Tag Archives: UCSD Center for Mindfulness Professional Training Programs

Learn From the Founder of Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT)

By Cynthia Price

Cynthia Price, PhD MA LMT is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Shestudies Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT), an approach she developed to facilitate body/interoceptive awareness and related skills for self-care and emotion regulation.  She has clinical and research expertise working with people who are disconnected from their bodies due to trauma, chemical dependency, chronic pain or other life stressors.  Director of the non-profit Center for Mindful Body Awareness http://www.cmbaware.org/ she is involved in training clinicians in the MABT approach and implementing programs, particularly for underserved populations, to help make somatic awareness more available to more people.

Interoceptive awareness – the awareness of inner body sensations – is integral to mindfulness practice.  Most often, in mindfulness classes and practice, people engage in interoceptive awareness by attending to the sensation of their breathing or by engaging in a body scan.  Learning to become aware of how one feels inside is critical for gaining access to emotions, the link between emotions and physical sensations, and having an overall embodied sense-of-self.  Likewise, learning to integrate mindful attention to bodily experience in daily life can enhance regulation and self-care.

However, mindful attention to the body is not easy for everyone.  This tends to be particularly true for people who are unfamiliar with the practice, those who have high levels of stress, and those who may avoid awareness of their inner body sensations due to physical or emotional pain, for example those with a history of physical and/or sexual trauma. For some, individualized assistance in a safe therapeutic relationship is needed to develop interoceptive awareness as well as the capacity for sustained attention to internal experience. Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) was developed to explicitly teach fundamental interoceptive awareness skills and to develop the capacity for sustained attention to interoceptive experience. The MABT approach grew out of Cynthia Price’s clinical work with people who were seeking emotional awareness and healing but were disconnected from their bodies. In more recent years, research findings highlight how helpful the MABT approach can be for reducing mental and physical health distress and for increasing emotion regulation.  As one research participant wrote about learning this approach:  “I tried meditating over the years and I was never able to concentrate. With MABT, I was able to slow my mind down and then follow what she (the therapist) was saying, concentrating on a body part, and what I was feeling and afterwards talking about that. Eventually, I learned to do that by myself. This is why I thought this approach was amazing because it taught me to meditate. Now I meditate every night. The difference is having someone lead me into learning how to do it first.’’ 

Join Cynthia Price and her colleagues for the Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) professional training, April 28 – May 7, 2018 at Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Joshua Tree, CA. Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) is an empirically validated 8-week intervention that combines manual, psychoeducation, and mindfulness approaches to teach interoceptive awareness and related practices for self-care and regulation.  To learn more, listen to the Liberated Body podcast in which Cynthia describes the MABT approach:  https://www.liberatedbody.com/podcast/cynthia-price-lbp-060

References:

  • Price, C. & Smith-DiJulio, K. (2016). Interoceptive Awareness is Important for Relapse Prevention: Perceptions of Women who Received Mindful Body Awareness in Substance Use Disorder Treatment. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 27 (1): 32-8. PMC4784109.
  • Price, C., Wells, E., Donovan, D., Rue, T.  (2012). Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy as an Adjunct to Women’s Substance Use Disorder Treatment:  A Pilot Feasibility Study.  Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 43: 94-107.
  • Price, C., Taibi, D., Smith Di-Julio, K., Voss, J. (2013). Developing Compassionate Self-Care Skills in Persons Living with HIV: a Pilot Study to Examine Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy Feasibility and Acceptability. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 6(2): 1-11.
  • Price, C., McBride, B., Hyerle, L., Kivlahan, D. (2007).  Body-oriented Psychotherapy for Female Veterans with PTSD Taking Prescription Analgesics for Chronic Pain: A Feasibility Study.  Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 13(6):32-43.
  • Price C. (2005).  Body-Oriented Therapy in Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse:  An Efficacy Study.  Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11, (5): 46-57.

 

 

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Mindful Leadership: Is There a Place for Love at Work?

By Christy Cassisa, Esq.
Director of WorkLife Integration
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

christycassisa

Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, who is the Director of WorkLife Integration for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we are thrilled to offer our WorkLife Integration Programs and our new Mindful Leadership course in partnership with UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Center for Executive Development. Now you can bring the Center’s expertise to your office with a program or workshop tailored for your business or group.” If you have an interest in learning more, contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at cfmworklife.ucsd.edu. 

