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Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living course

My first Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living course is well underway in central Newcastle upon Tyne and we are now currently looking forward to our day of practice which follows week 7 of the course, which will be held in the rural, tranquil setting of Newton and Bywell Community Hall, near Stocksfield.

MBCL was developed by two experienced mindfulness trainers, psychiatrist/psychotherapist Erik van den Brink and meditation teacher/ health care professional Frits Koster who pioneered mindfulness-based work in the Dutch mental health services. I completed training over the course of 3 years with Erik van den Brink in 2017, and I am delighted to be offering  this deeply life-enriching course in the north-east.

The aim of MBCL is to deepen the mindfulness-based path to alleviate suffering and enhance physical, psychological and social well-being by offering a secular advanced training in compassion practice towards oneself and others. The programme integrates wisdom from the contemplative traditions with modern scientific insights drawn from neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, positive psychology and therapeutic models such as mindfulness-based approaches, Compassion Focused Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  The practices offered build on the skills developed in mindfulness practice and the course is suitable for anyone who wishes to deepen their personal practice with the heart qualities of  compassion.  The course is designed as a group training for participants who have previously followed an MBSR,  MBCT, Breathworks or equivalent programme and anyone who wishes to deepen their mindfulness practice with heart and the focus of compassion.

Compassion is defined as the capacity to be sensitive to the suffering of ourselves and others and the willingness to relieve and prevent it (Paul Gilbert, 2104). Compassion has a transpersonal quality, as it involves commitment to alleviate suffering, whoever is the potential sufferer. Therefore, when we speak of compassion, we include ‘self-compassion’ . What we do for ourselves we do for others, and what we do for others, we do for ourselves. Many recognise their tendency to overlook themselves while trying to be compassionate and the course helps to find greater ease in dealing with life’s inevitable pain and ‘dis-ease’, as well as developing a kinder and warmer attitude of receiving and giving of care, to self and others.

The emphasis on the course is on experiential work and building up the practice of compassion,  and participants are encouraged to spend 45 mins to an hour daily on the  formal and informal exercises in daily life.  A range of suggestions for home practice are given following each session, rather than specific homework. This enables participants to tune in to their deeper needs and to work at a suitable pace . Key practices include; soothing breathing rhythm; kindness meditation; compassionate imagery; dealing compassionately with resistance, desire, and inner difficulties; compassionate breathing; walking and moving and bringing kindness to the body; compassionate letter writing; practising sympathetic joy, gratitude, forgiveness and equanimity; cultivating a compassionate mind and inner helper and learning to work with  the ‘inner critic’; taking in what nourishes us and contributes to happiness.

The course is greatly enhanced by the key teaching themes of the MBCL curriculum, including the evolutionary perspective of the multi-layered brain; acknowledging pain and suffering as part of life; gaining insight in to the three basic emotion regulation (threat, drive and soothing) systems and how to recognise them in ourselves and cultivate a healthy balance in daily life; deepening understanding of stress reactions like fight, flight and freeze, tend and befriend, and their psychological equivalents; understanding how influences from outside  such as an ‘inner critic’ and maladaptive inner patterns  can easily cause imbalances;  seeing how to build an “inner helper” and compassionate mind. The course also looks at the process of over-identifying and de-identifying; our social connectedness and cultivating a sense of common humanity;  our capacity for absorbing positive experiences and perspectives that contribute to happiness;  and developing the Four Friends for Life (a secular naming for the Four Boundless States or Brahmaviharas): loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

The combination of practice and theory in the course  work beautifully together. The process enables a language and understanding  of compassion to grow up experientially, as an infusion of understanding and skills, rebuilding new perspectives in the inner landscape of the mind and heart and helping to  engage more compassionately with life itself. The course sessions are held weekly to fortnightly to allow space to explore and integrate the practices fully and regular calendar exercises are offered to help with practising mindful compassion  in daily life. A traditional metaphor of compassion that suits the learning of the course well is that from the mud of suffering, a new lotus is given space to bloom, each with its own individual patterns of experience and developing potential. The compassionate mind that is within each one of us is given space and courage to  connect with its own capacities and qualities, and find renewed expression and care.

“Out of the soil of friendliness, grows the beautiful bloom of compassion, watered by the tears of joy, under the cool shade of equanimity”.

Longchenpa

I will be offering the MBCL course again in the coming months.  If you are interested in attending this course, please register interest via the MBCL page on my website or drop me an email at gwennie@mindfulnessinlife.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Keeping Practice Alive Through Personal Practice Mentoring

As we continue our journey of mindfulness practice, it is vitally important in the long term that we keep our engagement and motivation alive, with a wind of enthusiasm and purpose at our back. We need to nurture a clear intention of why we’re practising and how we are engaging with what arises along the way. In so doing, we keep close to the possibilities that practice offers us for leading a meaningful life, of benefit to ourselves and others.

