Heather is an LA-based Mindfulness Facilitator works with a diverse range of clientele
including those in recovery, people coping with depression and anxiety, cancer survivors, men and women battling chronic health and pain issues, those suffering from PTSD, as well as fellow clinicians combating compassion fatigue syndrome. Her training began with Tibetan Compassion practices in 1998, traveling the world to learn under masters in both India and Europe. In 2011 she became a certified Mindfulness Facilitator at UCLA, where she also taught Mindful Awareness Classes as well as courses online. Currently, she’s co-creator and master teacher for The DEN Meditation Teacher Training Program. Her joy is watching her clients develop the tools necessary to tap into their own inner wisdom, enabling them to forge their own path towards healing and self-compassion. She’s been featured on E! as well as in publications such as Time, The Times of India and Femcompetitor. Her teaching on joy can be viewed on Mindful Magazine’s January online edition.
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A Transcript of our Conversation:
I’m with Heather Prete.
Mindfulness facilitator. Yeah, and you have a you have a certificate from UCLA mindfulness and have worked with them a lot. That’s right. And I teach their courses as well. Right and you teach those over The Den in Hollywood. That’s where on the Brea. Yeah, that’s my Brea have to remember where we are.
Yeah that we’re at the Den on the corner of 4th and LaBrea, which is a wonderful space that has drop-ins which would be you can just come and meditate and get a little talk and sound Bast and I this is actually where I have my personal office for my one-on-one. Yeah, my one-on-one. It’s well, I want to thank you for meeting me and you talking about these things and just getting this whole thing rolling.
The first question I have is just really simple and I explain to you why where this came from and how we started but one of these questions was just really simple. Why should we? Hmm, why is it important? Well, I mean it’s funny because I don’t like to use the word should too much. Okay, because really it’s a choice, right?
And that’s that’s the essence of the practice is choice. We have more Choice more. When we have more clarity on the different aspects of self and how they work together and how they respond to our inner and outer worlds. So, you know, there are many different ways to get there quite honestly, there are many paradigms and some people are more.
Be mindful than other people. I know that I can speak for myself. So in my cage this practice was so important because I had a lot of suffering. I was dealing with it with quite a few very difficult emotions that we would call chronic that didn’t seem to rise and fall. Of course, they always do we just miss those moments that they’re not there, right?
But had really developed into a trait so a trade of anxiety or a trade of depression, right? I really identified with those and they seem to be my constant companions. And I didn’t know or understand that there was an aspect of the self that is meant to care for those emotions. Mmm. So I did the natural thing that everybody does which is to try to run away from them and we try to run away from them in many different ways.
And I tried them all and I’ll tell you it doesn’t work. We get something called we get tricked because we get something called a temporary cessation of suffering which means that in that moment. We may be releasing chemicals or have. He distracted so we don’t feel the suffering acutely at that moment.
However, the internal not or the difficulty. The energy is not really transformed and so it just arises again and again and again, so for me, it was important because I needed to understand the mechanism. Mind I had to understand the mechanisms of how I relate to my thoughts and sort of how thoughts Sensations feelings actions beliefs worldviews all work together and so once I can understand that by looking deeply through practice and that’s what this is is in sight.
It’s not some woo-woo weird thing where we’re trying to warp your brain. It’s so that you can actually just look and say well. Is it to be human? What mechanisms are at play here when there’s a result what causes lead to what conditions and then in that we can also understand what causes lead to positive.
So I didn’t understand compassion and cultivating positive emotions and I needed those things so we can limit our suffering that way. Hmm. And when you use the word Insight, I would say instead of limiting. I would say we learn how to hold our suffering so that it can transform. If we add it just like if a child scrapes its knee and you hold the child in Iraq the child the knee is still scraped, you know difficulty or pain is there we transform the suffering because we had a lot of rights so yeah.
Yeah. Okay, super I was where you going to ask though is the well you brought up the word to in sight. And I wasn’t I just. because they sometimes they call this Insight Meditation and is inside too and mindfulness or those two things interchangeable or are they a little there a little different but yeah because it’s giving us that that ability to slow down or stop or see things as they are.