Is There a Place for Love at Work?

Even at work, caring and compassionate relationships matter. Especially at work, it turns out. According to the American Time Use Survey, we spend an average 8.7 hours of every day at work (averaged over all 7 days each week), more than any other single time-use component. This means that if we’re miserable at work, it makes a huge impact on the overall quality of our lives. Although we typically think to look to our non-work relationships for love and support, recent research has shown that feeling this same sense of connection in the workplace can make a big impact. Employees who feel cared for benefit, in terms of satisfaction and wellbeing, employers benefit by having more effective and engaged employees, and a recent study shows that the “customers” they serve do too.

Companionate love refers to a type of emotional culture found in the workplace, as described by Wharton management professor, Sigal Barsade, and George Mason University assistant professor of management, Olivia O’Neill in their study, What’s Love Got to Do with It, published in the May 2014 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly. A workplace that shows a culture of companionate love is one in which employees care for one another and relationships are based on warmth, affection and connection.

The study was conducted on a large non-profit long-term healthcare facility and hospital and it measured levels of tenderness, compassion, affection and caring of the employees towards each other, but not necessarily towards their clients. The researchers wondered if employees who treat each other with caring, compassion, tenderness and affection benefit, would those benefits also carry over to residents and their families? Indeed they were.

They found that employees who worked in the units that showed higher levels of companionate love had lower levels of absenteeism and employee burnout. The researchers also discovered that a culture of companionate love among employees led to higher levels of employee engagement with their work via greater teamwork and employee satisfaction. And the patients also derived benefits from these happier employees. In measures of patient quality of life, based on 11 factors commonly used to assess long-term care facilities, including improved patient mood, quality of life, fewer trips to the ER, comfort, dignity and spiritual fulfillment, there was a positive correlation across the board between a culture of companionate love and patient quality of life.

As a former attorney, I’ve considered this study in the context of the profession of law and wrote a recent 2-part piece for AttorneyatWork.com (here and here). Interestingly, after I had submitted my article, and just a few days before my post was published online, Fast Company also ran an article on the benefits of love at work, citing another researcher, Barbara Frederickson, a well-known positive psychologist. Her opinion is also that that love drives employee engagement. “Because those feelings drive commitment and loyalty just like it would in any relationship.”

The Fast Company article offers several things that drive worker engagement, that serve as “emotional currency”. Among other things, they include having a strong bond with our supervisor, and feeling that we are appreciated and cared about as individual human beings, not just as cogs in the corporate wheel. As with so many other components of corporate culture, leadership really matters. It sets the tone and communicates the attitudes expected of all management relationships below, either fostering these types of relationships or squashing them.

So how can leaders learn to offer “love” at work, especially if it doesn’t come naturally? A great place to start is by practicing mindfulness.

Among other things, mindfulness practice helps the individual cultivate self-awareness, emotional regulation, and compassion, and a good leader possesses all three of these qualities. Awareness of your own triggers and habits can allow you to be fully present with what is actually happening, rather than reacting to assumptions on autopilot. Emotion regulation allows you to maintain calm and composed, even in the face of conflict or challenge. And compassion allows you to really connect with other people and care for them, without necessarily being sucked into their emotional storms. As theologian Albert Schweitzer says, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Truly excellent leadership is an internal job, and this internal work can provide the foundation for a culture of companionate love in any organization. We’ve seen over and over again how mindfulness practice can improve the individual’s physical and mental wellbeing, both of which also impact the leader’s ability to be effective. A leader has a more difficult time inspiring the troops when she herself is feeling burned out and exhausted. A healthy, connected and engaged leader can make a huge difference for both the organization and the individual employees’ wellbeing and performance.

Join our next day-long Mindful Leadership workshop, May 28,, 2015, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m, offered through the UCSD Rady School of Management’s Center for Executive Education to begin to learn the practice of mindfulness.

BBS CEUs Available: Course meets the qualifications for 7.5 hours of continuing education credit for MFTs, LPCCs, LEPs, and/or LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. (UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness Provider Number PCE5606)

 

Introducing Mindful Eating Within a Family

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

baysjanJan Chozen Bays, MD, is a pediatrician and Zen teacher from Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and How to Train a Wild Elephant, a collection of 53 mindfulness exercises. Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  ”Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book.

