
just from her own experience and from her research. So I’m just delighted that she’s
able to spend a bit more time with us talking through
some of her insights. Please join me in
welcoming Shauna Shapiro. SHAUNA SHAPIRO: Thank you. Thank you, Emma. Yeah. Well, I’m delighted to be here. Every time I come to Google I
feel really inspired by what’s happening here, and just kind
of the vision and the integrity with which people are
attempting to live these values. I don’t think any of us
are doing it perfectly yet. And I’m sure there’s a
lot that’s difficult. But really, I feel
the commitment here, and it inspires me. So, welcome. And I’m curious– is everyone
in the room a parent? Is anyone not a parent? And you’re just here to
learn about mindfulness? AUDIENCE: I will be. SHAUNA SHAPIRO: OK. You will be. Well, that means you
already are at some point. Yeah, somewhere in
the consciousness. So I’m really excited to
share some of this with you. What I was reflecting
on– because there’s so much that I
would like to cover, and we have just
an hour together. For me, what’s most important
is for you understand what mindfulness is
and to really give you an experience of it, so
that it can help nourish you as a human being
and as a parent. And so towards the end,
we’ll get in specifically to mindful parenting,
but my intention is really to help anchor us in
what mindfulness actually is. And I want to take just
a moment to acknowledge some of my teachers, first
of all, my co-author, Dr. Christopher White. He’s a pediatrician. Jack Kornfield, Roger
Walsh, Shinzen Young. And then this is a photo
of my grandparents. This is Ben and Nancy Friedman. And welcome. I like to really
acknowledge them, because even though
a lot of my training was in Thailand and Nepal
in Buddhist monasteries, and my understanding
of mindfulness does stem from that tradition,
my Protestant grandparents taught me as much
about mindfulness than any of my experiences. And they didn’t meditate. Their passion, their
presence, their curiosity, their kindness,
their aliveness– that’s the essence
of mindfulness. This is a universal practice. It’s a universal way of being. And it transcends
religion and culture. So, again, my
intention is really just for us to understand
mindfulness first and foremost. Second, I want to briefly
review the research and talk a bit about
is mindfulness helpful? I think that helps
motivate people, when they know the
science behind it. And then talk a
little bit about how do we integrate
it into parenting? And ending with what I
think is most important, which is self-compassion. I think if you learn
nothing else today except to be a little bit gentler
and a little kinder to yourself as a
parent– in fact, how many people feel like
they’re not quite doing it right as a parent? Haven’t quite figured it out? OK. I’m right there with you. It’s actually this pervasive
sense of I’m a terrible parent. Like, everyone else
kind of has it together. They’re getting it. But I can’t do it. And yet everyone feels that way. So I think this piece
of self-compassion is really important. All right. So this is our book. This wonderful quote we
have, by Andrew Weil. He says, “One of the
most exceptional road maps on how to raise happy,
resilient, and emotionally healthy children.” And that’s really
the intention, is how do we raise children
that are happy and healthy? That’s what we most
want for our children. Not that they’re rich and
successful and famous, but happy, healthy, resilient. And then emotionally
intelligent. Really not just using
their intellect, but using their heart,
their body, their sensation, their emotions, for how
to navigate life and live in the most beautiful way. So the foundation
of mindful parenting is awareness and compassion
of ourselves and others. Your own awareness, your own
compassion, your own presence, is essential. This is from Gordon
Neufeld, who’s been really influential in my
understanding of parenting. He says, “Parenthood is above
all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior
to be learned, but a connection to be sought.” OK? So we want someone to come in
and say, well just do A, B, and C, and it’s all
going to be good. Right? But actually, parenting requires
connection and relationship. And this requires presence. Thich Nhat Hanh says,
“The most precious gift we can offer others
is our presence. When mindfulness
embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.” OK? So mindfulness is presence. That’s what it is. Mindfulness is about being
fully here, fully present. And what that requires is that
we begin to see things clearly. So the word “mindfulness”
actually means to see clearly. To see clearly what’s
happening in this moment. To see clearly what your child
is needing in a given moment. To see clearly, we
need to do something. What do we need to do to
be able to see clearly? We have to be able
to pay attention. So I’ve been talking now
for maybe four minutes. I’m curious– how many people
have noticed that your mind has wandered off in these
last four minutes? Come on. Everyone. In fact, don’t even
raise your hand. I know. I’ll bring you into my
laboratory and I’ll look at your brain if you
tell me you didn’t. Your mind has wandered
in the last four minutes many, many times. What we’ve found is that the
mind wanders approximately 50% of the time. That’s a lot. So let’s say you live to be 100. That’s 50 years of your
life that are spaced out. That’s not even
counting sleeping time. Right? So part of mindfulness, part
of the way that we learn how to see things clearly, is
by gathering our attention here in the present moment. So just try it with me for,
like, the next two minutes. See if you can actually be here. Because all of your bodies