Yeah, so inside arises from. So if we can contact our mindful awareness, right and we want to drop that into by Insider Rises insight into our inner world as to how all these mechanisms work together. All right, so it’s called the Posner Insight or a might be called mindfulness. And we can start to understand that these are really all these different energies work together.
So mindfulness, we can’t see right but we can see the effects of mindfulness. That’s how we know. It’s really that’s why we can say to people who haven’t practiced. Oh, this is a real thing because we can see when we practice the brain changes, right? So mindfulness and of itself, we can’t see but we can see its effects and then the result is.
You know we know so the action is mindfulness and the result is the insight and then someone might say well no the at it’s and that mindfulness is an energy its Essence. It’s very interesting. So right now in our common culture because this became secularized I think that different people will have different languaging.
Do you think it gets a little too woot sometimes when people talk about it about mindfulness about meditation thing, you know, and it’s just that I mean, how do you see that? Well, you know, I’m going to say listen, so, you know, I’m gonna get I’m gonna be straightforward with this which is quite honestly, We can only hope that if you have someone who’s practicing correctly that a desire to only speak truth arises that’s actually a side effect of insight.
We really see how being dishonest or adding things or being something. We’re not causes suffering. That’s part of the Insight you get and so it makes you want to turn to. Speaking truth that’s actually from 2500 plus years ago when the started there was this beautiful illustration in the pure land teachings, which I’m going to this is Buddhism not secular mindfulness, but just from the origins, right?
We want to know our porridge. But there’s there’s this beautiful description of the Buddha spread his tongue. So wide that it could basically hold all of the tiny little aspects of every particle within it and like all within one space and what that means is it came from an Indian sort of way of expressing which is that your tongue is wide you’re speaking truth, right so we can understand that when we see clearly when we see the cause and effect of things when we see how suffering arises that we wish to speak true.
Right, so that gets me to your to your question. If we’re practicing and what the desire to speak truth arises and then what I would say is to the thinking mind and when someone tries to describe an experience and insight that they have that can’t be described in words and then is transferred to your thinking mind as you process the words.
Yes. It’s going to be woo because we have lost the essence of the true Insight. Does that. Sam’s hand. Yes now and then we also have the other side which I don’t think we’re talking about which is when people kind of put on a Persona rather than actually doing the work of looking deeply and we all have listened we all have all aspects.
Yeah, and also we all have at all aspects of everything so it was not a judgment in that but yes that can arise during part of the practice where we feel like we have to. Certain way sure but I would just say it’s impossible to describe some insight. And yes, it sounds whoo. And the way your brain would interpret it would be.
Whoo, and that’s why this whole thing is you’re supposed to just have experiential knowledge so that it’s not it’s true for your visit for you and actually traditionally were told not to share insights because it does just what you said creates a concept and it can do a couple things. It can create Envy or jealousy.
It creates striving. Having the desired result which will bump you off your cushion out of your mindfulness, right and then it goes and causes doubt. Meaning I don’t believe in this practice. That sounds ridiculous. Sure. Sure. I abandon cool. Did I help? Yeah, that was that was great. That was a great answer.
Actually. I appreciate that the. The next one is do we need a teacher? Yes with this thing? Okay, that was his pathetic quick answer and a community. I was focusing. Yes. Yes. Yes, daddy those how do those work? And because there’s a lot of apps out now and there’s you know, you can go online and you can find all these well listen, You can connect to a teacher through a book.
So Thich Nhat Hanh. Well actually beforeThich Nhat Hanh long long long ago before I even knew it was practiced was and I was suffering so deeply I happened unto a book when I was kind of stuck in an in other people say it’s amazing, but I. I was Nanny and at the time in the Hamptons and I felt very isolated. I was dealing with a lot of loneliness and a lot of difficult emotions.
