Category Archives: Retreats

Navigating Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) Surgery with mPEAK and Mindfulness

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Read this very personal story from a recent mPEAK participant and Join Pete Kirchmer for the next mPEAK 3-Day Intensive March 11-13, 2017, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, San Diego, CA.

By William R. Matthews, MA, LPC

Medical literature contains numerous references proclaiming the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on cardiovascular health and pain management. But to me, these were merely academic case studies, as I had not personally known anyone who had successfully used mindfulness to manage through a major medical procedure. That is, until August 17, 2016, when I had aortic valve replacement surgery.

I need to back up a moment. In March of 2016 I participated in the three-day mPEAK intensive that included six weekly one-hour conference call follow-ups. For me the follow-up sessions were critical for integrating the didactic and practice sessions taught in the three-day into a consistent meditative practice. mPEAK was my first hands-on experience with mindfulness. At that point in time, I had been aware for several years that I had a bicuspid aortic valve that would “eventually” need replacement (in fact it kept me from fully participating in the five-mile mindful walk that is part of the program), but there had been no discussion of surgery with my primary physician or cardiologist. Two months after returning from mPEAK, my new primary care physician sent me for an ultrasound of my heart. The results indicated significant blockage of the aortic valve, and that started the ball rolling for surgery “as soon as possible.”

When a date for surgery was set, I emailed mPEAK ccf9e-headshot2program director, Peter Kirchmer, asking if he could provide me with additional mindfulness resources on pain management, since that seemed to be a big concern connected to surgeries. In response, Pete wrote “Forget about additional resources. You have everything you need already. Just continue developing the skills you already have.” Wise counsel indeed. So I loaded up my iPod with all the meditation files mPEAK had made available to us on its website, added John Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief, and a few other meditations. I played these every evening before bed, in the waiting lounges of airports, and in my office sharing them with my clients. Ultimately, my iPod was headed with me to the hospital.

The night before surgery I slept soundly without the benefit of any sleep aid other than my meditation-filled iPod. I arrived at the hospital at 5:40 AM surgery day and was taken back to pre-op shortly thereafter. The nurse remarked that my blood pressure showed no signs of anticipatory anxiety.  I too was surprised at how calm I was considering someone was about to cut my chest open and mess with my heart. I told the nurse about my mindful preparation and she asked a lot of questions of interest to learn more. A brief chat with a family member, a friend and a short prayer from the rector of my church was all I remember before waking up almost six hours later.

I awoke in recovery to see the same three faces that I had left there that morning. After a few minutes I was taken to cardiac ICU. A nurse and a member of the physical therapy team armed with a pillow were waiting for me. The PT announced that she was there to help me get into bed by “leaning into my pain and clutching the pillow” as my incisions were on the right side along with two chest tubes. Even in my post-anesthesia fog, my mind went immediately to a body scan, noting that my left side was incision- and tube-free. I also made a mental note that at home my bedroom is set up so that I can only get into bed from my left side. I got up off the gurney without assistance walked around the end of the hospital bed, sat down and got into bed on the left side of the bed without assistance (with minimal pain) and said, “I think I’ll do it this way instead.” The PT could only respond, “I guess that way’s OK too.”

The nurse waiting her turn with me announced that she was there to help me with pain management. She advised, “The key to pain management is staying ahead of the pain.” I interpreted that to mean don’t wait until the pain gets bad, keep taking your medication. At that point my mind recalled an activity from mPEAK where we were asked to insert a hand up to mid-forearm into a bucket of ice water and keep it there until the pain started to hurt. Most people removed their hands from the buckets in under a minute. The teachers explained that a large part of managing pain is changing our relationship to the pain. After sharing techniques and mindsets for doing so, we were given the opportunity to try immersing our hands into the ice water again. Most everyone were able to keep their hands in the ice water for considerably longer the second time around. With this recollection I informed the nurse of my plan – to measure my pain on a scale from 0-5 every hour or so, and if the pain number was not any higher than the last “reading” I wouldn’t be asking for pain medication. I received medication for pain only twice: 1) shortly after arriving in the ICU and 2) later that day when they removed the chest tubes. By the next morning, the day after surgery, I had discontinued all pain medication for the remainder of my hospital stay.