are here right now, right? No one’s left. Thank you. See if you can have your
mind be where your body is, instead of just leaving
this empty shell that’s kind of like spaced out and
glazed over for me to look at. Right? So good. You’re doing great. A minute and a half left. You’re all right here with me. I feel it. And you are definitely here. Welcome. OK. But mindfulness is not
just about attention. Because otherwise a sniper
could be the most mindful person in the world. They have amazing
attentional skills. So mindfulness is also about
why we’re paying attention. What is my intention? Right? What is my vision? What is my goal? What is the kind of motivation? So why are you paying attention? And then how you pay attention. So how is your attitude? This is the quality
of your attention. You have 30 seconds left. Are you still here with me? It’s kind of hard,
huh, to pay attention? OK? So also looking at how
am I paying attention? Am I judging myself because
I just wandered off again? Or am I being curious and
kind, and saying, oh, whoops! There it goes. She said my mind was going
to wander 50% of the time. It is. Wow. Interesting. So that’s our attitude. And, actually, mindfulness
is about all three of these elements– intention,
attention, and attitude. OK? Does that make sense? So I want to talk
about each of these. As I said, intention
is really knowing why we’re doing
what we’re doing. Why am I paying attention? What is my vision? What is my goal? Intention sets the
compass of your heart. It says, I want to
go in this direction. It’s not a destination. You’re not trying
to get anywhere. You’re just kind of
guiding yourself. This is the general
direction I want to head. So you don’t end up
striving, and getting really goal-orientated
and really fixated on where you’re going. You’re actually present
for the process. And you’re aligning yourself
with what’s most important. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who’s
one of my main teachers, he says, “Your intentions set
the stage for what is possible. They remind you moment to moment
of why you’re practicing.” He said, “I used
to think meditation was so powerful that as
long as you did it at all, you’d see growth and change. But time has taught me some
kind of personal vision is necessary.” I love that. First of all, he’s so humble. He says, oh, I used to think
you could just sit people down, have them meditate, and
everything would work out. But now I realize,
some kind of intention. So when I work with my patients,
we always begin with intention. Why are you here? My favorite quote, by
Suzuki Roshi, he says, “The most important
thing is to remember the most important thing.” That’s it. You just have to remember
what is most important to you. And it’s not so easy. We forget. This is a picture of my son. This is Jackson. He’s nine years old,
so he doesn’t really look like that anymore. But I love this photo. And recently, I had this
experience where he really reminded me of how easy it
is to forget our intention. How easy it is to forget
what’s most important. So I was teaching
in Europe, and I’d been gone for two weeks, which
was the longest I’ve ever been apart from him. And as I was flying home, I was
just kind of filled with guilt. And, like, how’s it going
to be when we reconnect? And have I ruined
our attachment bond? And what kind of mother am I? And then I realized that
guilt wasn’t really going to help me reconnect with him. And so I set an intention. When I get home, the first
day, all I’m going to do is be with Jackson. I’m not going to check my email. I’m not going to
go through my mail. I just want to be with him. So I got home. It was a beautiful day in Marin. And I decided we’d
go to the beach. So I’m packing up picnic
and making it all perfect, because I’m going to
be the perfect mom, and show him how
much I love him. And I get all his
stuff together. And I’m like, OK, Jackson. You want to go to the beach? And he was like, nah. I don’t really want to go. I was like, come on. It’s going to be so fun. It’s sunny. I have everything packed up. Let’s go. He was like, OK. And he kind of like is
shuffling out the door. And I’m 10 feet ahead of
him, like already at the car, ready to have the
best day ever so he knows how much I love him. And I get to the
car, and I look back. And he’s sitting on the
ground on our front porch. And I’m like, Jackson. And I feel a little
bit of impatience. And that kind of familiar
contraction in my body. And, luckily, I’d been
teaching mindfulness every day for the past two weeks,
so I had some awareness. And there was a moment where–
it was this choice point. And I could see it. I could get impatient
and say, hurry up. Let’s go to the beach. This is our plan. And then I remembered
my intention. Right? What was the most
important thing? I just wanted him to know I
was home, and he was safe, and I love him. And so I walked over to him. And I sat down. He was actually
looking at these ants on the ground, which
were kind of interesting. And I sat down next to him. And we’re sitting there. And all of a sudden he leaned
his little body into mine. And I could just feel his
shoulder and his weight resting in to me, and the
sun on our backs. That was the most
important thing, right? And yet we forget. We forget in an instant. And so mindfulness is about
remembering our intention. What is most important? OK? So that’s the first element. Intention. So I’d like you to just let
your eyes close for a moment, and see if you can feel
into why you’re here. What’s your intention? And don’t really think about it. See if you can actually
feel in your body. Like maybe feel the
love for your child. This feeling into what is
most important for you. And then you can
let your eyes open. And see if you can keep
