Tag Archives: Susan Woods

Mindful Presence: Embodying sensitivity with a heartfelt presence

Professional Training Institute BannerThe UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to offer a 5-day program entitled: MBSR:Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 5-day Teacher Training, November 11-16, 2013, at the Chapin Mill Retreat Center, Batavia, NY. The following is the second in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know them through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

By Susan Woods

WoodsSusanIn the second of these of these reflections on the nature of teaching mindfulness I thought it would be interesting to continue with the theme of mindful presence.  As teachers of mindfulness in secular settings, we bring an emotional and cognitive sensibility to our teaching that is based on our personal experience and understanding of mindfulness.  When we respond to questions from our participants via the process of mindful reflective inquiry, we are embodying an awareness that embraces and acknowledges a way of being that is able to stay quietly present even in the midst of ambiguity.  Being able to allow for those places of uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt and then know when and how to respond are important components for our teaching.  It is likely there will be times when one of our participants will ask a question or make a comment that elicits a moment(s) when we have no idea of what’s next or how to respond.  In addition these moments may touch a strong emotional reaction inside of us of doubt, worry, distress, anxiety, irritation, despondence, even anger.  I suspect we have all had some or perhaps all of these instances.

No experience is wasted; even those that have challenged me in sometimes very uncomfortable ways.  When I have found myself in those places, part of my own journey of mindfulness, has been in allowing an emotional and cognitive unfolding that can be relaxed. Remembering to take a breath can help to soften into these moments; relaxing into the body another.  This becomes a way of sensing into the current experience where understanding grows from letting all of the uncomfortableness be present, cognitive, emotional and somatic.

reflectionsBeing emotionally sensitive to these moments requires an active intention and receptivity. Being a mindfulness teacher asks that we are willing to take our seats in the uncertainty and teach to and through that experience.  This means that we include an experiential sense of our own complexity in those moments and in that awareness do our best to step out of our own way.  As we meet these moments we also notice that being gentle and patient rather than a problem solver, allows us to start from where we truly are rather than from where we think we should be.

It is this emotional awareness and sensitivity that we bring to our teaching of mindfulness.  It allows for the landscape of the moment to reveal itself, an inner and outer attunement and brings us into the present, one where we are receptive to our own experience and at the same time responsive to that of the other.  It is a moment of being attuned to an inner and outer noticing, where compassion is embodied through mindful presence, heartfelt sensitivity and through mindful reflective speech.   In this way the teacher and participant(s) are involved in co-creating a journey of relationship which entails a kindhearted understanding of self, of other and the unfolding nature of the present. These moments of connection are sacred moments of wisdom and humility.

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

Mindful Presence: Embodying kindness and the listening heart

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to offer a 5-day program entitled: Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful InquiryJune 9-14, 2013 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The following is the second in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know them through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

WoodsSusanBy Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW

Suffering is not personal, but in so many ways we are inclined to feel it in that way.  Of course the feeling of pain and heartache is universal; it’s what connects us and also what can separate us.  Mindfulness meditation practice encourages and supports us in developing a profound understanding about how we relate to pain and gives us choices on how we can respond.  It took me some time and lots of practice to relax into appreciating this.  What I became aware of was the more I could allow myself to show up and pay a kind and steady attention, without denying or pushing anything away or alternatively chasing after something, the steady momentum of mindfully noticing became compelling as an act of generosity.

reflectionsWe don’t often talk too much about acts of generosity when facing suffering; a sense that it is permissible and might even be imperative to be kind when facing the overwhelming; that by cultivating a tender abiding, embodying an intentional and attentive mindful consciousness which supports a friendly and intimate awareness we come to experience our pain, our difficulties in a different way.  We also come to notice that being mindful is dynamic and creates just enough intuitive and emotional space to acknowledge pain and the story around it without needing to react to it so much.  Learning by this measure we come to see directly the simple and powerful presence of kindness and patience, acknowledging that nothing needs fixing, residing in the meaning of being present and in the power of deep noticing and listening.  And so paradoxically we are able to let go more and more sensing what lies behind the narratives of our ego driven world.

It is this awareness, this presence, that nurtures caring which is deeply compassionate; an attentive listening heart which is quiet, calm, loving and knows from experience the storms of suffering, the rages, the hatreds, criticisms, judgments, frustrations, sadness’s and anxieties.  And when these arise, the listening heart opens, quivers, creates space, embraces, bearing witness to all while residing with the movement of breathing.  Breathing in, inhabiting this moment, breathing out, softening and letting go.  This heart has learned the worth of gentleness, has learned the value of an attending presence – a presence that asks for nothing in return, only this moment now.

In our lives and in our teaching of mindfulness, embodying a mindful presence conveys the hope that we may all slowly walk this journey of kindness with a listening heart.

When listening is everything you ever wanted

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to offer a 5-day program entitled: Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful InquiryJune 9-14, 2013 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The following is the second in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know them through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

CharWilkinsBy Char Wilkins, LCSW

On the opening page of Mark Nepos’s book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, he quotes an epigraph by Abraham Heschel:

 [We] will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation . . . What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder . . . Reverence is one of [our] answers to the presence of mystery . . .