Prior to my surgery, my cardiologist and cardiac surgeon both agreed that I would need to go to a rehab facility “for at least a week” after being discharged from the hospital because I live alone. However, I created a dilemma for them because my recovery was so quick and complete. The discharge social worker advised me that I didn’t meet any medical criteria for rehab placement. She even had PT and OT evaluate me one more time in hopes of coming up with some reason to get me admitted, but neither could come up with a medical need. So I was discharged after 4-1/2 days, with my doctors agreeing that I could stay with a friend who lived within a mile of the hospital. I had a return visit to the cardiac surgeon four days afterward. At that appointment my cardiac surgeon said I was free to go back home and decide for myself when I would go back to work. I was back to work half-time three weeks after surgery and returned to full-time work the following week.

While I wouldn’t necessarily put AVR surgery in the category of a high performance activity, I am convinced that the skills and tools I learned from mPEAK, played a central role in my recovery.

William R. Matthews, MA, LPC is in private practice with the Great Lakes Psychology Group. Bill works out of GLPG’s office in Clinton Township, Michigan, where he counsels with children, adolescents and adults using family systems, EMDR, Mindfulness and sports psychology approaches. Bill is also a volunteer trainer and curriculum consultant for the University of Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion Today educational program. Bill can be reached at bill.matt.GLPG@gmail.com.

Join Pete Kirchmer for the next mPEAK 3-Day Intensive March 11-13, 2017, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, San Diego, CA.

ccf9e-headshot2Pete Kirchmer is  the Program Director for the UCSD Center For Mindfulness mPEAK (Mindful, Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge) Program. Pete specializes in coaching his clients in applying the practice of mindfulness to making healthy lifestyle changes as well as improving performance in life, work and sport. For more information about Pete Kirchmer please visit his Mindfulness Based Health Coaching website.

Why go on retreat?

by Beth Mulligan

Beth Mulligan is a co-founder of Mindful-Way Stress beth mulligan headshopReduction Programs, which offers MBSR and other mindfulness based interventions and retreats through out Southern California, nationally and internationally. Beth has a background in primary care medicine as a Board Certified Physician Assistant and has practiced medicine for over 25 years. She is a long time student of Roshi Charles Tenshin Fletcher at Yokoji Zen Center where she has lived in residence, is a Vipassana Dharma teacher at Insight Community of the Desert, and a certified yoga instructor.

Why go on Retreat?
Great question! As a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer – for the UMass Center for Mindfulness and a mentor for the UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute (MBTI), I get asked this question more and more. If you look at the prerequisites for teaching MBSR or other MBI’s all over the world, the recommendation for personal retreat practice is consistent. To answer the question, I may start by quoting the originator of MBSR; Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (from his article “Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble with Maps.”
“ I personally consider the sitting of relatively long…teacher led, silent retreats to be an absolute necessity in the developing of one’s own meditation practice, understanding and effectiveness as a teacher… it is a laboratory requirement.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Regarding information on Mindfulness Meditation retreats, I might also refer them to the UMass CFM website and Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

But really I have to answer this question for myself, just as the heart of Mindfulness Based Interventions are an invitation to access one’s own wisdom, I need to turn within to answer it. In order to ask people to face the difficulties of their lives, chronic pain, sick family members, financial stressors, “The Full Catastrophe”, I need to know and have the confidence that I can do this myself. With the help of a good teachers in a supportive environment. I have found this capacity on the many retreats that I have attended. Mindfulness and the teaching of mindfulness are “inside out” learning and teaching. So while we hold the written curriculum with great integrity, and educate ourselves about the research, and understand the foundations of experiential learning, ultimately we have to know the interior landscape of our own hearts, minds and bodies. This is where the real curriculum lies. If we are asking people to go inside to find their own wisdom, to face pain and loss with openness, curiosity and kindness (a very tall order) then it is important that we do this ourselves. Not just to be good teachers- of what has been described as “Intensive training in meditative practices”, but to really know and live our lives fully. For thousands of years people have found the silent container of retreat, held by strong teachers – who have sat on their own cushions for many hours, to be an effective way to see into the changing nature of things and to build resilience to face whatever comes in our lives with some degree of equanimity. In the age of technology and heightened busyness and distraction, it feels more important than ever, to find this silence and stillness where we can study the real curriculum that lies within.

