Category Archives: MSC: Mindful Self-Compassion

New Retreat Offered to Meet the Needs of Teachers of Mindfulness-Based Programs

By Susan Woods, LICSW

WoodsSusan

Susan Woods

In time everything changes and the field of mindfulness is no exception. Over the years one of the recommendations for becoming an instructor interested in teaching a mindfulness-based program (MBP), has been the requirement to attend silent teacher-led mindfulness retreats. This is because teaching mindfulness-based programs profoundly relies on the teacher having a personal working experiential knowledge of what happens to the mind/body when engaging in mindfulness meditation practice.

The field of MBPs is becoming professionalized and that includes continued discussions about developing consensus and standardization for the training of MBP instructors. This means that specific training pathways are being identified for the development of best practice skills. Many professional people are attracted to offering MBPs and unlike in the early days of MBPs, most do not have established meditation practices.

One of the questions the field is now facing is how to best support trainee MBP teachers in developing and sustaining a personal meditation practice and importantly how this influences the development of mindfulness-based teaching skills. There will always be the option to attend silent teacher-led meditation retreats. Indeed, over the long term, there is no better way to nourish mindfulness meditation practice for MBP teachers.

But many experienced MBP teachers believe the time has come for the field to consider the development of specific mindfulness retreat trainings that take into account sustained periods of silence and teacher-led meditation practices alongside explicitly designed teaching modules that address and support the teaching of MBPs. This would help to bring a clearer identity to the field of MBPs as a profession and in turn place less reliance on the traditional form of Buddhist practice centers.

Faculty: Susan Woods, LICSW
& Helen Vantine, PhD
Chapin Mill Retreat Center, Batavia, NY

In March 2017, the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute (MBPTI)  at UC San Diego, is sponsoring just such a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat. This five-day training, offered at the lovely Chapin Mill Retreat Center in Batavia, New York, designed by myself and Helen Vantine will offer the opportunity to experience sustained periods of silence with teacher-led mindfulness meditation practices combined with teaching modules that relate to answering the question, how does sustaining a personal mindfulness meditation practice influence the ability to become a skilled MBI teacher.

The retreat meets the requirements for a teacher-led silent retreat training as a part of MBSR/MBCT/MSC Certification through the MBPTI at UC San Diego and at the Center for Mindfulness Studies, Toronto, Canada. We look forward to having you join us.

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How About Making an “Old Year’s Resolution” to Be More Compassionate to Yourself in the New Year?

steve-hickmanBy Steven Hickman, Psy.D.
Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher and Teacher Trainer
Executive Director, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

Perhaps you have seen the clever t-shirt depicting a pirate on his ship exclaiming “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” We tend to laugh at that sentiment because at some point in our lives we have probably found ourselves on the receiving end of that sort of “logic”. And we also laugh because we know it is a ridiculous notion that pummeling someone with negativity will bring about more positivity. It’s like continuing to put your car in reverse in order to move forward.

But consider for a moment where your New Year’s Resolutions come from and see if there are some seeds of this approach in how you treat yourself. Do you look into the mirror and think, “Listen Big Guy, I know you want to lose a few pounds because it’s important to you to stay healthy for your wife and kids. Can you commit to working on this in the New Year”? Or is the tone a bit more like “What’s wrong with you? How could you let yourself go like this? This is so typical of you. You’re such a lazy bum. You need to get off your butt and exercise. This year’s New Year’s resolution will be lose that ugly gut!”

For many of us these days, the latter judgmental tone is much more familiar than the former, more kind and encouraging tone. And we actually know from the research on self-compassion, done by Dr. Kristin Neff and others, that we are significantly more effective at motivating ourselves to change if that motivation involves a self-compassionate, rather than punitive and critical, approach.