that alive in your body as we continue. OK. The second element of
mindfulness, as I mentioned, is attention. This is simply paying attention
in the present moment. And as you’ve noticed, it’s
kind of challenging, right? So there’s a picture
of this adorable monkey up here, because our mind has
been compared to a monkey mind. That our mind
swings from thought to thought like a monkey
swings from limb to limb. Watch. Watch your mind. Tell me if this isn’t true. Can you imagine if I put a
big loudspeaker hooked up to your brain, and I could hear
all your thoughts right now? Can you imagine that? Our thoughts are–
you’re not in charge. You would not be thinking
those thoughts right now. That’s not where you would
want your attention to be. Right? Anne Lamott says, she goes,
“The mind has no shame.” The mind has no shame. “It’s like walking in a
dangerous neighborhood. You don’t want to
go there alone.” You don’t want to
go there alone. The mind is just going
wherever it wants to go. And so part of this
practice is learning how to train the mind
in the present moment. How to gather your
attention back. And we do this in a
very gentle, kind way. So it’s almost as if the
mind is like a puppy dog. And it wanders off. And you’re like, stay. Come back. It wanders off again. You say, come back. We have between 12,000
and 50,000 thoughts every single day. 95% are the same. Think about that. Actually, don’t think about it. Just experience that. Right? So part of this
practice is learning how to work with all these
distracting thoughts, and bring our attention
back right here. And not get so lost
in the thoughts. Emo Phillips, who is
a wonderful comedian, he says, “I used to
think the brain was the most wonderful
organ in my body. And then I realized who
was telling me this.” Right? So don’t believe your thoughts. They’re not necessarily
real or true. So what we do with
mindfulness is we begin to train and
stabilize our attention in the present moment, so
that we can see clearly. Remember, that’s what the
word mindfulness means. We want to be able
to see clearly what’s true so that we
can respond skillfully. And that’s really
the art of parenting, is responding skillfully. There’s no way that
I can tell you, well, just do this
when this happens. Because we don’t really
know what’s going to happen. It’s different. It’s complex in every moment. And so the key to this is really
being so present and so alive that you can see
clearly what’s needed and meet it in any given moment. Does that make sense? OK. The third element
of mindfulness– this is the last
one– is our attitude. This is how we’re
paying attention. When I first was learning about
meditation, I went to Thailand. I was 19 years old. I didn’t really know
anything about meditation. And I met this beautiful monk. And he didn’t speak any English,
and I didn’t speak any Thai. But he kind of motioned
for me to pay attention to my breath going in
and out of my nose. So I sat down at this monastery
for a two-week silent retreat, where you meditate
from like four the morning until 9:00 at night. And I paid attention
to my breath going in and out of my nose. So what I noticed, just like
you guys have been noticing, is that my mind wandered. So I’d feel, like, one breath. Maybe two breaths. Maybe even three
breaths in a row. And then my mind
would wander off. And so what did I do? Brought it back. Right? And I brought it back
again and again and again. And I started trying
harder and harder. Like why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? Has anyone tried
to meditate before? Right? Anyone feel like they
just can’t do it? Like meditation’s not for you? That’s how everyone
feels when they start. OK? And that’s how I felt. I was like, who do I think I
am that I could be a meditator? And I think I’m a
spiritual person. What am I doing here? Why am I at this
horrible monastery? It’s like 120 degrees and
there’s mosquitoes everywhere. Became really frustrated,
really judgmental. And by the third
day of sitting there in silence trying
to watch my breath, not only was I judging myself, I
was judging everyone around me. Why are all these
monks sitting here? What are they doing? They’re just wasting their time. They’re sitting here. What are they doing? There’s– And finally a monk flew in
from London who spoke English. And I had an interview with him. And I told them
what was happening. And he looked at me with
a lot of compassion, and a little bit of humor. And he said, oh dear, you’re
not practicing mindfulness. He said, you’re
practicing impatience and frustration and judgment. And then he said
these five words that really impacted my life. He said what we
practice gets stronger. What we practice gets stronger. We know this now
with neuroplasticity. Your repeated experiences
shape your brain. If you’re paying
attention as you meditate in a judgmental way,
in a self-critical way, in a striving way,
in an impatient way, you’re creating those neural
pathways in your body. Mindfulness is about paying
attention with acceptance, with openness, with
a sense of curiosity, where you’re actually interested
in your own and other people’s experience. With kindness, with
trust, compassion. So these are offered
more of like a heuristic, but it’s this general
sense of our attitude is very spacious, very
welcoming, very kind. And as you practice relating
to yourself in that way, that’s how you start to
grow these new pathways. Does that make sense? I want to clarify, though. Mindfulness is not about
being happy all the time. Right? What these qualities are is
they’re kind of like a pot. And mindfulness is
this big pot that’s always kind and always
open and always curious. And you put whatever you’re
feeling inside that pot. So maybe you’re feeling really