I had just had a breakup and I had had an hour or some break. I was working, you know most of the time and I went to a bookstore and I found this book and it’s it was called a. Why do the world and I just love that title because I always was hyper and pathetic? So I thought they were talking about empathy which is different than compassion.
Anyway, I grab that book and in that book, Sharon talks about her teacher Deepa Deepa Ma. So the mother of Deepa Diva me. This enlightened little woman and deeper my entered my heart through the book. I never forgot that and it and I remember reading about this little woman and me just to this day. It’s just etched in my brain reading about her compassion and kindness in her Equanimity and he’s and it spoke to me in such a way that.
I had left the book there. I forgot about the book. I didn’t know where it went. It didn’t know the name of the book and I didn’t know the author and it wasn’t until about 25, you know more than that. Yeah, probably about 20 years later 20. I can’t remember time anymore. You get to a certain age, you know, like I don’t know.
Yeah, it’s but it was a long time later when Diana mentioned. Oh, I asked Diana because she mentioned Depot ma asked Diana Winston I ran into I said, oh my god, there was this book hardest by the world. I never heard of it again you write that book is it talks about deeper Mom? Right right. You said no Sharon did.
And that you could go stay with Sharon. So yes, we can have teachers in non-traditional ways. Right? So some of us will do that connect to an author whose voice Waters Your Heart Right. Now the problem with practicing alone is that you’re trying to kind of stumbling along a path to do I take a left.
Do I take her right in? My Chinese eyes are too much effort in is there not enough? A proper efforting and it’s nice to have a teacher to bounce things off of and to kind of help you along the way because the teachers already took that part of the path so they can help you to find your way through it and then finally also traditionally teachers were meant to spot different temperaments and different students and the teachings will be different for each student based on their temperament.
So you might pick up a book that’s. If I picked up a book that is n as n book initially and I hadn’t started with passion practices. I don’t know how good that would have been for me at the time. I had to have a different doorway in right and there are many different doorways in there’s something like thousands of doors.
Is it their store within as far as our sensory observations, there’s drugs wait doorways in can we do a heart practice? Are we doing a single point and concentration practice what you know, what is right for us at this moment and a good teacher will be able to say I think this practice will really balance your mind?
Maybe you want to try it if you’re interested, right? And that’s is that where Community comes into so this is so important so traditionally. It was this isn’t secular. This isn’t the traditional teachings. It’s it was Buddha Dharma Sangha. So it was like the teacher someone who kind of had taken the path the Dharma which is the teachings and then the song is a community and it said that if an if a.
Leaves his Monastery and goes out into the world. It’s like you’re going out into the mountains with wild Lions, right? So the Sangha helps support our practice in a way that’s very nourishing and important. So having that can be that’s why I’m so happy about things like the den because before you had to be a Buddhist to practice and here it’s all-inclusive, which is what these practices are Buddhism is not a religion.
Religion can grow around anything. But actually this is just a practice for human beings to have insight into what it is to be human and as we come together and we support each other in this way our practice flourishes greatly that that’s that’s really that’s a good answer now. We already talked about mindfulness and I’ll talk about mindfulness in general.
Can we there’s a lot of talk about living a mindful life. Hmm. What does that look like? Yeah, so, you know the problem with. Not the problem. What am I going to say? Oh, then I would say the slippery slope of hearing things like that is that people can think they’re not living up to something?
Mmm, you know, we have mindfulness is being used in this way that sort of like have gratitude. It was used for a long time in our culture like oh be grateful because other people don’t have that food and instead of sort of the heart of gratitude was just an expansive heart of interconnectivity because of the way it was presented.
It caused shame or guilt, which is a contraction. Okay, so it didn’t have the essence of the word anymore the word no longer touch the aspect of the self that it was meant to represent. Okay, so when we walk around and we see oh, this is a. Menu or this is this is oh I had someone actually say to me the other day.
Oh, that’s not very mindful. You know, we were something about like that. I hadn’t had a chance to do something earlier something like this and we can have we can start using mindfulness in a way that causes contraction individuals. And so I want to be really careful when we say live mindfully because often times that’s a lot of fodder for the inner.