In the Mindful Self-Compassion program created by Christopher Germer, Ph.D. and Kristin Neff, Ph.D., there is a key exercise called Finding Your Core Values (drawn from Steven Hayes’ Acceptance and Commitment) where we guide people to consider what is most deeply important in their lives, and where they are not living in accord with those values. Perhaps you value ease and equanimity in your personal life, and you find that meditation supports you in that, but lately you haven’t been meditating as much as you would like. This is a place where you are out of alignment with your core values. How helpful have you found it to berate yourself for not meditating enough? That’s what I thought!

What if you could connect more deeply with what really moves you and be guided by that in difficult or stressful times so that you make better choices that are more in alignment with what is profoundly important to you? Research suggests that one way to do this would be to let go of the self-critical voice that is desperately trying to take care of you and keep you from harm, but doing it in dysfunctional and counter-productive ways like that pirate above!

When you ponder something you would like to change about yourself or your behavior (things that you can actually change) as part of a New Year’s resolution, consider how you normally talk to yourself about that behavior and how successful that approach has been so far (given that it is still on your list of things you want to change!). And then consider the possibility of speaking to yourself in a more loving and supportive way, the way you would want to be motivated by a mentor or coach or supportive friend. Could the more self-compassionate approach actually touch the part of you that wants very much for this change to happen? What would it be like to motivate yourself out of love and positive regard for yourself rather than criticism, judgment and shaming?

All evidence points to this self-compassion approach being far more effective and sustainable than the self-critical approach and it actually feels better too!

If you find yourself struggling with being kind to yourself, or want to be able to meet your own struggle and suffering with tolerance, warmth and acceptance, you might want consider taking the Mindful Self-Compassion program, either in an 8-week version if one is near you, or in a 5-day intensive format. Check the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion website for more information on programs near you.

Steven D. Hickman, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and Executive Director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. He is a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher as well as being co-developer of the MSC Teacher Training. Dr. Hickman and Kristy Arbon will be offering a 5-day intensive version of MSC in Barre, Massachusetts on January 18-23, 2015. Check Kristy Arbon’s Mindful Self-Compassion Training website for more information and to register. If you are in San Diego, consider taking the 8-week MSC course in January.

 

Putting good out, Getting good in?

By Blair Buckman

michelleBecker

Michelle Becker, MA, LMFT, Director of Compassion Programs, Senior Teacher

Join Michelle Becker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for one of our Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) programs this fall. Michelle believes, “when we meet suffering with awareness and kindness it is often life-changing.”

We’ve all heard the expression that if “you put good in, you get good out,” but what about the opposite? What about putting “good” out by spreading kindness to oneself and others and seeing the benefits on your health and well-being? More and more research is pointing to the health benefits of exhibitingself-compassion-sm compassion towards oneself and others. Compassion, as defined as an affective state and subjective feeling, distinct from empathy or sympathy, it can be said to encompass three main components, which are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003; Schzntz, 2007; Goetz, Keltner, & Simon-Thomas, 2010). Moreover pioneering compassion researcher, Kristin Neff (2003) supplements that compassion involves being understanding of oneself and one’s struggles, viewing one’s suffering in the context of the shared human condition, and being aware and nonjudgmental without over-identification, with a desire to alleviate suffering. Recent compassion research is demonstrating the positive benefits of compassion on one’s health and well-being, including less self-judgment, less isolation, lower levels of pain, anger and psychological distress (Pinto-Gouveia & Costa, 2011; Carson et al., 2005). Other studies refer to the implications of compassion on the neuroendocrine, innate immune, and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress (Pace et al, 2009).

With more research continually demonstrating compassion’s potential, perhaps it is time for you to consider taking one of our upcoming Self-Compassion Programs.

At the UCSD Center for Mindfulness we offer
two great ways to explore Mindful-Self Compassion

The first is by participating in our 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Program. The next 8-week MSC program begins in September 11, 2013. The second is by participating in our Two Weekend Intensive November 1-3, 2013 & November 9-10,2013.

We are proud to be the  first center teaching the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion program as originated by Drs. Neff and Germer.

