By Steven Hickman
For the eighth time in the past five years, I have had the profound honor and deep joy to participate as a teacher in a 5-Day Professional Training Retreat in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The training took place at beautiful EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California and I had the privilege of teaching alongside my friends and esteemed colleagues, Dr. Zindel Segal and Dr. Sarah Bowen.
31 professionals came from as far away as Hong Kong to learn about MBCT and how it is taught, learning “from the inside out” in this amazing retreat format. Early morning movement and meditation practice and periods of silence (including several silent meals) punctuated our five days together in a way that allowed participants to ground their learning in the refuge of mindfulness. They began as students and ended as teachers, in that they first were participants in an actual MBCT group (reacting and responding to the various practices and exercises that are part of MBCT) and by the end of the training they were leading each other through sitting meditations, body scans and more.
Each time that I get to do this I experience something different, and this time what I took away was captured in the comments and questions people offered late in the week. Early in the week I was struck by the virtual collision between the typical ways in which therapists encounter patients and how an MBCT teacher meets those same individuals. Wanting to teach, fix, shift and “improve” is embedded in our training as therapists, but what we are doing here is so different. Gently guiding people to their own discoveries or awarenesses and to trust their direct moment-to-moment experience above all else feels awkward and insubstantial at first.
But oh, those shifts that took place during the week! It was as if the largely internal process of attending non-judgmentally to all that arises and staying rooted in the fullness of the moment, began to blossom and flourish outwardly in the space between teacher and student, therapist and client. What a great honor and privilege it is to be a part of that process, in some small way, and to be reminded of the power and potential of mindfulness practice. To prevent relapse in depression, to facilitate effective psychotherapy, to bring depth and richness to life itself. There are moments when it all becomes more than words can fully express.
A deep and reverent bow to my colleagues, my students, my new friends. Thank you for the honor of your presence and your hard work.