Val Velez, certified teacher for mindfulness awareness practice. Photo by JP Crumrine

‘Mindfulness is a great tool’

For those who care about their personal health and their interpersonal relations and want to improve them, Val Velez is prepared to offer actions that will help you achieve those goals. Mindfulness and meditation are simple tools that anyone can adopt and she is trained to share these tools with others.
Velez has stressed that scientific research on the impacts of mindfulness is in the beginning stages, relatively. It has grown over the past three decades and results demonstrate the benefits of devoting time and effort.
One of the major mindfulness centers in the country is only 100 miles to the west, much closer than the Himalayas. For more than 10 years, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center has been conducting studies to evaluate and compare mindfulness to other forms of self-help, such as stress reduction. While it is a new field of scientific inquiry, the results of the center’s studies reveal that mindfulness improves one’s personal health.
“Research demonstrated that mindfulness reduces stress,” Velez said. “It boosts and offers positive benefits to your cardiovascular and emotional systems. It helps build a sense of confidence to deal with life.”
From a health perspective, it strengthens one’s ability to enjoy life. That is not the same as saying it eliminates problems and issues. Rather mindfulness enhances one’s capability to recognize and distinguish between annoyances, simple frustration and anger.
When one can do that, not only does it reduce personal anxiety, which fear or anger create, it dissolves these hidden reactions so that we don’t confront friends and colleagues with our own hidden and private feelings.
“You become aware of your responses to situations and how that affects your interactions,” she said. “We become capable of responding to life situations with more thought.” In essence, one becomes more skillful managing their natural predispositions.
Velez, whose career is in public health, has graduated from the mindfulness facilitation program at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. She took another year to earn her training credentials.
“Some people are naturally more attracted to mindfulness. Perhaps they’re more introspective, but it can be cultivated,” she emphasized.
The research is finding that meditation and mindfulness will affect neural pathways just as excessive worrying can develop long-term emotional strife, mindfulness “helps build the capacity toward more positive thinking,” according to Velez.
She also debunked the common misconception that mindfulness and meditation are some form of religion or philosophy. Many people incorporate these steps in their daily life simply because it helps them relieve stress. Velez emphasized they are a process for better personal health, not a pathway to nirvana.
Although Velez has been meditating for years, her training at UCLA has provided the skills to share this practice with others. She is now a certified teacher for mindfulness awareness practice. For more than a year, they met monthly, wrote papers, discussed and debated issues, and learned from Diana Winston, the director of mindfulness education at the UCLA center. Winston is the co-author, along with Susan Smalley Ph.D., of “Fully Present: the Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness.”
“It won’t always feel peaceful or at ease,” she said. “Initially, one might feel bored or uncomfortable. That’s normal, not failing. The whole point is to feel what you’re feeling and be more aware.”
Now Velez is prepared to share this process and help others develop the skill. She will be offering six weeks of mindfulness awareness practice classes beginning Monday, Sept. 16 and continuing through Oct. 21.
The cost for the course and materials is $225, but Velez said, “scholarships and a sliding scale fee are available.”
She emphasized that the cost should not be an obstacle to attending the classes. UCLA sets the standard fee for the class but financial help and assistance are available. “So anyone who really wants to take it, can attend,” Velez stated.
“My role is to put people in touch with their mindfulness creative space,” Velez said with a smile. “It’s hidden in plain sight.”
To contact her, call 951-392-6507 or email her at [email protected].