 

How Compassion Becomes a Verb (and a Movement): The Inspiring Story of “Compassion It”

By Sara Schairer

I believe that small acts of compassion by individuals can make a HUGE impact on our world.  Yes, it sounds cliché and unrealistic, but I know it’s true. How can I possibly know that?  Because Compassion It, the organization I’ve founded, has gone from an idea to a global social movement thanks to a handful of small acts by individuals.

Let me explain…

In the summer of 2008, I caught an episode of “Ellen” that changed my life.  Ellen Degeneres interviewed an author who spoke about the power of compassion.  He said it was the most important lesson to teach our children.  If our future leaders would be compassionate, every social problem on the planet would be solved.

I contemplated compassion for hours that day.  The word compassionate then appeared as ‘compassion it’ in my head.  Compassion was now a verb!  An action!  That made a lot of sense to me.

But did it make sense to anyone else?

I wrote out the words ‘compassion it’ and showed it to my friends Susanne Winslow and Jill Stoddard.  Because of their enthusiasm and encouragement, I decided to trademark Compassion It.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2011.  I had done nothing with this simple two-word phrase, because I was busy parenting a toddler and was getting my life back on track after a failed marriage.  I suddenly felt an enormous sense of urgency to do something with Compassion It.   I decided to make decals and magnets, and I sat down with talented graphic designer and friend, Mary Beckert.   She volunteered her time to turn my vision into something tangible.

In October of 2011, I showed a decal to my friend, Sherri Wilkins, who happens to be a marketing and advertising genius.  I’ll never forget her words, “This could be huge.”  WOW.  Talk about fueling the fire!   This propelled me to keep moving forward with my idea.  Wilkins began to help me get Compassion It off the ground.

In December, I caught up with my college roommate, Susan Kim.  She suggested that I reach out to her friend, Tony Chen, to seek entrepreneurial advice.  I called Chen, and he encouraged me to apply for a social innovation leadership academy through his current social start-up Movement121.  I applied, was accepted and found myself among a group of people from around the world who all had a similar mission – to make the world a better place through social enterprise.

The academy director, Mark Chassman, created teams.  Our first task as a team was to come up with a problem of the world and then create a business that would provide a solution.  My team voted to use Compassion It as our business, and I was thrilled to now have a group of bright, energetic and ambitious people helping me.

Throughout all of this, I was still unsure about what Compassion It would be.  Perhaps it could be the next “Life is Good,” a t-shirt company with a meaningful message.  Or maybe we’ll sell bumper stickers to get this message out.  I knew it would be some sort of business whose profits would go toward compassion education in schools.

I felt deep down, though, that Compassion It was a social movement.  It was much more than just a t-shirt company.  Compassion It was a way to live.

I expressed these thoughts with Sherri Wilkins, who said, “If you want it to be a social movement, you need to sell something less expensive than a t-shirt.  You need something small…like a bracelet.”  Soon thereafter, I thought of creating reversible bracelets that would inspire compassionate actions.

Heather Arnold, from my Movement121 team, came up with the brilliant idea to sell the bracelets in pairs.  That way, a person’s first act of compassion is to give the other bracelet away.

That first batch of bracelets arrived on my birthday – May 10, 2012.  I had 500 pairs.

My next question was, “Who is going to buy them?”

In the beginning of the summer, two of my teammates from the academy faced tragedy when their hometown of Northbrook, Ill., lost two young men to suicide and another to a car accident within three weeks.   Teammate Casey Tanner called and said that her town needed Compassion It as a way to unite and grieve.  She started a movement in Northbrook and used the bracelets as a fundraiser for the boys’ families.  Bracelets sold out in 42 minutes.  Thousands of residents of Northbrook still ‘compassion it’ daily in honor of those men.

One Northbrook resident, Marie Wojtan, sent her extra bracelet to a young woman in Great Britain by the name of Carrie Hope Fletcher.   Fletcher has over 90,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, and she posted a ‘jolly good’ bit about her Compassion It bracelet.

