Interview with Koncha Pinós-Pey: "We Learn What We Experience"
Focused on the transmission and application of mindfulness in all fields of teaching, Koncha speaks from a very rich life, precisely, in learnings and experiences, as many as his vital and intellectual concerns. We talk to her about mindfulness, what it entails and what it can bring us.
She holds a PhD in International Politics, co-founder of Contemplative Studies and director of the Master's Degree in Mindfulness and Relational Skills, MIMIND -Mindfulness and Multiple Intelligences-, from where she develops mindfulness and multiple intelligence curriculums in addition to teaching children, educators, parents, therapists and health professionals.
Koncha participates in various research studies on the impact of diagnosis on the patient's mind, in primary and preschool education; in another study on the power of empathy and compassion in the psychological well-being of people with reduced mobility. In addition, he presents presentations and lectures at Universities, medical centers and professional programs. She is a consultant for different organizations on the teaching of mindfulness and multiple intelligences in a lay way and according to each age.
Koncha is currently immersed in writing a book on mindfulness and multiple intelligences for children. Among his professors is Paul Guilbert at Cambridge, Howard Gardner at Harvard and Stanford or Fabrizio Didonna in Italy.
How does Yoga relate to mindfulness?
Since Yoga and meditation reached the West, at least 40 years have passed, and things have changed. They have changed in the East (when you go to India, you no longer find so many sadhus and yogis in the streets, but a globalized India that looks much more like our societies). And also when you go to America you see more and more meditators and more yogis. So something is changing in both areas of the world.
Yoga came to the West at a time when this part of the world needed it. And now comes mindfulness as a purely Western process, of assimilation of the philosophy of the East, in at least two or three generations of transformation. It is no longer so much that a lama or swami from India comes to pass on his lineage to us; already the lineages have grown in the West, with our conditionings and conditions of mind. The real encounter between the philosophy of East and West, between the emptiness of the mind and the pursuit of happiness, is already a fact.
And how do Yoga and mindfulness approach and move away?
Mindfulness means mindfulness or fullness of the mind. The Sanskrit and Eastern mind is not indivisible of the heart. We can say that we are seeking fullness towards happiness. The ultimate goal of mindfulness is for all beings to be happy, and for that they must stop suffering. Therefore we could say that mindfulness is not a set of techniques but more a philosophy of life, just as Yoga is too.
But Yoga uses the disciplines of the body more through assanas. Mindfulness is more of a mental technology. A person can practice mindfulness with Yoga techniques and with others such as Taichi, Chikung. And also cooking, bathing your baby or walking you can do mindfulness.
The difference in mindfulness is that you can be present at any time in your life if you are aware of three things: 1. What happens in your mind; 2. What happens in the outside experience; and 3. What's your reaction to those facts. Any practice that answers those three questions is mindfulness.
Therefore, there are mindfuln activities that are formal and other informal. Formally I can do different types of meditation or Yoga, but informally mindfulness is very useful because you can do it at any time. For example, when you're listening carefully to a friend, putting yourself in their place. That's where mindfulness uses two very important techniques: empathy and compassion.
How do you summarize the advancement of mindfulness and its implementation?
Minfulness emerged 25 years ago from a group of doctors (Saki Santoreli and Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Massachusetts Institute), who question how to end the suffering of the mind and how many known techniques could be used with patients with mental, cancer, stress problems. Then another current appears that connects mindfulness with psychology, and Dan Siegel and other psychologists in the United States begin to apply it in their therapies.
Now we are in the third generation of mindfulness, especially after Rizzolatti's discovery of mirror neurons, something that yogis had already said when they talked about empty but that we had not understood in the West because we had not experienced it. And this is very important: things are not learned because someone tells you them but because you have experienced them.
Could you explain it more?
Our children do not learn because we tell them this is what needs to be learned, but because they feel that there is empathy with the person who teaches it and an environment that allows them to be who they are. If allowed, then the door of learning opens, and we call it sympathetic empathy. Neuroscience does many experiments with happiness, and discovers that when there is more happiness the left temporal lobe is activated. And it concludes that there are happy and less happy individuals based on the activation of these compassionate and empathetic areas.
This, applied to learning, is total: because we can see how a child is learning empathetically or not. Therefore, mindfulness serves to put your mind into empathy and understanding with others and be more present since not doing.
How to practice mindfulness?