If this has inspired you, I hope you’ll join us in January 2015 at a 5 night silent retreat designed with you in mind. We’ll meet at the beautiful historic Joshua Tree Retreat Center January 13-18th. Please go to www.mindful-way.com/retreats for more information.

Beth Mulligan, PA-C is a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer through UMass Center for Mindfulness. She has been teaching MBSR for over a decade to diverse populations; from the critically ill, to non-profit organizations, the underserved, educators, and corporate leaders. She currently teaches at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UCI and Insight LA. Beth teaches the 10 week and 9 day practicum for teachers in training nationally and internationally through the UMass CFM. She is also trained in and teaches Mindful Eating and Mindful Self Compassion

Making Mindfulness Part of Your Life: Insights from an Adult with ADHD

By Lidia Zylowska MD

ZylowskaLidia Zylowska, MD is psychiatrist specializing in adult ADD/ADHD, mindfulness-based approaches and integrative psychiatry. Co-founding member of UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Dr. Zylowska led the development of the MAPs for ADHD program and authored The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD book.

UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is Book_zylowska_100pxnow offering Mindfulness for ADHD: Training for Adults, Parents and Professionals. The training will take place August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The training is a retreat-version of the 8-week MAPs for ADHD that my colleagues and I originally developed at UCLA. The training is open to all touched by ADHD: adults with ADHD and their spouses, parents of ADHD children, therapist or teachers that work with ADHD individuals. If that’s you, we hope you’ll join us for this gradual, ADD-friendly introduction to mindfulness. Please click here for more information or to register.

Preparing for the training, I recently posed several questions about mindfulness to Jon Krop, an adult living with ADHD. Jon has been practicing mindfulness for a long time and I wanted him to share his experience. Here are his answers which also highlight the fact that we each have to find ‘what works’ in keeping mindfulness in our lives.

Q: How do you think mindfulness (or meditation) helps with ADHD?

Distraction used to carry me off before I could even acknowledge what was happening. I’d be working on a project, and then before I knew it I’d be fifteen minutes deep in a Wikipedia black hole or surfing through random blogs. The process of distraction seemed to move too fast, with too much momentum, for me to intervene. Meditation has helped me with that. Not always, but decently often, I can spot the impulse to indulge in a distraction the moment it arises and before I reflexively act on it. It feels as if I have an extra second to decide what to do. Even when I don’t catch it that early, I catch myself earlier than I would have before I started my meditation practice.

Along those same lines of having an “extra second” to decide how to act, I feel that meditation has helped me think more before I speak. I used to say unintentionally hurtful things, only to regret it an instant after the words were out of my mouth. I didn’t have a filter — or I guess I had one, but it was too slow-acting to do its job. Now it feels like there’s a bit more space between the urge to speak arising and the words pouring out of my mouth, and I actually have a chance to reflect on whether or not I want to say what I’m about to say.

In general, there’s a feeling of increased clarity and control. I see the contents of my mind — impulses, emotions, thoughts, etc — much more distinctly, like they’re laid out neatly on a workspace in front of me instead of being a sort of murk clouding up my head. And where once my thoughts, impulses, etc would immediately grab me and sort of take possession of me, now I have that extra bit of space that lets me decide how I want to act and which emotions, impulses, etc I want to engage with.

Also, I generally just feel happier and more at ease. I didn’t realize how tense and jittery I felt all the time until I started meditating regularly and those feelings began to subside. My moment-to-moment experience is more peaceful and relaxed, with a sense that everything is basically fine.