Thanks to Fletcher’s post (which has generated over 100,000 views), we’ve sold Compassion It bracelets to folks in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  Thousands of people all over the world now ‘compassion it’ each day.

And to think…if it weren’t for Ellen, Susanne, Jill, Mary, Sherri, Susan, Tony, Mark, Heather, Casey, Marie and Carrie, Compassion It would not exist as a global social movement.

This is just the beginning of a movement that I believe can improve the social consciousness of the world and ultimately lead to peace.  All it takes are small acts of compassion by each one of us.

Compassion It’s mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions.  Please join me, and let’s ‘compassion it’!

Building Skills of Self-Compassion

Our Dear friend & colleague Dr. Kristin Neff will be holding a Self-Compassion Workshop Dec. 7-9 at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. This is a unique opportunity to be with Kristin and learn first-hand, by participating in this experiential weekend workshop, about her research and work in the field of Mindful-Self Compassion.

“This workshop uses exercises taken from the Mindful Self-Compassion program, an empirically supported 8-week training course Neff co-created with colleague Chris Germer. The course is relevant to the general public as well as to practicing mental health professionals, and has the power to radically transform the way you relate to yourself and your life.”

IONS will also be screening The Horse Boy for the larger community on Sat. Dec. 8th from 7:30-9:30 pm. Kristin will be there for Q & A afterward!  The Horse Boy is an award-winning documentary her family made about our trip to Mongolia on horseback to find healing for their autistic son.

If the December workshop is not convenient and you would like to train in  Mindful-Self Compassion there is an opportunity to participate in our  UCSD CFM Professional Training Institute’s  5-Day MSC Professional Training Retreat, being held at Earthrise May 12-17, 2013.  Kristin will be joined by her colleague and MSC co-developer Christopher Germer, Ph.D. in leading this training.

New training pathways for MBSR and MBCT teachers now available through UC San Diego

By Steven Hickman, PsyD, Director, UCSD Center for Mindfulness

“How can I become a teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?” I cannot begin to calculate how many times I have been asked this question in the past ten years as a teacher of the MBSR program. I am constantly moved and touched by the people in my classes and the tremendous change and healing that can happen through the regular practice of mindfulness. This profound impact on people has more recently manifested in a huge demand among people touched by the practice who wish to share it with others. As MBSR programs have spread across this country and the world, there is a growing (and unprecedented) need to provide well-designed training for those who wish to teach MBSR and share this practice with a wide variety of people and groups in a whole host of settings.

Susan Woods

That is why I am particularly excited to announce that two highly qualified mindfulness teachers and trainers, Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, will be teaching our first 5-Day Foundational Training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for professionalson June 2-7, 2013 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.  Intended to support and develop people along their path toward teaching MBSR, this intimate foundational training will provide attendees the opportunities to learn in depth about the program, but more importantly to explore it “from the inside out” in the role of teacher, through small group exercises, mindful feedback and reflection.

Char Wilkins

The second of our two new trainings, also taught by Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, is the 5-day Advanced Professional Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers, June 9-14, 2013 at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California.  The demand for advanced training in mindfulness-based interventions has grown over the years and a foundational professional training is just the beginning of becoming a skilled and knowledgeable teacher.  This ground-breaking advanced training brings together, for the first time in the U.S., both MBCT and MBSR teachers allowing for a rich learning experience.  Susan has designed a training in which there is less dependence on teaching to the curricula of either MBCT/MBSR, and greater attention to strengthening core competency skills allied with teaching mindfulness. The heart of this program lies in closely attending to and strengthening the development of universal mindfulness principles such as investigating how one comes to understand and embody mindful presence and mindful reflective inquiry.

The training model that has evolved here at UCSD has proved to be efficient and effective. By providing intense retreat-style trainings that combine personal mindfulness practice, experiential learning of the curriculum and opportunities to guide practices, engage in mindful inquiry and take part in dialogue with skilled teachers, we have found that our participants leave feeling prepared to actually begin the important work of leading Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI’s).