Detaching, because basically what mindfulness does is empty the contents of your mind and continuously build your memories. It is something that quantum physics describes; if I look at a spoon, while I look at it the spoon is no longer the same. If I look at a problem from different perspectives, the problem is going to change. What minfsulness does in the clinical field is transform a subject's experience and memories and create space to fill him with compassion and empathy for himself. Because a lot of the problems we have is because we don't love each other. Mindfulness works with emptiness, with space.
And who intervenes in that process?
Mindfulness is not so much learning as visualizing your mental abilities, that you have them. Therefore, we helped that conscious awakening process that has a lot to do with having an instructor who was able to make you an empathetic transfer (this route also has some gurukula, guided process). The second thing that is highly recommended at first is to have a working group. And then follow any of the methodologies or schools that are proposed.
What time can it take you to adapt your mind in terms of mindfulnness?
The discovery that our brain learns plastically and that our neurons do not die as we were told has freed us from a number of misconceptions. Of course, the younger you are, the faster you learn. We can teach mindfulness to a child from 3 to 5 years old in three days; an adult, as he has traumatic material and unresolved experiences, may take longer.
A basic course lasts 16 hours, although we recommend that students practice full-year mindfulness once a week, at no cost, until they acquire the dynamic. It's easier to do 3 or 7 minutes of non-formal mindfulness every day than to go to a ten-day Vipassana retreat that you won't resist, because it can't your mind with all the material that emerges, with all the pain and suffering.
Does mindfulness help you process all that unconscious material that emerges to consciousness?
Mindfulness what it does is give you back to responsibility for everything that happens in your mind, for all that lived experience. Sometimes we go to a psychologist, we don't sit in front of him, we tell him everything and we hope the psychologist will elaborate it for us and give us answers. Mindfulness doesn't make you anything or give you answers. All it does is make the unconscious contents emerge and pass them on to the conscious. And as long as you make them conscious, you've solved a good part. And at the same time he reassures you and says, "Okay, there's a tiger in the yard. Wait; look at it again. Oh, it was a cat." This is very important in mindfulness: form, emptiness and perception. Because sometimes subjects have exorbitant perceptions about experiences; they feed them so much that they thicken them, when there's really no such thing.
What are the most common mental traps in your experience?
We are confronted with four demons (if I may) of our mind. The first is to believe that all things come from outside and that outsiders are responsible for what happens. The second is to believe that everything comes from you and that you are responsible for everything: guilt and shame, very intrinsic in our culture. The third demon is that of "I am already a meditator or a yogi". And the third is the ego: "I've already made it, I'm invincible." Then mindfulness tells you: there's no one to get or anything to get.
The enlightenment of the mind is not a permanent state that you get and there you stay. You have to work your mind because it's pure plastic interdependence, so even if you've achieved a minimum state of consciousness, it doesn't mean you keep it tomorrow. You're like an athlete, and mindfulness your training.
How does it relate to multiple intelligences?
Howard Gardner's discoveries of the different natures of the mind let him know that there are different learning styles and visions of what the educational paradigm was. Researching with meditation techniques what those different minds were like, he concludes that there are many types of intelligences, not just logic-mathematics and verbal. And he's trying them out, and he's tried eight so far, though he recognizes there are 24.
How do those eight intelligences link to mindfulness?
Once you acquire the potential to see your mind as an enlightened mind, you can express it in different areas, and those are your multiple intelligences. Without practice, mindfulness doesn't exist, so if you practice it you're going to want to express your mind differently than you've done so far. You may need more visoespatial, or kinetic, or artistic learning, and not so much to make it fit into the logical-mathematical or verbal patterns of today's education.
There are many traits of genius in autism, but the environment cannot understand that there are minds that express themselves differently. If a child diagnosed as autistic is treated like a genius, this child will behave like a genius in empathetic terms. This is what mindfulness and multiple intelligences do with children, and not only for them, but for parents and teachers, who often do not understand that children are suffering within a diagnosis or a totally wrong evaluation.
It's as if a primate evaluates a human, and that's how we're doing with our children, evaluating them with totally old instruments. That's why we conclude that we have generations of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) kids. But we don't have kids with ADHD; we have a planet ADHD that needs to label children whose main vision and abilities (visoespatial, kinetic or musical) can't incorporate because it's an ancient environment.
In our schools there is no response to gifted children, and there are many more that are being treated. You pay all the attention to the clinical, to the still, child. In a clinical study we are doing in Girona, we have one hundred children of whom between 40% and 60% were ADHD, autistic, or behavioral disorders. And they get better with just 45 minutes of class. After two or three months they can start quitting medications if there is very good support. We don't tell parents to take their pills, but they start to wonder that maybe that's not the way.