Q: How do you think having ADHD has influenced your meditation practice?

I may have a harder-than-average time with the discipline of maintaining a daily practice. It took a lot of years to finally lock that down. Also, I’ve experienced doubts and fears about whether my ADHD will limit my ability to meditate, to progress along the path and experience the full benefits, etc. So far these doubts seem totally baseless, but I’ve had to face and overcome those beliefs so that they don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Q: Any advice for those for those with ADHD who are new to mindfulness/meditation?

1. Sticking to a daily practice is hard for everyone, and it’s probably even harder for us, but it’s really important. Here’s what’s worked for me:

-I wake up at a set time every morning and immediately meditate, before doing anything else. I have to be really strict about this. If I wake up late or do anything else first — breakfast, a workout, checking my phone — I have trouble getting myself to sit. But when I follow this rule, it’s almost effortless. Not sure why, but that’s how it is.

-If I absolutely can’t meditate first thing in the morning, and the resistance to sitting arises, I have a backup strategy: I shrink the length of the session in my head until I hit a level I don’t feel resistance to. Like, “Could I do 15 minutes? No, I feel resistance, I’m not gonna do it. Okay, what about 10? Still too long, the thought puts me off. Okay, 5? Huh, I don’t feel resistance to that. I feel like I can sit for 5.” I’d much rather sit for a short time, and keep the momentum of my meditation habit, than not sit at all.

2. Do a retreat as soon as you can, whether it’s ten days, or a week, or a weekend, or a day, or whatever you feel ready for. With daily practice alone, it might take a little time for the benefits of meditation to really show themselves (for me, it took a couple weeks). It can be a challenge to stay disciplined and put in daily work for a reward you haven’t experienced yet. You can skip that by doing a short period of intense practice and tasting the benefits right away. That should fire you up for the daily practice.

For More Information and to register for Mindfulness for ADHD: earthriseTraining for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA., please visit the UCSD Professional Training Institute website.

Attention is a Resource—Even With ADD/ADHD, and Mindfulness Training Has Been Shown to Help

By Lidia Zylowska M.D.

ZylowskaLidia Zylowska, MD is psychiatrist specializing in adult ADD/ADHD, mindfulness-based approaches and integrative psychiatry. Co-founding member of UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Dr. Zylowska led the development of the MAPs for ADHD program and authored The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD book.

Recently the New York Times featured an article titled “Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits” by Daniel Goleman which highlighted the usefulness of mindfulness training for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). It is exciting to see a publication like NYT and the conventional ADHD researchers starting to see value of mindfulness for ADHD. I hope this will further our public and clinicians’ appreciation of mindfulness as a way to strengthen attention and emotion self-regulation skills in ADHD. My only wish is that the article did better job describing the resources that already exist for those interested in this approach, namely the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD program we developed at UCLA (1) and the Mindful Parenting/MYmind program developed by Dr Susan Bogel’s at U of Netherlands (5).   Such programs can help those struggling with ADHD (or clinicians that work with them) start incorporating mindfulness for ADHD management.

Book_zylowska_100pxAs an integrative psychiatrist specializing in ADHD, I have been working with ADHD since 2003. As a researcher at UCLA, I designed a feasibility study of mindfulness training in adults and teens with ADHD. The study was one of the first efforts to adapt mindfulness trainings to ADHD and my research collaborators and I set out to put together a program that was relevant to ADHD and overall taught in an ADHD-friendly way. Using MBSR and MBCT as models of mindfulness, we developed an 8-week training—Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD–that was taught in gradual, ‘chunking way’ often helpful in ADHD. The program introduces new ‘objects of attention’ sequentially, starting with attention itself, then senses, breath, sounds, body, thoughts, feelings and interactions. We weaved ADHD education throughout the training. The formal practice was phased in gradually, starting with 5 min and up to 15-20 min, we emphasized informal practiced in daily life, and included self-compassion training. We anticipated that formal practice may be challenging for those with ADHD and wanted the training to be both flexible and encouraging. We also knew that self-doubt and negative feelings are common in ADHD and that self-compassion was much needed. The approach was well-accepted by teens and adults with ADHD in our study, who also showed reduction in ADHD symptoms, anxiety and depression and improvements on measures of attention and executive functions (1). Follow up studies further support the use of our program with ADHD adults (2) and children (3, 4) while Dr. Bogel’s group has shown that similar mindfulness-based approach can be helpful with families with ADHD children and teens (5-7).