To catch on to none not other people what we’re telling ourselves. That’s right. That’s what I mean. Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I mean. And and you know, ultimately whatever it’s used in society is what it is or what people say is what people say, but what’s happening within you right? So if we think oh that’s that’s good and it’s bad not to live mindfully then all this then we’re automatically out of mindfulness.
Right? Right. So we will walk around saying oh-oh, oh good. I did that. Okay, I’m safe. My bad, because I didn’t I did that on mindfully, right? There’s a beautiful story that Thich Nhat Hanh tells and he says that he was trying to put hang up a picture. So he had a hammer and a nail and he said I wasn’t being very Mindful and so I hit my thumb with a hammer.
So listen to this technology who we know. And it’s Undisputed is is the master of mindfulness is very clear and he’s been celebrated by Martin Luther King nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. He is he’s the real deal, right? He writes in his book for all to see I wasn’t very Mindful and I hit my thumb with the hammer sure.
So what is he telling us?
There’s that we’re all of us can be not mindful. That’s right. And then the next thing he says is. one hand didn’t judge the other the right hand put down the hammer immediately to care for the left hand because it knew that we were all we’re all in this together. We’re interconnected. Cool, so we separate from ourselves and we think I’m supposed to be mindful.
That wasn’t mindfulness Dad. Can we give ourselves compassion? Right, can we say I suffer in this moment? So I must not have had my mindfulness this hurts. I care about this suffering. Right? Right, you know, I appreciate that description. That was that was. I don’t know that I was thinking about that when I wrote the question, but I appreciate that.
I appreciate that because it’s a really important way to look at it the. in hairs one this just what do you see the difference between contemplation and meditation? Is there a, yeah, I mean a contemplation practice is a meditate meditation practice. So there are different types of meditation practices so we can have something like single point in concentration where we focus exclusively on one thing and we push everything else out and write or we can have more of mindfulness where we’re resting our Awareness on something in the present moment, but we’re aware that other things are here.
Right and then contemplation practices are interesting in there actually super effective. We need mindfulness in order to do a proper contemplation practice. Okay, right. So the first thing you need to be able to do is you need to be able to see our your inner world. Right and then as we contemplate we can sort of such things out.
There are many different kinds of types of contemplation. So is there one specifically you were thinking of questioning examples? I’m just looking at it in general when I was looking at the different practices. Yeah. Those two I find in a lot of classes are used interchangeably. Oh and I don’t know that they are interchangeable that mean they are both meditations.
Yeah. Yeah, but I hear people using them in different ways and that’s why I came up with the question because I get I’m hearing different. Yeah, interesting different definitions are I think yeah enough for me to question it. Anyway. Yeah, and absolutely and I think that I’m part of the community that may have slightly different languaging for things than that traditionally because I’m part of a secular Community, right and we’re sussing out or languaging for sure, right?
So when you get into things like this when we say contemplation practice. What I the way I view a contemplation practice for the way I was taught contemplation practices is that I may bring something up and notice the way that all of the aspects of the self-work together and then notice is this going towards my well-being or away from my well-being.
That’s one contemplation practice right another may I mean you can do a contemplation practice in which you’re sort of bringing to mind a wisdom phrase. And let it sink in and sort of like, okay. So where my life is this wisdom I coming and does that give me a sense of well-being where might it be lacking, right?
Is it a place to stay to work on issues? I mean when you come up with issues when you’re meditating, I mean the Mind goes you put these things away. When now when and how do you deal with those things that you put away that you’re going to work on later? Okay. So this is interesting and I have to say I can’t speak for every everyone and every rack and your this is all from my perspective in my experience.
Those things don’t matter. You don’t ever have to get back to them. What happened in your body. What happened? It was calling for care right now. The thoughts need to be unhooked from and we can have these thoughts. But we also need not follow the thoughts, but do we drop in what’s here right now that’s asking for care.
Right now so if I had that worried if I had that plan if I had that thought it may even be disguised as a contemplation practice, which I think we have to have some skill if we’re going to do contemplation practices or not going into thinking we have a stabilized mind when we contemplate that.