frustrated at your child. Or scared about them. Or confused or lost. It doesn’t mean you try to
get rid of that and be kind. What it means is you hold
that emotion, that fear, with kindness and with
curiosity and with compassion. And say, what does it
feel like to be scared? What does it feel like to not
know what to do right now? And to really love this person? OK? So these are the three elements
of mindfulness– intention, attention, and attitude. This is the Japanese
kanji of mindfulness. And the top character looks
like a hat, means presence. The bottom character,
shin, means heart mind. They’re interchangeable
in Asian languages. So mindfulness could have
been translated in the West as heartfulness. I don’t think it would
have caught on as much. But think about– in
fact, feel– how different it is to say heartfulness
instead of mindfulness. That’s what this
practice is about. It’s about this
heartful presence. So what I’d like to do is
practice for a very, very short period, so that you can
actually try intentionally paying attention in this
kind, open, heartful way. OK? So go ahead and sit comfortably. I’m going to invite you
to put your cell phones and computers on
a different chair. And make sure
they’re off, please. They actually did
a study, and they found that even if your
cellphone is out, like that, while you’re having
lunch with someone, both people rate the lunch
as less satisfying and less intimate, even if no one
looked at their cellphone. Just having it out. And the fear that you
might get interrupted made it less intimate. Now imagine how
our children feel. Imagine how our children
feel, knowing that at any moment, what
they’re saying to you is going to take less importance
than whatever is coming in on your phone. OK. Not to guilt you. Do not go into guilt. Guilt actually
freezes the center of the brain that
can make changes. Guilt is not helpful. We’ll talk about that. So letting that go. And just allow
your eyes to close. And just take a moment. We’re just– right now,
remember we’re just learning how to pay attention. So begin to gather
your attention. What you practice gets stronger. So right now, we’re training
the skill of attention. So just gathering
your attention. And begin by just beginning
to feel your body. So gather your attention
into the toes of the feet. You can wiggle
them a little bit. And then into the ankles. And up both legs. Connecting with your
seat and the chair. Feel your pelvic
area and your hips. And if your attention
wanders, no problem. Just bring it back. We’re just gathering right now. Training the mind in
how to pay attention. So coming up through the spine. And then relaxing the shoulders. Pouring the awareness
down both arms. Into the hands. And then feeling the belly. See if you can soften the belly. And moving up
through the ribcage. Into the chest. And actually, see if you can
feel the beating of your heart in the chest. It might be helpful just to
put your hand on your chest and actually feel
the heart beating. And you can leave your
hand there for a minute or put it back in your lap. But staying connected
to this knowing that the heart is taking
care of you right now. And you don’t have
to think about it. You don’t have to remember
to make it happen. It just knows what to do. Sending oxygen and nutrients to
every cell in your body right now. And then letting
go of the heart, and coming up
through the throat. Feeling the back of
the neck lengthen as you tilt the chin
down just a millimeter. Bringing your attention
up the back of the head, and the sides of the
head, and the ears. And then into the face. As you just soften the mouth. Soften your jaw. Soften your eyes. Soften the forehead. Just letting your face rest. And then getting a sense of
your whole body sitting here. Feeling the awareness flowing
through the whole body. And see if you can
lean your attention a little bit down and
a little bit back. We tend to focus mostly forward
in the front of our body. So leaning it down and back. So you’re really centered. You have all your
resources available to you in this moment. And then just notice
that you’re breathing. Feeling the breath as it
naturally flows in and out of the body. And again, you don’t
have to control it. You don’t have to think
about it or do anything. The breath knows what to
do, just like the heart. It’s taking care of
you all the time. See if you can be fully
present for just one breath. Really feeling it in your body. Or even just half a
breath, just this inhale. Or just this exhale. And so the breath becomes our
anchor in the present moment. It helps us stay
here where we are. And yet we’re also open. So if we hear sounds,
we just notice hearing. Notice the impacts in our body. And then let them go. If thoughts come up and
begin to carry us away, we notice thinking. And then we return
to our breath. Emotions, body sensations. All of our experience
is welcome. Not necessarily because
we want it to be here, but because it already is. We accept what is here,
because it already is here. How do I meet it in
the present moment? How do I see clearly
what’s actually happening? So maybe just
noticing what it feels like to be alive right now. And relaxing the body 5% more. And at the same time,
heightening your attention. Really clarifying. Focusing the mind. You can be relaxed and alert. Your body can be
physiologically at ease, and your mind can have
laser-like attention. So for the last two
minutes of this practice, really infusing your
attention with the attitudes of mindfulness. With curiosity, and kindness,
openness, and acceptance. Trusting that you’re
doing this right. And that it’s unfolding
in the right way, and at the right pace for you. And just resting. You don’t have to do anything. So as you’re ready, taking