The NYT article shows that combination of ADHD and mindfulness no longer raises eyebrows as it did back when I first started my research work. Then, I often had to respond to a question like this: ‘So you want to have people who have trouble sitting and paying attention sit quietly in meditation and pay attention?’ Now, there is a growing understanding that mindfulness is just the approach for ADHD, especially if taught in a gradual, ADHD-friendly way. So I am excited to say that UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is now launching our course Mindfulness for ADHD: Training for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The training is a retreat-version of the 8-week MAPs for ADHD, a great introduction for those wanting to learn how to use mindfulness for ADHD. I am joined by Gloria Kamler, a long-time meditation teacher and faculty at UCLA Midful Awareness Center.   For this training, we decided to bring general public and clinicians together to create an accepting, non-judgmental learning environment in which both the unique struggles of ADHD and the struggles of ‘human condition’ can be seen on a spectrum. We hope to empower those with and without ADHD to incorporate a mindful and compassionate perspective into their lives.

I hope that if you or someone you know cares about ADHD, you will consider joining us for this training. The retreat setting will offer a respite and you get a concentrated dose of mindfulness. Why not hyperfocus on mindfulness for a weekend!

For More Information and to register for Mindfulness for ADHD: earthriseTraining for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA., please visit the UCSD Professional training Institute website.

Ref:

  1. Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., . . . Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. J Atten Disord, 11(6), 737-746. doi: 10.1177/1087054707308502
  2. Mitchell, J. T., McIntyre, E. M., English, J. S., Dennis, M. F., Beckham, J. C., & Kollins, S. H. (in press). A pilot trial of mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood: Impact on core symptoms, executive functioning, and emotion dysregulation. J Atten Disord. doi: 10.1177/1087054713513328
  3. Uliando, A. (2010). Mindfulness training for the management of children with ADHD. Deakin University, http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30033065.
  4. Worth, D (2013) Mindfulness Meditation and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptom Reduction in Middle School Students. Walden University, http://gradworks.umi.com/35/99/3599854.html
  5. Bögels, S., & Restifo, K. (2014). Mindful parenting: A guide for mental health practitioners. New York: Springer.
  6. van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bogels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 775-787.
  7. van der Oord, S., Bogels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139-147.

Experiencing a Mindful Childbirth: An MBCP Graduate’s Observations on “Being With What Is”

Nancy Bardacke Head Shot_MindfulNancy Bardacke, is a nurse-midwife, mindfulness teacher, and founding director of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program which she leads at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.

Since the founding of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center over 30 years ago, mindfulness courses and programs intended to teach people practical skills for working with all kinds of physical and mental health challenges have increased exponentially.  Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) is one of these programs. 

“As would be expected, many expectant parents enter the MBCP program with a myriad of hopes and fears about childbirth and parenting. They may worry about the pain of childbirth, the health of their baby or themselves, where to deliver, what provider to choose, whether that particular provider will be on-call when they are in labor, and what life will be like as a new parent. Sometimes very tangible, real life concerns, such as their financial situation or relationship tensions can overshadow the joy and excitement of this momentous change. Key to the MBCP program is to offer expectant parents the opportunity to train in mindfulness so that they may have some skills to navigate this new terrain of birthing and parenting—working with kindness and compassion for whatever arises in this profound journey into the unknown.”

Nancy Bardacke, RN, CNM, MA

Being With What Is  by Jenna Leta

New mom and MBCP graduate, Jenna Leta, recently shared with us how she used her mindfulness practice during her pregnancy, childbirth and life after birth.

