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UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

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Instructors

About the Instructors

Gael Belden, MA, Instructor

Gael Belden began her meditation practice 30 years ago. In 2000 she was lay-ordained by Thich Nhat Nanh. She has studied koans with John Tarrant and is completing the training at UCLA for the Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation.

She has been leading Days of Mindfulness for many years and created an online mindfulness and awareness classroom 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 weaves myth, poetry and story into her mindfulness work. She is keenly interested in the intersection of mindfulness and nature - especially water, and through her work, blueMindfulness, she hopes to help others re-imagine a deeper connection to the astonishing beauty of our planet.

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. 

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 Prete is a UCLA certified mindfulness facilitator and MAPS teacher Training graduate. Having begun her own practice over 13 years ago, she trained in the US, Canada and Asia. Heather has had the opportunity to share mindfulness in a variety of settings including training PHD interns in self-compassion at Tarzana Treatment Center, helping those in recovery at women's sober homes, holding weekly classes at Alternative's Brain Institute, leading classes for young adults in transition from psychiatric care at OPI, and teaching actors to have more joy in their careers through mindfulness practices. She also teaches clients around the world through Mindful Schools online courses.

Heather studied psychology at DePaul University and Theater at ACT San Francisco.

Brian Shiers, Instructor

Brian Shiers, BA, UCLA Certified Mindfulness Facilitator, has studied integrated practice and embodied mindfulness methods at the Gurdjieff Foundation Los Angeles since 1993, and Tibetan vajrayana Buddhist practices for the last eight years.  He has a degree in Kinesiology and is a Certified MAPs Level I instructor, leading classes for UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center off-campus in the San Fernando Valley.  Brian is also employed by Appropriate Response, a San Francisco-based executive coaching firm, where he provides corporate mindfulness training to such organizations as Salesforce.com and Riot Games.
 
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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