a deeper breath in and out. Beginning to bring
some gentle movement into the wrists and ankles. You might want to stretch
your arms up above your head. And let some light come
back in through the eyes. Good. And what I invite
you to notice is that even as the
meditation ends, the mindfulness continues. It’s not over. You’re still paying attention. Still present. Still seeing clearly. So the meditation
is just a practice to cultivate the mindfulness. To develop these neural
pathways of presence so that we can bring them
into all aspects of our lives, including parenting. OK? So bringing this
mindfulness, this presence, I’d like you to get
with one other person, just for a minute, and
just share something you noticed as we
did this exercise. Sharing from your
direct experience. So not, ooh, my mother-in-law
really needs to learn this, but what did you notice? [LAUGHTER] Oh, good. You’re alive. What did you notice as
we did this practice? OK. So just take a minute. So I’m curious. What did you guys notice? What did you notice
as you practiced? AUDIENCE: Like I’d never been
told or suggested to do that. Focus your attention
sort of down and back. As opposed to– I
guess my natural thing would be leaning forward. And going. SHAUNA SHAPIRO: So he had
never focused his attention down and back. He’s always kind
of leaning forward. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Yeah. And that made it a
little more grounded and easier to stay
inside myself. So that’s what I noticed. SHAUNA SHAPIRO: Beautiful. I find that a really helpful
practice, because all of us tend to be a little
bit forward, right? And a little bit
up in our heads. And to just kind of
sink down and rest back. Great. What else? Yes. AUDIENCE: It’s conscious effort
to push distracting thoughts out of your head. SHAUNA SHAPIRO: It’s
a conscious effort to push distracting
thoughts out of your head. And it’s actually exhausting
and not really possible. So the invitation
with mindfulness is to notice the distracting
thoughts and then let them go. We’re not pushing
them out of our head. They’re like waves in the ocean. They’re going to keep coming. And what we try to do is drop
down beneath them and look up. And we can see them
on the surface, but we’re not getting
tossed about by them. Does that make sense? Yeah. Mindfulness is not about
being perfectly still and empty of thoughts
all the time. It’s not really realistic. There are more spaces. And there’s periods like that. But there’s also
periods of intensity. And it just depends
on the moment, really. Yeah. What else? How many people noticed that
your mind wandered quite a bit? Right, all of us. All of us. And that’s why we practice. It’s almost like we’re
building a muscle, right? And I go to the gym
and I lift weights, not so that my
bicep gets bigger, but so that I can come
home and pick my son up. Right? So we’re practicing
mindfulness so that we have these
stronger parts of our brain and our being to be present for
ourselves and for our children. So I want to move on a little
bit about now to the science. And I’m noticing that we
don’t have a ton of time. And so I’m going to skip
to just what I think is most interesting right
now in the field, which is the effects of
meditation on the brain. So this is just some
basic science research. It doesn’t have to
do with meditation. But if you imagine that
my fist is your brain– I got this from
Dan Siegel, who is a wonderful colleague
and mentor and friend. So basically, we have the
kind of reptilian brain stem that formed early on,
a lot of our fight or flight mechanisms. And then we have the
prefrontal cortex that formed around this part. And this is our
higher-order reasoning. This is our emotional
intelligence. This is the part
of the brain that is most impacted by mindfulness. And so what you find is that
people who are feeling happy, and alert, and
vibrant, and joyful, when you look at
their brain, they have higher ratios of
left to right prefrontal cortical activity. So the part of their brain–
the prefrontal cortex– they have greater activity in
the left to right ratio when they’re feeling happy, alert. When you’re depressed,
when you’re anxious, you have greater activity
in the right to left ratio. OK? And even when you have
extreme depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, you can see this pattern
in a deeper way. So what they did is they
brought in 175 subjects to be tested in the laboratory. And this is this
wonderful Tibetan lama who’s all hooked up
to these EEG monitors so we can see what’s
happening inside his brain. And what they found is that
this long-term meditator had the highest left to right
ratio in his prefrontal cortex that they had seen. And so they wondered, well, is
this just a random artifact? Like, was he was born
happy, and that’s why he decided to go and
meditate for tens of thousands of hours? Or did the tens of thousands
of hours of practice, right, strengthen certain
parts of his brain that had to do with happiness
and compassion and joy? So they did a randomized
control trial. They took 41 biotechnology
employees– anyone can do this. Just kidding. I shouldn’t say that at Google. And they taught them
meditation and compared them to a weightless control group. And what they found was at
the four-month follow-up, there was significant
increase in this left to right activation. So this is actually really
exciting and really hopeful news. Because in
psychology, what we’ve learned over the
past four decades is that we all have a
happiness set point. Just like someone
with their weight. They can fluctuate
between 10 pounds or so, but you basically
have the kind of have the body you were born with. Well, when you’re born, you
have a certain temperament. And what they found is that