“I took two classes to prepare for childbirth: yoga and the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course. In our yoga class, the teacher would encourage us to do just a few arm and shoulder workouts for “all those women having 9lb babies” and I would think, ‘Those poor women.  I’m so glad I’m average-sized with an average baby.’  And then, in our MBCP class, Nancy mentioned a few times how birthing a baby who is in a posterior position could result in back labor and make the strategies that we were learning to cope with pain more challenging. Mentally, I responded, “Thank god MY baby is in the correct position so I will have those perfect little pain waves.” (The ones with the big contraction wave with the smaller wavy breath wave on top of it. The one with total euphoria and the 1960s drugged-out ecstasy in between the gut-wrenching pain.)

Well, my little man arrived in our lives promptly on his due date, November 21.  He was posterior and 9lbs 4 oz.  Even though I can’t imagine worse pain, I have a few good things to say about the experience.  It was liberating.  There is something primal about lying in the dark completely naked and screaming louder than you knew you could. I felt fierce.

My biggest fears were giving birth in a hospital and being forced to lie on my back. In the end, after 3 hours of pushing, and with a frenzied plea of encouragement from my husband, I found my last ounce of resolution and energy and pushed our big baby into the world while in trendelenberg (on my back with the bed tilted so my head was lower than my pelvis).  It just goes to show, just like we learned in class, you never know what will happen and anything is possible.  I am convinced that without my brilliant midwife, I would have had a C-section.

Maceo is now 6 months old and AWESOME!!!  Everything is the exact opposite of how I planned and imagined it.

He sleeps in our bed.

I am still on maternity leave.

He had a mango, right off the pit, as his first food and now slurps away black beans.

But, I am happy to report that even though I wasn’t the Zen person I imagined I would be during labor, I have managed to develop a regular mediation routine postpartum.  The biggest challenge was finding time.  What I have found works for me is to immediately stop whatever I am doing when he falls asleep for his first nap (usually leaving dishes or laundry undone) and do a sitting mediation.  I use Nancy’s APP on my iPhone; it is only 20 minutes, but it is working miracles on my life.

I am learning how to accept things as they are and spend less time worrying about the past or the future.  I am less reactive and in general, happier.  I feel I am more in control of my mood/emotions and at the same time, I am very at peace with how much I cannot control. My relationships, both at home and with my close friends and family, are stronger.  My hair has been falling out, I haven’t slept for 3 consecutive hours in half of a year, my jeans will probably never fit me again, and I’m ok with it.  Meditation is becoming my religion, of sorts. I can see now how accurate and important Nancy’s instruction about practice was (which we were told over and over again): “Just do it.”

The research on the underlying physiological and psychological mechanisms of mindfulness practice continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness-based programs.  Because of this a growing number of health professionals from a variety of fields are interested in using mindfulness-based interventions to decrease stress and enhance the wellbeing of the populations they serve.  This includes professionals who provide care for expectant parents and young families, some of whom are finding their way to the MBCP program. 

Nancy will be co-leading the  Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) Professional Retreat, held at EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA, January 19-25, 2014.

Finding the Toolkit Within: An MBSR Teacher Training Experience

by Chandra Beal

CB_np_headshot-2Chandra Beal is a Massage Therapist and Yoga Teacher in San Diego. She is currently expanding her understanding of mindfulness with a plan to teach it in the community.

In June I packed a suitcase to spend a week in the desert, my meditation cushion and yoga mat taking up most of the space. I journeyed to Joshua Tree, California with about 50 other people for the inaugural Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher Training through the University of California at San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness.

I looked forward to the training for months, counting down the date in my journal. As a long time meditator and yoga teacher, I was excited to expand my experience of mindfulness and pick up the tools to begin teaching MBSR. In preparation, I intensified my mindfulness practice, almost as if I was cramming for an exam. With a curious awareness I observed myself practically swallowing the required reading. I was certainly in a hurry to learn this mindfulness stuff!

