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UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center



About the Instructors


Frank Baird, MA, LMFT, LPCC, Instructor

Frank Baird holds a master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. He is a solution-oriented mindfulness-based Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. He has taught graduate level therapists in training at Phillips Graduate Institute and California State University, Northridge and supervised therapists-in-training at Valley Trauma Center (a sexual assault recovery center) and Phillips Graduate Institute (in their Postmodern Therapies Program). He was founder and Clinical Director at NOW House Therapy Center. He is founder of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®, The Men's March to End Men's Violence Against Women, an organization that facilitates 400+ international Walk events each year. Frank is dedicated to helping people cultivate inner peace, live more fulfilling lives and be active contributors to their communities and the world.

Frank is a UCLA MARC Certified Mindfulness Instructor who teaches mindfulness in a variety of settings, including Kaiser Permanente, Sherman Terrace, Reseda, CA, his private practice in Westlake Village, CA and various other community and private settings when requested.

Gael Belden, MA, Instructor

Gael Belden began her meditation practice over 35 years ago. In 2000 she was lay-ordained by Thich Nhat Nanh, was certified to facilitate mindfulness by UCLA's MARC program, and has completed the Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Training. 

Gael teaches the online MAPs classes for MARC, works closely with UCLA's CMF program, leads retreats, classes in self-compassion, and has created mindfulness and compassion curriculum for distance-learning high school students.  She has worked with teens in both a retreat setting as well as educational settings.  She has an MA in Mythology and Depth Psychology, weaving myth, poetry and story into her mindfulness work. She is keenly interested in the intersection of mindfulness and nature - especially pertaining to water. She is the author of "Soror Mystica" and "Roam: Ojai's Hip, Little Hiking Guide."

Natalie Bell, Instructor

Natalie Bell began practicing mindful awareness in 1985, and lived in an ashram for a year of intensive practice of meditation and daily awareness.  She worked as a Physical Therapist for 17 years with thousands of clients on their approach to health and well-being.  As a UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, Natalie leads workshops and classes for MARC and Teach For America.   Natalie's private practice Mindful Wellness brings awareness and self-compassion practices for greater ease and well-being to individuals and organizations.

Natalie passionately believes we all have within us the gift of renewal, of body, mind, and spirit, as we discover our own capacity for awareness.

Matthew Brensilver, PhD, Instructor

Matthew Brensilver, PhD, holds a master's degree in clinical social work and has done psychotherapy with adolescents, adults and groups. He received a PhD from USC, where his research investigated explanations of psychiatric comorbidity. Matthew is currently a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA's School of Medicine, where he works with a group doing addiction research.  Over a period of years, he was trained to teach mindfulness and has shared the practice with thousands of people in groups at USC, UCLA and within the community. 

Nicholas Bruss
, MA, Instructor

Nicholas holds a master's degree in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies and has practiced Vipassana meditation intensively in the U.S., Burma and Thailand. He has been cross-trained in multiple arenas with compassion at their core such as mindfulness, attachment-based psychotherapy, somatic-based trauma resiliency, nonviolent communication and end of life presence.

He is the Director of CompassionLA, an organization impacting lives with connection cultivating programs for groups, communities and businesses. Nicholas has a keen interest in offering mindfulness and compassion-based practices and has found that they are transformative in BIG and small ways.

Eric López-Maya, Instructor

Eric López-Maya has an extensive background practicing mindfulness and integrating it into different scenarios. He directs REDEA, a leading Institution in Mexico City that offers mindfulness-based interventions for mental health, well-being and stress reduction, both for companies and the general public. He also collaborates with the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center with its Certification Program. He is a clinical psychologist and a PhD candidate in Health Psychology and has led and collaborated in contemplative research projects in Mexico, United States and Germany. He holds a certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation from UCLA and has completed professional training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through the programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He also teaches for the Mindful Schools Program.

He thoroughly enjoys assisting others to learn and deepen their mindfulness practice.

Mitra Manesh, Instructor

Mitra Manesh is a UCLA certified mindfulness educator with more than 20 years experience in teaching and coaching. For over two decades Mitra has been studying and practicing a range of meditation techniques. She studied in Thailand, Canada, and the US with renowned Buddhis Monk, the Venerable Dr. Vivekananda, graduated from the Sacred Path program at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Los Angeles, and is a graduate of UCLA's Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation program, as well as a certified Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) Teacher.

