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Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
This is either really boring theater, or we're supposed to be meditating

Grrr, Los Angeles. Sometimes you really stress us out. Between 405 freeway traffic jams and that April 15 tax deadline, these days we’re looking for a non-hangover-inducing way to chill out.

The solution is simply to sit back and do nothing, according to UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Weekdays at lunchtime, MARC instructors lead free half-hour meditation classes in which non-monks meet up to calm down--as well as decrease depression, boost immunity and lower blood pressure.

We attended a Thursday session at the Hammer Museum (other locations include the university’s Powell Library), where we collapsed into a plush seat, frazzled from driving through Westwood. Velvet-voiced instructor Gloria Kamler explained that mindfulness is paying attention to present-moment experiences with openness and curiosity. She asked us to feel our feet on the floor. Then for 15 minutes, 100 meditators sat in a silence broken only when--of course!--a cell phone erupted.

After the session, we felt like we’d had the smallest dose of Valium: that is, less rushed and worried. MARC also offers workshops ($15), online classes ($165) and free podcasts. We’re keeping mindfulness handy for the next time the 405 is a parking lot.

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-443-7000 or marc.ucla.edu

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