As I set off I said a little prayer to myself, that I remain open to whatever the training would bring and meet it with simple awareness. Retreats and group trainings can be intense and life-changing, and I felt some fear of the unknown as I drove off into the desert.

The first hour into the trip I had an ache in my chest. I was already missing my loved ones and feeling homesick. I couldn’t wait to go to the training and now I felt reluctant. Being in between, in the present, was difficult.

The first night we gathered for a lavish dinner, prepared by our own chef who would nourish us all week. We chatted at group tables like the first day of school, with all the excitement and trepidation of what was to come. People had traveled from all over the world and came from different backgrounds, but all had a desire to share mindfulness. Every conversation was inspiring.

The first night we simply sat. There were no student introductions. The teachers, Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, never wrote on the white board. No syllabus was handed out. We simply practiced sitting. That night I felt resistant. I can meditate at home, I thought. I didn’t like the desert. I didn’t like the bed. I didn’t like not having agenda. I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to go home.

The second day we also sat. A lot. I tried to remember my intention to be open to the experience. I also wondered when I was going to get my toolkit. My mind was hungry for the didactic side of learning, the ‘meat’ as I called it. Little did I realize I was already chewing on it. My back hurt from sitting longer than I was used to. But still we sat, extending our practice to remaining silent during our breaks.

By the third day the group was growing restless, everyone wondering how much longer we had to sit, and when we were going to actually talk about teaching this stuff. I felt like I was at meditation boot camp, sleep deprived and frustrated by my own inner blocks, but soldiering on, sitting on my cushion. Meeting my own resistance with my breath.

Then we began to explore the eight-week curriculum in detail, interspersed with practice. We practiced sitting and walking meditation. We worked in pairs with the body scan, and experienced facilitating the group in mindful inquiry. We dipped in and out of experiencing and teaching, which helped to ground us in mindfulness itself.

I began to realize that maybe my toolkit was within. My own practice was going to be the foundation of this work. I wasn’t going to pick up a kit and run; I was going to have to embody the teaching myself. But if I got stuck, all I had to do was take a breath. The practice and the teaching were interwoven like a net, one I could safely relax into.

On the final morning we gathered for a beautiful ritual led by Susan and Char. Sitting in a circle we passed a ball of yarn, each person taking saying a word about what was happening in the present moment. Taking hold of a length of string, they passed the ball on to the next person. Observing the growing web of connection between us all, I chose the word “unity”. Some people cried. We hugged and held hands. We had climbed a little bit of the mountain together.

Then we passed the scissors, a symbol of impermanence, and cut apart our united web, each person taking a section of yarn as a reminder of their experience as we dispersed around the globe to continue our inner and outer practice of this work. I went home, put my notes in a drawer, and sat on my cushion, ready to begin using my toolkit within.

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Professional Training Institute has partnered with experienced clinicians and mindfulness teachers Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW and Char Wilkins, LCSW, to offer two 5-day MBSR teacher training retreat programs.

MBSR: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 5-day Teacher Training,                                                                                                             November 11-16, 2013 at Chapin Mill Retreat Center, Batavia, NY 
March 23-28, 2014 at Sevenoaks Retreat Center, Madison, VA

Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful Inquiry,                                July 20-25, 2014 at Chapin Mill Retreat Center, Batavia, NY

What Does It Mean To .b?

logo_dotB.b pronounced (dot-be), stands for “Stop, Breathe and Be!” This simple act of mindfulness provides the kernel of a nine-lesson course for schools. Written by experienced classroom teachers and mindfulness practitioners, and evaluated positively by the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford Brookes, .b can be used in a wide range of context and age ranges, including adults.

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Richard Burnett and Chris Cullen, co-Founders of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, met in 2007. Along with Chris O’Neil, these schoolteachers had experienced the benefits of mindfulness themselves and wanted to bring it to life in the classroom. In approaching the development of a formal course, they tried to answer the following question: 

Question:  When 25 teenagers tumble into your classroom at 11:45 on a wet Tuesday morning, how are you going to interest them in mindfulness? They are tired. They are hungry. They are playing with their phones, and they’d rather be somewhere else. They’ve never heard of mindfulness, it doesn’t sound very exciting, and if you were to tell them that it involved periods of stillness and silence, you’d lose them before you begun. How are you going to convince them that mindfulness is a skill which could make a real difference to their lives?