There is a longing for connection that we all experience and repeatedly hear as participants in our MBCT and MBSR programs speak of disappointment, fear and hope.  And we notice that as we cultivate the ability to listen to each one of them, we begin to hear the themes of need and desire that weave us together in our collective humanness. We begin to hear that indeed, no one is alone in the tangle we call life.

reflectionsNepo believes that if we limit our existence to only what we know, we blind ourselves to the “mystery.” Mystery is about open-eyed wonder, appreciation and gratitude. So when we engage in mindful listening, in which our conditioned mind and heart open in sincere and kindly curiosity, we create a pathway not only to the mystery of what is present in each moment, but to the possibility of a peaceful connection to self and others.

We ask our clients and participants to listen not because it’s a Mindful Rule, but because listening is a threshold between our inner and outer worlds. It’s an entryway to pause in, a vantage point from where we can see our own limiting beliefs and also the possibility of choice. From this doorway we can begin to hear harmonies that strike a chord within, where perhaps before we only heard the dissonance that isolated and left us feel disconnected from ourselves and others.

In our teaching, we become aware that it isn’t the dissemination of information that connects people intra and interpersonally, but rather being listened to- their story heard and appreciated. We may call it group dynamics or breaking the isolation or normalizing, but in the end I believe it is simply the reverence of listening. This is what MBCT and MBSR offer teacher and participants: the possibility of discovery through wonder and freedom through listening.

Experienced Teachers Reflect on the Opportunities and Challenges of Teaching Mindfulness

With the proliferation of mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Interventions, there is increasing demand for foundational and advanced training for teachers of these so-called “MBIs”. The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has partnered with Susan Woods and Char Wilkins to partially meet this demand through a 5-day program entitled: Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers: Embodying Mindful Presence and Investigating Mindful Inquiry, June 9-14, 2013 at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The following is the first in a series of periodic posts by Susan and Char, sharing their vision and wisdom in formulating and offering this training, and exploring the territory of teaching mindfulness in general. We invite you to get to know Susan and Char through this series and perhaps to reflect on your own relationship to mindfulness teaching.

By Susan Woods
What a true joy it is for me to anticipate this possibility of bringing MBCT and MBSR teachers together for this training. As the community of MBCT and MBSR teachers has grown in breadth and depth I believe it has become increasingly important to hold in awareness certain questions. What is it that helps sustain our teaching? What are our aspirations? How do we find ways to articulate and live inside the teaching process? How do we come to see the challenges of teaching as the wealth of continually opening landscapes of compassion, generosity and kindness?

At its core the Advanced training for MBCT and MBSR teachers is about supporting and strengthening the skills that characterize teaching mindfulness in the MBCT and MBSR programs.  At its deepest depth, it is about our relationship to the practice of mindfulness and to the articulation of that process. Collectively, it is my hope and belief we will weave a process of contemplative awareness that not only supports and strengthens our teaching, but that emphasizes embodying mindful presence as the heart of teaching with mindful reflective inquiry as the journey.  I look forward to joining you there.
Susan Woods

Susan Woods, MSW., LICSW is a psychotherapist in private practice and has been practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga since 1981.  She teaches MBSR and MBCT groups through her private practice and since 2005 has been immersed in teaching and developing mindfulness-based professional trainings.  She has presented on the clinical application of mindfulness at numerous conferences and is a published author on the training of health professionals in mindfulness-based skills.   www.slwoods.com

By Char Wilkins
As a teacher, the moments that inspire me to keep teaching are never the moments when I’ve cleared up a participant’s confusion for them or said something that a group member thought profound.  Rather, they are the times when coming from a genuinely curious and patient place within myself, I have mindfully attended as the participant found her own truth and understanding.  This relational field that is created between teacher and participant holds the potential of accessibility and possibility.

Is it possible for a teacher to cultivate patience, focus, curiosity and compassion to such an extent that it becomes an articulated and felt sense through his or her teaching?  This is the exploratory path of the Advanced Training for MBCT & MBSR Teachers that invites investigation of two important aspects of teaching MBCT and MBSR, that of embodied mindful presence and the facilitation of mindful inquiry.  I am delighted to be teaching alongside my colleague, Susan Woods, as we offer this program which is both deeply personal and universal in its intentional and heartfelt focus.
–Char Wilkins, LCSW

Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and certified MBSR teacher. She trains professionals in Adv. MBCT, MBSR and MECL (Mindful Eating/Conscious Living) and offers consultation to MBI teachers and in the use of mindfulness in psychotherapy. She considers her long standing meditation practice to be the foundation of all her work and continues to train in the Dhamma, Qigong and Tai Chi. In her private psychotherapy practice she specializes in working with women who suffer from the ramifications of childhood abuse, depression, anxiety and disordered eating.  www.amindfulpath.com

MBCT Ushers in the Next Era with Second Edition and Two Innovative Training Opportunities

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionFew psychological interventions have engendered so much promise and delivered on that promise with such impressive clinical outcomes and research findings as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The skillful “marriage” of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practice, MBCT has emerged as an effective treatment to prevent relapse in depression and is yielding good initial results in other settings and with other populations as well. With the imminent publication of the Second Edition of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy  (Guilford Publications), MBCT has entered it’s next generation, incorporating the ongoing work of co-founders Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, with the input and efforts of numerous clinicians and researchers worldwide.