you have a baseline level of happiness that
doesn’t really shift that much over your lifetime. And they based this
on research that shows that if you
win the lottery, you have this spike in your
happiness– which we’d expect– and then within one year,
you’re back to your baseline. If you get in a terrible
accident and become paralyzed, you have a huge drop
in your happiness. And then one year later,
you’re back to baseline. Those are shocking
results that have been repeated over and over. So this is great news if
you’re born happy, right? You’re like a Bobo doll. Stuff happens. You pop down. You pop back up. And it’s no problem. OK? For many people that I work
with, they were not born happy. And then this is really,
really depressing news. It’s like, well, even
if I win the lottery, or I marry the perfect person,
or I get the house in Hawaii, within one year I’m
going to be back to this level of depression? So what this research
is showing us is that even though changing
our external circumstances can’t change our
overall happiness level, changing our
interior environment, our interior landscape, can. This is very hopeful. Richie Davidson and
Matthieu Ricard, who is the principal
investigator of the study, he says, “Happiness
can be trained because, the very structure
of our brain can be modified.” So what he’s talking about
here is neuroplasticity, as I mentioned earlier. Our repeated experiences
shape our brain. What you practice gets stronger. What you’re
practicing right now. If you’re spacing out, that
pathway’s getting stronger. If you’re interested
and curious, that pathway’s getting stronger. And I’ll never know. I mean, I kind of can tell
from your eyes and your pupil dilation, but I’m
not really looking. So what I think becomes
so hopeful and optimistic is the sense of, like,
you have a choice. And every moment’s important. Every moment, as you’re with
your child, is important. Not only for you, but for them. Because our mirror neurons,
they’re getting shaped. We’re shaping our own brain. And we’re shaping their brains. And so there’s no
moments that don’t count. There’s no breaks. Not to put pressure on you. But there’s no breaks. Every moment matters equally. In every moment you’re
creating a pathway. These are brains from
Harvard, actually, so that makes them
kind of special. They looked at many
meditators’ brains. And they looked at the
parts of the brains that got bigger and stronger
through meditation practice. So when you look
at taxi drivers, if you look at their brains,
the visual spatial mapping parts get big and strong,
because that’s what they’re doing all day. When you look at
meditators, what they find is the parts
of the brain that have to do with
attention, learning, emotional intelligence,
self-awareness, they get bigger. They get stronger. It’s called cortical thickening. And the more you
practice, the bigger, the more cortical
thickening there is. This is very hopeful news. We have the technology,
right, the meditation practice as technology, to
change our brain. To change the actual structure
toward greater happiness, towards greater
ease and compassion. So I like to think
of this as like we have these superhighways
of habits, right? And they’re really fast. You know what yours are. OK? And what mindfulness
does is it says, is that really in alignment
with your highest values? Is that really getting
you in the direction you want to be heading? And we have this opportunity
to kind of dig out these little country
roads of compassion, or patience, or presence. And I could go this
way, right, with my son. I could have been
like, Jackson, come on, we’re going to the beach. Impatience is one
of my pathways. Or I could pause,
and just kind of go this other route, which
maybe doesn’t feel as familiar. But every time I start going
down that route of patience or of kindness, I’m
strengthening it. So the next time,
right, there’s not as many brambles and bushes. It’s a little cleared. Does that makes sense? So the question really becomes,
what do you want to practice? What is your intention? What is the most
important thing to you? And so this brings us
to mindful parenting. And these are the five elements. And these are kind
of invitations of what to practice. And so our book really
goes through these in a lot of detail. And I’m just going to plant
a seed and offer them to you. But these five pathways are–
I’ll go through each of them, actually. The first one, and
most important one, is unconditional love. Practicing that pathway. Connecting. Building the relationship. Nothing matters if you
don’t have the relationship. And nothing is worth it if it
costs you the relationship. If disciplining your
child and getting them to do what you want in that
moment costs the relationship, it’s not worth it. So the foundation is
unconditional love. The sense that
there’s nothing that will stop me from loving you. Whether you score the goal
or whiff the penalty kick. Get an A or an F. Behave
well or arrogantly. I will always love you,
and stay connected to you through thick and thin. That sense that you’re
not going anywhere. This is the foundation
of mindful parenting. And this is the most
important thing. Another important element
that we practice is space. Allowing our children
space to be themselves. We often micromanage as parents. And we think we know best. And we think they have
to go on this pathway. And I know for me,
I’m a professor, and everyone in my
family is professors. And the intellectual mind
is very highly valued. Whereas the emotional
intelligence and the heart, not so much. And when I chose to have my
son go to a Waldorf school, I remember family
members saying, well, is he ever going to
learn how to read? And so I was like, no
problem, no problem. And then here my son
