Humble in the Presence of Learning and Growing: The Experience of Leading a Professional Training

Steve HickmanBy 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 andMBCT Professional Training 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.

3 responses to “Humble in the Presence of Learning and Growing: The Experience of Leading a Professional Training

  1. Such wonderful work, Steve! The transformation from being outside the system to being part of an open system is beautiful to experience (and watch). Thank you for your diligence in teaching!

  2. I’m loving your blog!

  3. Dear everybody: I have had the great good fortune to co teach an MBCT class starting on the Tuesday following my return from the mountain. There are a couple of things I can say about it. The first is that it is a little harder than one might think, but that I have more confidence now(following the 2nd class) than I did while i was teaching the first class. It has been invaluable to have an experienced co teacher with me, but i am beginning to see that i could do an ok job if i had to do it myself. The second thing I want to say is that the approach we learned is very sophisticated, and if applied properly the patients say the most amazing things witout the instructors having to “teach” a single thing.

    The take home message is: have confidence in yourselves, have confidence in the method, and start teaching as soon as you can.

    One other thing that has become clearer to me from this brief teaching experience is the importance of my own practice.

    I also want to mention something that has been on my mind ,which is that i really think the energy from all my fellow participants at the conference was so beneficial. Everybody worked so hard, and this inspired me to work hard also. I have been to many weeklong seminars in which any number of the participants are there on some kind of vacation, picking up some CEUs, geting a tax break, etc. Often they will skip a session or two just because they feel like napping or something. I don’t think a single one of us was in that mode. It seemed that every single one of us wanted to learn!

    The other thing that made this seminar so valuable is that at the end of it you can actually go implement what you learned. It was as though the instructors were not going to let us out of there until we grasped it. So thank you to Steve, Sarah, Zindell!

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