Zindel Segal, Ph.D.

Zindel Segal, Ph.D.

“Ten years have passed since the publication of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy,” noted Zindel Segal recently, “and in that time there has been a productive engagement and interchange with clinicians and researchers who have offered and studied the program with their own patients.  Mark, John and I have been fortunate to be involved in some of these discussions and have learned from many ‘early adopters’ as well as from the increasing volume of empirical work that has evaluated and stretched MBCT to novel populations.  The second edition of MBCT gives us an opportunity to embed this ‘crowd sourced’ wisdom and feedback into an updated and expanded version of the book that offers a few refinements to the 8-week program and grapples, more generally, with the question of how the delivery of mindfulness based interventions can be optimized.”

“Kindness and compassion are the ground from which we practice, the ground from which we teach, and the ground that participants may then use in cultivating their own practice.”                 (From the Second Edition)

Perhaps most notable in the new edition is a chapter solely dedicated to the topic of compassion in MBCT. Segal reports that “an oft-repeated question I hear is ‘what is the role of compassion training in MBCT?’  This reflects perhaps the pervasive interest in bringing compassion to patients who are suffering, as well as an enthusiasm for newer protocols that feature compassion training as a central intervention.  The answer with respect to MBCT is not as straightforward as checking whether formal compassion or loving kindness is or is not taught within the 8 weeks.  It revolves around the deeper question of what exactly compassion means in a clinical context and how it can help address the vulnerability or illness perpetuating factors that keep people locked into symptoms and distress.”

FREE CHAPTER PREVIEW!
In advance of the release of the Second Edition of MBCT, Chapter 8, entitled “Pausing for Reflection: Kindness and Self-Compassion in MBCT” is available for free by emailing the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness at mindfulness@ucsd.edu and requesting a copy.

Book purchasers get access to a companion Web page featuring downloadable audio recordings of the guided mindfulness practices (meditations and mindful movement), plus all of the reproducibles, ready to download and print in a convenient 8 1/2″ x 11″ size. A separate web page for use by clients features the audio recordings only.

As innovative as the MBCT program itself, the 5-day MBCT teacher training offered through the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is a “wonderful opportunity to experience the intricate interweaving of mindfulness practice and cognitive therapy skills in the delivery of the 8 week program,” said Segal. “Our days are long and incorporate elements of personal practice and clinical training all held within a retreat framework that clarifies intention, observation and self-compassion in the learning process.  If you are interested in learning the MBCT program ‘from the inside’ this is the best vehicle for doing so.”

For those who already have experience teaching MBCT or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) UCSD is now offering an Advanced Training for MBCT and MBSR Teachers taught by experienced teachers and trainers Susan Woods and Char Wilkins. Intended to focus upon universal principles for teaching mindfulness-based interventions. As such, the focus for this training is less about teaching to the structure of MBCT and/or MBSR and more about intentionally embodying mindful presence and strengthening the facilitation of mindful inquiry.

What Are Your Thoughts? We would love to hear your thoughts on the approach of explicitly teaching compassion and lovingkindness practice within mindfulness-based interventions like MBCT, versus the more implicit approach described by Segal et al in the new 2nd edition of the MBCT book (free pdf copy of the chapter available upon request at  mindfulness@ucsd.edu ). Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

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.

 

Exploring and Reflecting On the Art and Process of Mindful-Based Inquiry in MBCT

Susan Woods

Susan Woods, MSW, LICSW

Susan Woods, one of the co-leaders (along with Char Wilkins, LCSW) of the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Teacher Training Intensive (MBCT-TTI) through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness offered in Petaluma, California on March 20-25, 2011, has recently written a thought-provoking piece on the art and process of inquiry for teachers of MBCT and other mindfulness-based interventions. Here is a brief excerpt of her article, entitled Transparency in the Art of Teaching Inquiry in the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program:

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  — Lao Tzu

The intention of mindful inquiry and the spirit of mindfulness encourage us to rest in present moment experience and to let go of any ideas about an end goal.  Like the Lao Tzu quote, inquiry has no fixed agenda and is not interested in outcomes. This does not mean that a MBCT teacher will not have specific objectives in leading inquiry and explicit ways of articulating those principles. But her intention will be to provide an environment that embraces a present moment point of reference without a sense of attachment to knowing where and how it will unfold.

For the full article, and several other items and resources that may be of interest to people teaching mindfulness and leading mindfulness-based interventions, check the Suggested Readings page of the MBCT-TTI program on UCSD’s Professional Training Site.