is eight years old, does not know how to read. And there is this moment
in me where I was like, maybe I shouldn’t have given
him this much space and trusted. And yeah, he’s speaking
Mandarin and Arabic and playing guitar
and all the stuff, and he doesn’t know how to read. And I remember
going and speaking with the headmaster
of the school, and she was just like,
trust the process. Trust this innate
organic capacity that our children have. Give him space. And there’s lots of
encouragement and guidelines. And now he’s nine. He’s reading perfectly. It’s no problem. I don’t know what would have
happened if he hadn’t learned now and I had to give this talk. But there’s something about
giving our children space to become themselves, and
trusting that process. Healthy limits. This is the other side of space. It is so important
for our children to have something to push
up against, some limits. When parents are
overly permissive, when parents don’t
set boundaries, it actually creates a lot
of fear for our children. Physiologically,
it creates fear. It’s like, well,
who’s in charge? Who knows what’s
right and wrong? And I know for me,
I’m a single mother. And my ex-husband, he was
kind of the disciplinarian, and I was like the
sweet mommy loving one. And then when of a sudden,
I was having to be both, I didn’t do it very well. I didn’t create very much
boundaries for my son. And after about two years,
my son was ruling our house. Right? He was this little dictator. He was like six years old. He was like, this
is what we’re doing. And I’m like, OK. And that’s when I
decided to actually start doing the research
for this book. Because I was like, wait. Discipline can’t be all bad. There has to be some
ways to create boundaries where I’m the mom
and he’s the child, and he gets to be the child. It is so important to let
our children be children. And so healthy limits
is about really from a place of clarity and love
and wisdom, setting the limits. Not from a place of you’re bad. You’re wrong. I’m taking away my love. When we get to that point
and we’re setting limits, that’s not healthy. We want to set the limits
from a place of spaciousness and openness and I love you. That’s when the limits create
so much healing, and allow our children to learn how
to discipline themselves. Oh, this makes sense. I can trust Mom. I can trust Dad. They know what
they’re talking about. And they’re doing this
because they love me. OK? So when we say no to
a particular behavior, we do our best to simultaneously
say yes to our child. And that’s what’s
most important, is they don’t feel like
the no has anything to do with your love and
your connection to them. Modeling and mentorship
are another thing that we practice with
mindful parenting. Who you are. Who you are teaches your
child more than anything. Who you are as
you’re driving along. Who you are as you’re checking
out at the grocery store. Are you making eye contact? Are you present? Are you on your phone? We’re going to talk about
self-compassion soon, don’t worry. But our children, the way we
learn is by watching others. We are incredibly elegantly
wired with our mirror neurons to actually feel what
other people are feeling, and adapt in that way so
that we become like them. So how we are in the
world impacts our children more than anything
we say to them. What we model. And then mentoring our children. Actually spending
time with them. And offering them the skills
and knowledge that they need. When I talk about
my son not learning to read until he
was nine, it wasn’t that we weren’t doing anything. I mean, we had a
lot of structures in place to support him. But there wasn’t the
anxiety and there wasn’t the forcing behind it. So there can still
be mentorship. And he and I, since he was
born, I’ve read to him an hour every single night. And so even though he still
is not a great reader, his vocabulary is amazing. All right. The last thing I want to
talk about is mistakes. And for me, this has been
the most important thing, is to recognize that
mistakes are natural. They’re part of parenting. And they can, in fact, lead to
greater intimacy and greater healing. This path of parenting is
not about doing it right. It’s not about being perfect. If there was a way to do
that, I would tell you. I would. It’s one of the most
humbling experiences. Continues to be
the most humbling experience I’ve
ever had in my life. And one of the most painful. One of the most
requiring of compassion. So mistakes give
us the opportunity to acknowledge our
own limitations, and then to demonstrate to
our child how we repair. How we repair. The most important thing,
when we make a mistake, is to acknowledge it. And to say I’m sorry. And to really be in
that vulnerability as a parent, which
is challenging. So by modeling this
for our children, we model the idea that you
don’t have to be perfect, and that you’re loved
for who you are. There’s this sense
in our culture– that I think is pretty
pervasive– that somehow I’m not doing it right. Somehow I’m not OK. I’m not quite doing this
parenting thing right. I’m not quite doing
this life thing right. Right? Like I haven’t figured it out. And what’s wrong with me? Tara Brock, who’s a
wonderful teacher, she calls it this
trance of unworthiness. That somehow there’s
something wrong with me. Or other people have figured
something out that I haven’t. And I think this
causes a lot of harm. We want to model
for our children it’s OK to not be perfect. It’s not just OK, it’s normal. It’s natural. It’s healthy. So this is from Jack Kornfield. He says, “If you can sit
quietly after difficult news. If in financial downturns
you remain perfectly calm. If you see your neighbors
travel to favorite places without a tinge of jealousy. If you can happily eat