Difference between contemplation and thinking so we even if those thoughts come I’m not interested in the thoughts or figuring them out. What is happening here? Right? What’s in my inner world? What is now rising and as we look with our mindfulness in Insight wisdom comes and then we know what to do now.
Right. So we really never have to notch over all that stuff that goes through her head and trust me. You’re still going to eat your eggs your breakfast and you’re still don’t know how to drive your car. Sure. All those things are still here. The thinking mind is not a problem. We just need to know how to relate to it.
And at this moment, what we’re relating to is our inner world. So the thoughts may have triggered a sensation in the body that we call an emotion which are connected to an internal not and that internal not is something that may have Arisen from her. To our Consciousness. It was watered by that thought and now it’s in our conscious awareness.
So if it’s made its presence known to us by a rising in our conscious awareness, then it’s asking for care, right and at that moment, it is ours to me. This is again just for me. Of course. It is our responsibility as a human being to care for it. That’s that to me. That’s just how I Live Now and take it or leave it.
No one has to live like me, you know, no one else is going to be maybe even that’s listening to this school right now do this, but it’s a very ancient. A psychology that stands up to the test of science. So anyway this aspect of Rises and now we can make a choice. Do I want to push it back down don’t want to run from it?
Do I want to drink a nomad out or do I want to care for it? We need Insight in order to connect the heart to this aspect of the cell that gives us the space to be able to decide that. It’s not attached to it. All right, but we get very attached to our stories and our thoughts don’t ya? Yes. Okay, most definitely so for attached, I mean then we want a chance maybe challenge ourselves to unhook from whatever we’re really attached form and then see what arises.
Calling for attention. Yeah. No, I totally understand. Well, thank you. The last question I have. is. I think the world needs more compassion. Oh, yeah in general. Yeah. And how do we or how do you facilitate that in yourself in your own world? Thank you. And how does that affect you? How do how do you manifest that?
Thank you. I appreciate I really appreciate that question. I think. I’m really our responsibility as practitioners to learn to answer to that question for ourselves and really practice that because like you said we do need more compassion Warriors. We need people that are holding space for suffering in this world and you can help to transform others by caring and keep teaching them to care for their internal difficulties with love and touch into their own compassion mind.
So one thing. I wanted to touch on in that question is yes, the world needs more compassion. But but I’m also going to tell you that the world is compassion that there when we look deeply when we look deeply underneath all of the obstructions that human beings are walking around with what are they guarding?
They’re guarding the most tender aspects of the self and those tender aspects of the self-are asking for love. And as soon as we start clearing out the obstructions and those aspects of silver are able to fully live in this world. They receive out love, you know, and its part of it is our responsibility but is also looking out to sea.
I mean our responsibilities also not just internal work, but look around you the trees are feeding you oxygen. The sun is giving you warmth caring for all of the beautiful plans. That are that are giving you nutrition the Earth will always hold you on its ground combined with the blanket of gravity, you know from like the Native Americans.
I think it should be a father Sky Mother Earth. It’s like the arms and the. A blanket, you know, so I would say I turn continually to seeing where compassion and love already are here and really allow myself to know that even though difficulties arise in the world. There’s so much. Good here.
There’s so much to have Joy about there’s so much supporting us, you know, we can run around and cause so many problems for ourselves. But ultimately is the Earth ever going to just like stop being his is gravity going to disappear are the treats going to say he gets oxygen but not you because you’re a jerk right know they love us anyway.
And in turn, we can then our compassion and our love grows when we can start to see how we are actually supported by the world in this Earth. So continually turning towards that and I can tell you about my own personal practice if you’re interested, right? Well if the question comes up is does. Do we find compassion through our practice when we’re doing our practice?
It doesn’t come naturally as it’s something. We need to strive forward at this time. No, that’s a that’s a really beautiful question. And so the answer is no you do not have to strive for it. It’s already here. There is there it is. It is something that is intrinsically within you and it naturally arises through Insight.