Mitra has served as a Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission of Ontario, Canada, a journalist with her own show & weekly program on OMNI TV and CBC in Canada, and a senior executive at numerous profit and non-profit entities. Today, Mitra brings mindfulness into workplaces, provides mindfulness-based personal coaching, teaches mindfulness living/meditation, and runs silent retreats.

Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD, Instructor

Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD, OMC, holds a doctorate degree in Organizational Management Consulting.  She is the Founder of Mindful Business Institute and Co-Founder of Mindful Valley with over 20 years practice in yoga and meditation and 10 years intensive experience in Mindfulness meditation and other related teachings.  As the Co-Founder of Mindful Valley, Manijeh, coordinated and participated in over 45 day-long retreats, over 50 beginning and advanced mindfulness classes, workshops and presentations and began to take the lead teacher position for Mindful Valley in 2013. She has trained and taught Mindfulness to hundreds of individuals, executives and staff at corporations, non-profits, health-care and academic settings. 

Manijeh is a UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator and authorized MAPs I teacher.  She continues to study and practice Mindfulness and other Buddhist teachings with teachers at the Abhayagiri Monastery, Trudy Goodman at InsightLA, as well as other secular groups. As a dedicated practitioner and teacher, she infuses mindfulness in all her training, consulting and speaking engagements to optimize success and well-being for all involved.

Heather Prete, Instructor

Heather is a UCLA certified mindfulness facilitator and Self Compassion teacher and has accumulated over ten years of teaching experience. She began her own formal practice in 1998 training in the US, Canada and Asia. She entered her first teacher training 7 years later with an emphasis on Tibetan compassion practices. Heather has subsequently trained at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, completing the Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation and MAPS Teacher Training. Heather teaches throughout the Los Angeles area in many capacities including training PHD interns self compassion at Tarzana Hospital, leading mindfulness classes through Alternative's Brain Institute, as staff at Aternatives Treatment Center, and as a guiding teacher through Mindful Schools online adult courses. Since 2000 Heather has remained committed to training that includes yearly retreats ranging from 7 to 30 days in length.

Brian Shiers, Instructor

Brian Shiers, UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, has studied integrated meditation practice and embodied mindfulness methods at the Gurdjieff Foundation Los Angeles since 1993, and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist practices for over eleven years.  He has a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Mindfulness & Psychotherapy at the Phillips Graduate Institute, and is a Certified MAPs Instructor, leading classes for UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center off-campus in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Burbank.  Brian also works exclusively with the UCLA women's varsity volleyball teams, providing mind training to access flow states more reliably as well as provide for a more whole-person development of the student athlete.  In addition, Brian consults with corporate clients such as Salesforce.com and Mattel to tailor mindfulness programs around workplace wellness and executive performance.
Brian is passionate about sharing mindfulness practices with people searching for inner balance, bridging the gap between science and experience, spiritual practice and everyday life.

Tempel Smith, Instructor

Tempel Smith began practicing intensive Insight and Metta retreats in 1989 under the guidance of Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. He spent a year as a monk in Burma with Sayadaw U Pandita and Pa Auk Sayadaw, and has been teaching since 1997. He is the founder of BASE House, a collective of Buddhist activists and service providers in San Francisco. Tempel has completed the four year teacher-training program run by Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Society. He also leads pilgrimages to Thailand, Burma, and India.

Samantha Snowden, MA, Instructor

Samantha Snowden has her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from UCLA and her Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. While at Columbia, Samantha taught graduate-level courses on Mindfulness-Based Interventions with Children and conducted research related to mindfulness in schools. She has mentored, counseled and taught mindfulness both within local community centers and schools as well as abroad, most recently in Peru.

Daisy Swan, MA, Instructor

Daisy Swan, is a UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, who has studied and practiced mindfulness meditation throughout the past 30 years, originally as a student of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche in Boulder, CO. She is also a mindfulness instructor at Insight LA in Santa Monica, teaching classes on Mindfulness and Career Transition, as well as Calm Communication based on mindfulness practices.  Additionally, Daisy earned her Certification as a Somatic Coach from the Strozzi Institute in Petaluma, CA and is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, CA. She regularly attends silent retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.

Daisy is a career expert, strategist, and coach with her own business for the past 20+ years, assisting hundreds of clients to make the career and personal choices and transitions that change their lives for the better. Known for her innate curiosity, intelligence, and compassionate approach, Daisy guides her clients to clarify their needs and goals, and supports them as they find and take the necessary steps to realize the life they desire. Originally from New York City, she lives in Manhattan Beach with her 17 year old son and their terrier, Otto.


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MARC programs are co-sponsored by the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.

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