Thus begins the next phase in the development of the Professional Training programs at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. This new pathway toward becoming an MBSR teacher is situated alongside intensive training in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP), Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), and Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL). The longer-term goal is the establishment of an entire UC San Diego Mindfulness-Based Training Institute that incorporates foundational aspects of all the MBI’s, specific training in the various curricula, opportunities for live consultation and supervision, and ultimately a process of certification in specific MBI’s. The Training Institute is only in its infancy, but arises out of this increasing demand for training and the assurance of competency in delivery of these wonderful programs that are becoming increasingly popular and are being demonstrated through rigorous research to be effective. 

Registration is now open for both the Advanced Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers and the 5-Day Foundational Training in MBSR and we expect both to fill up quickly. Plans are also in the works to offer these trainings on an ongoing basis, so if these dates don’t work for your schedule, join our mailing list on our Professional Training website to be notified of upcoming additions to the schedule.

 

Can self-compassion improve through mindfulness?

This post originally appeared on the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) blog, and is written by Ruth Buczynski, PhD

You shouldn’t kick yourself when you’re down . . .

. . . but sometimes it’s hard not to. Even if we’re compassionate toward others, we can still be our own worst critics. Mindfulness meditation really works. And self-compassion is one of its key benefits.

Kristen Neff, PhD, from the University of Texas-Austin, and Christopher Germer, PhD, from Harvard Medical School, wanted to find out whether self-compassion could be developed through training.

Mindfulness meditation and self-compassionDrs. Neff and Germer randomly assigned 54 people to either an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program or a waitlist control. The MSC program combined weekly 2-hour meetings with homework and a half-day meditation retreat. The program began with an explanation of what self-compassion is, and incorporated both formal and informal mindfulness practices.

Before the program, participants completed surveys to measure self-compassion, mindfulness, and other internal states. They took the same surveys immediately after the program’s completion, and then 6 months later as a follow-up. And, as it turns out, Dr. Neff and Dr. Germer have good news for people who’d like to develop self-compassion.

After taking the program, participants reported significantly greater gains in self-compassion, along with mindfulness, compassion for others, and life satisfaction when compared with the control group. What’s more, researchers found a large statistical effect size in self-compassion. This is relevant because many previous studies of mindfulness programs have found substantially smaller effect sizes – suggesting that this program might be particularly effective.

Of course, since the research involves only self-report data, we should be cautious about drawing conclusions. When people reply that they’re more compassionate or mindful on a survey, what does that really mean about their mental states? What’s more, this research involves only a waitlist control. That means we can’t be sure what made the difference. People might develop self-compassion just from getting together twice a week. Or maybe doing “mental homework” of any kind helps all sorts of internal states.

So, while I think this is a good foundation, I’d like to see more research that uses objective measures of self-compassion and an active control.

If you’d like to read the whole study, it’s currently in press in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Of course, to see the benefits of self-compassion with your clients, you need to be able to introduce mindfulness effectively. That can be complex, depending on your client, so that’s why we’ve put together our Making Mindfulness Work webinar series. Just click here to sign up for free.

Has mindfulness training ever transformed one of your clients’ capacity for self-compassion? What about your own? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

At the UCSD Center for Mindfulness we offer
two great ways to explore Mindful-Self Compassion

The first is through participating in our 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Program right here at our UCSD CFM Meditation Room. We are the only center currently teaching the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion program as originated by Drs. Neff and Germer.  The next 8-week MSC program begins in January 2013

The second way to explore self-compassion is by attending our upcoming Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Training Retreat, May 12-17, 2013, at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA with Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Kristin Neff.

This program is designed for members of the general public, as well as for professionals who wish to integrate self-compassion into their work. Participating in a MSC program satisfies a prerequisite for becoming a MSC program teacher, and teacher training will begin at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness in 2014. A modest, regular meditation practice is required to become a MSC teacher but meditation experience is not necessary to participate in this professional training. All are welcome!