Answer: .b (Stop, Breathe and Be)

The .b curriculum is a powerful and proven model for teaching mindfulness to teens. It is now offered in 7 countries and has been integrated into school programs throughout the U.K. This curriculum is considered a valuable resource for professionals in multiple disciplines who work with youth and who are interested in integrating mindfulness into their teaching.

.b and The Mindfulness in Schools Project have been featured in numerous articles and interviews highlighting the benefits of mindfulness training with teens, including a recent TED talk by Richard Burnett, .b co-founder.

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Professional Training Institute is proud to join efforts with the Mindfulness In Schools Project in offering the first .b Teacher Training on the West Coast.

Please join us for this event in July 2013 and become part of the .b teaching team here in the U.S. Information and registration can be found on the Professional Training Institute Website.

For a complete review of .b in the media please click here.

LorraineHobbsWe invite you to join Lorraine M. Hobbs, MA, CHom UCSD Center for Mindfulness Director, Youth and Family Programs and her distinguished co-teachers for the first .b teacher certification program offered on the West Coast, July 18-21, 2013, Francis Parker High School, San Diego, CA

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.

 

Loneliness and Boredom “eat” at us! by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dr. Bays is a pediatrician and Zen teacher in Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.

Loneliness and boredom are often triggers for eating comfort foods, or for eating at inappropriate times.
When we feel the impulse to eat at an odd time (such as an hour after lunch or when we can’t fall asleep at night ) we can take a moment to investigate what is happening in our body, heart and mind.
We can check within our bodies to investigate if we are actually hungry. How full does our stomach feel? Empty? One quarter full? Half full? Full? Stuffed? If we realize that we’re not actually hungry, we can investigate our feelings and thoughts.
We can check in with our feelings to investigate what emotions might be present. It helps to become acquainted with the particular body sensations that accompany different emotions. For example, the body signals of loneliness in one person might be a sagging feeling in the eyelids and heaviness in the chest. We find that the body can tell us about feelings of loneliness or boredom that we are not fully aware of.
We can check the background dialogue in our minds. The mind might be subtly murmuring, “I feel so alone. I need to comfort myself with something to eat, ” or “I’m bored. I need some exciting taste sensations in my mouth.”
Once we’ve identified the emotion we are feeling, what can we do? If the discomfort we are feeling is arising from loneliness, we can reach out. We can call someone who cares for us. We can reach out to another person who might be lonely. We can play with a child or pet. We can go outdoors and open our awareness to the company of trees and birds.
If the discomfort arises from boredom, we can challenge the mind that says, “There’s nothing going on, ” by looking directly and carefully at just what actually IS going on. We can sit down for a moment and focus on the breath, curious about the thousands of tiny touches in and on our body. We can look at a flower close up, drinking in its color with our eyes. We can open our ears to the many sounds, obvious and subtle, that surround us. We can sip a cup of tea slowly, aware of changes in temperature and flavor. When we are fully present, when boredom is replaced by curiosity, when loneliness is replaced by connecting to others, our discontent can dissolve and be replaced by satisfaction and ease.

Register, and join mindfulness teachers and retreat leaders,
Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkins, LCSW
for Mindful Eating, Conscious Living, a 5-day Professional Training Retreat, August 4-9, 2012, Chapin Mill Retreat Center, New York.

This training emphasizes experiential engagement in mindfulness meditation practices and mindful eating awareness exercises, so that the participant will be able to pass the benefit of these exercises on to clients and patients in a variety of settings. These practices and exercises are integral components of the Mindful Eating program, designed by Bays and Wilkins, which provides the organizing structure for this training.

Please click here for information on our local UCSD Center for Mindfulness 4-week Mindful Eating Conscious Living program starting June 28, 2012 6-7:30pm.