It naturally arises through mindfulness. We can also do specific cultivation practices, but I think the essence of your question is, you know, where is it? It’s inside of you. And when we practice would gently clearing the mud off the diamond so that Dymond cannot be harmed it cannot be defined and it is always just as brilliant as it ever was even as it’s covered with mud and every time we sit and we get more interesting.
Clearing off a little fast at the diamond to maybe we see a little glimmer of that beautiful compassion mind that all of us have within us and then we just continue practicing and pretty soon all the sudden. What you notice is that you can rest in the Brilliance of your heart that you have Equanimity Joy loving-kindness compassion and they’re all one and within that space comes that fearlessness that allows us to stand in the face.
Of difficulty and help hold space for those who have not yet found that in themselves. Those that are still suffering those who still think that they can fight hate with hate or anger with anger and we can look to the great leader a great piece leader such as Martin Luther King and technology and we can see what is consistent.
What is consistent in the Dali Lama? See my friends my enemies what’s consistent in Mother Teresa risking her health. The consistency is the compassion
That they did not hate they refuse to hate they saw hate as suffering and so they had compassion for all of those to try to harm them and they refused to fight back. They only stood with love and those are the people that make indelible marks in our history. So. it’s not something we because we have it.
Sign up it’s it’s not something we need to go find there is nothing else. We can open it up in us or as you say shine that clean the obstacles. So there’s no difference between you and Technology on right? It’s just that we haven’t cleared all of our obscurity a shit. And as you clear them out, so that is sort of what I’m talking about.
So with mindfulness, we have a secular practice called rain, which is recognized except investigating on identification as to how we’re working with difficult emotions. And as I said before these emotions don’t go away. We’re not trying to get rid of them. They transform into wisdom, they transform into insight and compassion and understanding they transform.
So one energy. It’s like let’s think of a recipe one energy into. They’re creating something else. So I don’t know anything about baking bread. So but I had this example that I would use and I don’t know if it’s accurate but let’s say we have flatbread. It has flour water eggs or whatever you put in bread and it’s a flatbread and then perhaps we take that same recipe but we add yeast and now it’s a loaf would we say the flatbread went away and the loaf appeared, right?
No, it transformed because we added another ingredient. So when we have Inger and we add compassion wisdom arises understanding arises. All right, so no mud, no Lotus the difficulties that are here today. The soil for the Awakening of tomorrow. Hmm, and we have to keep our eye on that when we become overwhelmed or we think that things are going to just continue to be difficult.
We have to turn our awareness towards the fact that from great difficulty arises great change and Beauty. Yes, right. We have to remember that I mean if we’re going to be the compassionate Warriors of our time we cannot let ourselves be overwhelmed by the difficulties. We must remember no Mundo Lotus see all the beautiful voices that are arising the unity that’s coming and continue to love to not succumb to hate to not succumb to self and other.
right, right. Thank you. Thank you so much. If there’s any last thing you wanted to add, you know, is there anything else that you want to do? That you wear came up. Yes. I mean, I’m not that’s cool, too. No. I just I guess I would just like to say that I just want to reiterate that we all have the capacity for so much more than we know and we are so much larger and so much more powerful than we know and I can say that to your day and night in and out.
And you don’t have to believe what I’m saying, but the fact is that if we look deeply and we see it for ourselves, then we know and we can act through that right so. Give yourself a chance to look inside, you know to know how amazing you are. Who you are who you truly are in this world?
We don’t have to limit ourselves anymore. We have the practice. Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you. I just I really appreciate the time and the energy and what you had to say, and I just I just I thank you so much for. for. Doing this for me and for all of us for everybody that’s going to hear this in the future.
I think. Oh, it’s so my pleasure. Thank you so much for asking me and bless your heart for this beautiful bodhichitta that. You representing right now by sharing healing practices with the world to help transform their suffering. So I send a blessing for your bodhichitta mind to expand and blossom and grow and bless all of your lifetimes.
Thank you so much. Thank you.