Whether you have recently completed an eight-week MBSR or MBCT course, or have been practising for some time, the journey of practice involves a continuous enquiry in to how we relate to our practice, as well as specific considerations about the experience of practice itself. It matters that we maintain interest in what happens, even when the journey seems boring, frustrating or irritating, when we lose inspiration or experience bouts of laziness and discouragement, when we question what we’re doing and perhaps encounter difficulties with practice.

As mindfulness-based teachers, it is especially important that we keep closely connected to the roots of our own practice and maintain an active and clear interest in how our practice unfolds and develops over time, as this will naturally inform our teaching practice, and allow it to be authentic and vivid.

The Mindfulness Network has recently launched a new provision in the form of personal practice mentoring to facilitate the exploration of ongoing mindfulness practice in our everyday lives and work. The aim of this provision is to support ongoing personal mindfulness practice within a secular framework and context, through one-to-one sessions, with an experienced mindfulness-based teacher/supervisor.

As a mentor, I greatly value the richly creative space that mentoring offers for sharing the unique journey of practice with others, and enquiring into something that is so fundamental to our human growth, development and evolving potential.

Our mentors at the Mindfulness Network have a wealth of practice experience between them and they are all deeply committed to offering this opportunity for an enhanced focus on personal practice and to providing supportive connection and guidance along the way. However long you have been practising and however you feel your practice is going, practice mentoring can encourage you in your endeavours, and offers valuable space for reflection, fresh inspiration, and renewed enquiry.

Do you think this might benefit you? For further information about practice mentoring, how it works and who it is for, and to see a list of mentors, please go to www.mindfulness-supervision.org.uk.

Mindfulness in Education Conference 2016

I recently attended the Mindfulness in Education Conference 2016 at the Institute of Education in central London, organised by the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), which was attended by over 700 delegates, from all over the UK and abroad. It was a stimulating day of presentations and break-out sessions and a chance to find out how mindfulness is beginning to make a difference to the well-being of staff and pupils in schools. Although not a school teacher myself, I have teenage girls going through exam years at GCSE and A level, and know from our own experience as a family, the pressures and stresses that young people go through. I have recently trained in delivering the .b Foundations course for  school staff through the Mindfulness in Schools Project.

The day was introduced by Professor Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor at the Universities of Southampton and Exeter, and a freelance consultant. She described mindfulness as the “WD40 of education – it unlocks doors”, and  “helping people to live the lives they want.” Professor Mark Williams, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), gave a wonderfully clear talk about the origins and applications of mindfulness, tracing mindfulness to its roots in the long river of practical philosophy from Asia, through to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering work in the Stress Reduction Clinic which he founded in 1979 at the University of Massachussets Medical School, and to the emergence  of mindfulness today  in diverse contexts right across the spectrum of society, offering a  life-changing “way of cultivating a sense of changed narrative from self-criticism to self-care that is foundational for being fully human.”

Richard Burnett, Co-founder and Director of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, talked about how the possibility of introducing mindfulness in schools has now shifted from a field of possibility to a dawning growth of massive potential through the introduction  of mindfulness courses into school curriculums ,  through the development of Paws.b and .b  mindfulness courses for junior and secondary schools, and the recent .b Foundations training for school staff. He described  how these courses  offered the evolving  possibility of “putting well-being at the heart of school” and “nurturing staff to nurture children”. He cautioned that mindfulness should not be adopted as a “panacea” and that it would be “token-istic” if a school were not embedded in mindfulness, through the thorough training of staff and the gradual development of a mindful culture within a school, a process that needed time to evolve and to be effective, and to grow in to place through the principles of established practice.

Anthony Selden, the biographer and historian,  then chaired a lively  panel discussion with children and teaching staff of schools where mindfulness has been successfully introduced, with an inspiring and realistic discussion of the challenges of introducing mindfulness to schools and the deep benefits it brings, not only to the  core well-being of staff and  children, but also to  the children in terms of their capacity to handle their emotions, stresses and difficultes through the effective skills that mindfulness practice  gives them for approaching life in general, as well as encouraging a creative response to learning with greater focus, resilience and increased performance ability, confidence, and emotional self-regulation A teacher who had experienced the 8 week course for staff said: “It was really holistic. It helped me with everything I had to deal with”.

The panel discusson was then followed by Tim Loughton MP who had worked on the All Party Paliamentary Group “Mindful Nation Report”, and cautioned that the increasing mental health issues of young people were “at risk of being seen as normal rather than as  a crisis”. He highlighted  mindfulness as “non-stigmatising, practical and popular” and that it wasn’t just a potential add-on in education, but something that needed to be “mainstream at the heart of education” with its researched benefits in supporting” health, creativity and productivity” and that this was “firmly on the radar of government now” as an important innovation in education policy.

A comment that summed up the potential for mindfulness supporting future generations came from a young girl, possibly aged 8 or 9, who sat calmly and quietly on her chair on stage in front of the 700 delegates and listening attentively throughout the long banter and  discussion between panel members. When finally asked how mindfulness helped her in her school day, she  simply replied “it just helps me  to feel calm”.

For further information, go to www. mindfulnessinschools.org.