48 FEBRUARY 2019 MARIN
divorce. We’ve had a lot of people with a cancer diagnosis
and treatment,” Gehret says. “It can’t change your external
circumstances, but it can change your perception and resil-
ience when [you’re] going through rough patches in life.”
Extensive research on meditation offers evidence of
very real health benefits for those dealing with high blood
pressure, inflammation, insomnia, irritable bowel, colitis,
menopause and insomnia. Regular meditation also appears
to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as age-
related dementia. Studies about meditation and aging point
to an increase of neuroplasticity, gray matter and cortical
thickness — all associated with decision-making and mem-
ory — in the brain. Mill Valley resident Christine Curtin
Savala, whose mother passed away from Alzheimer’s last
year, believes in meditation as preventive medicine. “I’ve
seen the effects of Alzheimer’s up close,” she says. “Keeping
my brain healthy is definitely a motivation for my practice.”
Who meditates? A recent report using data from the 2017
National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that the
percentage of people in the United States who meditate rose
significantly over the past five years, from 4.1 percent in 2012
to 14. 5 percent in 2017. Worldwide, estimates range from 200
million to 500 million engaging in this ancient practice for
spiritual, emotional, mental and physical reasons.
Savala, a psychologist with four children, had always had
a spiritual interest in Buddhism, but her original impetus
for exploring meditation was at least somewhat practical.
Twenty years ago she noticed that Green Gulch Farm and
Zen Center had a family program some Sunday mornings,
so she and her husband could join a sitting meditation class
while the kids participated in their own activities.
“I can get pretty distracted with the kids and the job
and other people’s issues, and meditation creates a ground-
ing and calm, a space bet ween emotion and action. I need
that because I can sometimes be a little fiery,” Savala says,
laughing. This “space” has become essential to her work as
a psychologist and a parent. “Meditation helps me, with my
kids and my clients; it makes me be more gentle in life. More
deeply empathetic and forgiving.”
Bill Hoppin, also of Mill Valley, had just gone through a
divorce when he signed up for a weeklong sitting medita-
tion at Spirit Rock in Woodacre. “I went from zero to 160
when I joined that retreat,” he says. The first three days were
a struggle, he admits. He felt unsettled and slept through
many of the sessions, but during days four through seven,
he began to feel extraordinary physical and mental ben-
efits. “I don’t think I would have arrived in that space if I
hadn’t struggled during day one through three,” he adds.
“The memory of the relaxation I found on that retreat is
something I now carry with me every day.”
Sausalito resident Carol Hoang works in biotech and
turned to meditation a year and a half ago to improve her
workplace experience and performance. “We in Marin are
so often the best of the best in our fields, but we can work so
hard we drive ourselves right into the ground,” she notes. “I
enjoy my work, but I wanted tools to enjoy it even more, to
manage the physical and mental damage of a demanding job,
and to be able to perform better.” Now Hoang meditates and
uses meditation techniques almost every day — standing at
a whiteboard or in a contentious meeting at work. “When
that reptilian brain starts to kick in, it helps me make better
decisions,” she says. “I have more brain capacity.”
How much time does it take? Kayse Gehret has clients who,
Where can you learn to meditate in Marin? You can find
like Hoang, come to class four or five times a week. Other
people stop in every once in a great while. Most find that
classes and retreats offer the most meaningful experience,
but they supplement their practice at home, using a medita-
tion app or what they’ve learned in class. “I think one of the
things is realizing that there’s no ‘perfect’ way to approach
meditation; there are no strict guidelines like you’d have
with a diet,” Hoang says. “You practice and try different
approaches and discover what works in your life.”
Hoppin now practices integrated yoga as his primary form
of meditation, while Savala takes an “as needed” approach,
which means there are times when she meditates every day
and other periods when the sitting is much less regular.
opportunities to try different forms of meditation through-
out the county, from free hourlong introductory classes to
fee-based weeklong retreats or training sessions.
• Anubhuti Meditation and Retreat Center in Novato
holds a Creative Meditation class every Sunday
10: 30 a.m.–noon (donations encouraged), as well as talks,
workshops and retreats.
• Buddhist Temple of Marin in Mill Valley has free
Introductory Buddhist Meditation classes every Tuesday
night from 7: 30 to 8: 30 p.m.
• Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach offers a
Sunday meditation instruction and Dharma Talk at 10 a.m.
On the first Sunday of the month a Family Program has
special programming for kids.
• Marin General Hospital Mindfulness Meditation and
Relaxation classes are free every Monday, 10–11 a.m.
• Soulstice Mind and Body Spa in Sausalito holds fee-based
meditation and mindfulness classes and offers massage ther-
apy, yoga, qi gong and a variety of mind-body experiences.
• Spirit Rock in Woodacre has a full calendar of fee-based
residential and drop-in classes, retreats, speakers and
• Tamalpais Shambhala in San Rafael offers a Sunday
Morning Community Meditation class from 10 a.m. to noon
(donations encouraged), plus a variety of workshops and
special programs. m
from top: Spirit Rock in
room at Spirit Rock; Daigan
Lueck of Green Gulch.