whatever is put on your plate. If you can love everyone around
you unconditionally, and be content wherever you are–
you are probably a dog.” Right? We hold ourselves to these
levels of perfection. We think we should
be feeling this way. I should be happy all the time
and love my son all the time. Feel like being a mom’s
the greatest thing in the entire
world all the time. Find me a mom like that. Find me a dad like that. And yet we’re so
afraid to acknowledge the humanness of parenting. And I think one of the
most important dimensions of mindful parenting
is this authenticity. Is our own tender hearts as
parents, our own vulnerability, our own fears. The Dalai Lama, who has inspired
me so deeply in my life– there’s the story about him. It was from many,
many years ago. I wasn’t there at the time. But someone asked
him, they said, Your Holiness, how do you deal
with these judgmental thoughts? This kind of feeling like you’re
never quite doing it right. You’re never quite good enough. Like you should be faster,
and more patient, and more compassionate,
and more generous. What do you do with all that? And the Dalai Lama looked
at it him, and he said, those thoughts are wrong. Imagine the Dalai
Lama saying that. It’s even hard
for me to imagine. Usually he’s so, like,
joyful, and laughing, and tee hee hee, that’s
such a funny question. But he said, that’s wrong. He said, imagine that a
young child was reaching out to take a hot coal
and burn his hand. You would say,
no, don’t do that. He said, these thoughts
are like your mind reaching out and taking
hold of a hot coal. And they’re burning you. And they’re not leading to
anything wholesome or skillful. So you take your hand
off those thoughts. With mindfulness, we practice
self-compassion and kindness. And when those thoughts
arise, which they will. We have many
superhighways of habit, of that judgemental thought. We hold ourselves
with compassion. And we say, no, sweetheart. I’m not going to
let you do that. And what’s interesting is that
a lot of times people say, well, don’t I have to have those
thoughts to keep my A game up, or to change and be a better
parent, or a better person, or a better worker,
colleague, wife? And actually, as I
was saying earlier, the parts of the brain
that actually can learn new behaviors, they shut down
when you’re self-conscious and you feel ashamed. So if you actually want
to change your behavior, it comes through compassion
and through inspiration. If you actually want to
change your child’s behavior, it’s not through shaming them. Oh my god, I can’t believe
you hit your sister again. You’re the worst little
boy I’ve ever met. That’s not going to teach
him a new way of being. That’s going to shut him down. That’s going to freeze
him in fight or flight. So the way we parent
is through compassion, through inspiration,
through kindness. And we, in some ways, have
to re-parent ourselves. It doesn’t work to shame
and blame ourselves into being a good parent. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. What works is seeing
things clearly. Right? That’s the definition
of mindfulness. Seeing clearly so I know
how to respond effectively. That’s the only tool we
really have, is our presence. OK? So the word
“compassion” in Tibetan always includes oneself. It’s considered incomplete if
it doesn’t include oneself. Think about that for a moment. So many times I hear parents
who are so overextended, and so exhausted, and so
burnt out, and just– I can’t. I can’t deal with
all this anymore. That’s not really
acting with compassion, because you have to include
yourself in the family system. So learning to take
care of yourself, even if it requires a little
less time with your children, is essential. And it’s hard. We work with all these
different things of guilt, and how much time
should I be here, and how much time– And,
again, through mindfulness you find your own right balance. What’s most true for you. On my CD there’s a meditation
called metta meditation, or loving kindness. And it’s a really
nourishing way to practice kindness for yourself,
and cultivating that neural pathway. And then offering it to your
children, and to your spouse, and to your family, and
out into the greater world. And I think
combining mindfulness with compassion practices
is really useful. So that not only are
we seeing clearly, but we’re also cultivating
the heart and the mind. So I want to be
respectful of your time. And I just want to thank you all
for your very kind attention. And maybe I will just
stay up here for questions since we’re at time. And if you want to ask specific
questions, come and see me. My CD is right there. My book’s over there. And thank you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

7 thoughts on “Shauna Shapiro: “Mindful Discipline” | Talks at Google”

  1. Keiko Mushi says:

    Some of Shauna's videos have been a part of the recent Science of Happiness MOOC over at EdX. The collection of materials has given a rounded view of the studies of techniques for facilitating and maintaining happiness.

  2. Herbie Shapiro says:


  3. bdsa01 says:

    Many thanks for a marvelous talk. Dr. Shapiro has a wonderful way of engaging with the audience. The mindfulness practice included as part of the talk helped me to focus my heart and feel the teachings in a profound way. Definitely  a video to watch over again and to share.

  4. Pepe Pomada says:

    Yeah baby, you are sexi! But please go on with the enlightenment stuff

  5. Mamunur Rashid says:

    Thanks a lot for this video……

  6. Akansha Gupta says:

    The meditation that Shauna facilitates at 21 mins is awesome !!

  7. John Shearer says:

    Mindful Insights Mentoring

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