One of the most common questions we get in our mindful eating events is how to teach mindful eating to children and practice it during family meals. The answer is for everyone to practice mindfulness while cooking and eating together as a family.

Young children have a natural internal nutritionist that tells them what and how much to eat. Little kids who are provided with a variety of foods on the tray of their high chair will eat the appropriate types and amounts of each food. The catch is that they will not eat in a balanced way in one day, but over the course of a week. We can imagine how quickly this intuitive way of eating is disrupted. Parents see that their toddler has eaten only mashed potatoes one day and applesauce the next. Worried that their child is not getting the proper amount of protein, they begin to interfere, cajoling, bribing and trying to force food into the child’s closed mouth. Research shows that by age 5, children will valiantly try to eat all of an inappropriately large helping of macaroni and cheese.

Thus begins our uniquely American habit of trying to clean our plates at “family style” restaurants where huge portions of cheap food are considered “a good deal.” We are even taught to feel guilty if we don’t eat it all and somehow worsen the situation of starving children in Africa.UCSD CFM Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist. How can parents introduce mindful eating to their children? Here are some suggestions.

(1)   Have at least one congenial family meal a day. If the atmosphere is relaxed and each person shares the events of the day, children learn to eat slowly and to pair eating with enjoyment and connection. Eating and anxiety are not a healthy pair. Eating and a sense of ease are.

(2)   Let children help you prepare the meal. Talk about where each item of food comes from and how the Earth, sun, rain and many people helped bring it to your table.

(3)   Begin family meals with a simple grace. It could be just holding hands briefly and bowing heads around the table in order to stop, remember and thank the many people and creatures who brought the food to the table. Pausing helps teach children not to bolt their food and run.

(4)   Experiment with new foods and drinks. Try fresh apricots, pineapple or dates. Buy something from an ethnic grocery store: persimmon, papaya, mango, kiwi, star fruit or red bananas; tamarind, guava or coconut juice. Encourage curiosity: “This is a fruit that children in (Mexico, Japan, Thailand, etc.) like to eat. Smell it. What does it smell like? Take a little bite or sip and tell me what it tastes like.” Experimentation helps children explore the vast world of different tastes and not collapse into a steady diet of boxed macaroni and canned ravioli.

(5)   Be creative with food. When one boy’s mother told him that broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat, he spread the story to his entire elementary school class and every kid began to enjoy eating broccoli.

(6)    Talk about the benefits each food confers. For example, milk, cheese and spinach have calcium that builds strong teeth and bones.

(7)   Play the “how full is my stomach” game. Ask children to check in with their stomachs before, halfway and at the end of a meal. Is it empty, half full, or all the way full? This helps them (and you) stay in touch with body signals of fullness and not overeat.

(8)   Avoid  talking  to kids about calorie counts or diets in restrictive ways. Research shows that girls who begin dieting as preteens have a much higher risk of eating disorders. Don’t be too rigid about junk food. If your kids have been raised on home-cooked organic food and they have a McDonald’s hamburger and cola at a birthday party, it’s not a tragedy. It’s a cross-cultural experience.

(9)    Help children discern the difference between actual physical hunger and emotions such as  boredom, fatigue and anxiety. Help them learn to work with real solutions to these emotions, using activities such as exercising, playing a game, reading a book, doing crafts, and connecting with friends.

(10) Celebrate holidays and special occasions. Let kids help with creating a party. Set the table with a tablecloth, a candle and flowers. They can make simple decorations such as hearts, stars or Easter eggs cut out of paper. When we treat ourselves as guests, we infuse the food with an important ingredient, an extra scoop of love.

(11) Everyone’s deepest hunger is for love and connection. Loving words are vital to our health. Loving words are a way to feed the heart that does not involve food. If you want your family and friends to feel well nourished, give them generous helpings of genuine expressions of gratitude and affectionate words. “I really appreciate your …”  “When I am with you I feel …”

Mindful eating in a family means making a good mixture of these basic ingredients: eating as a family, pausing, slowing down, having fun, experimenting, being curious, exploring new tastes, and bringing the flavors of kindness and love to your meals.

Join Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkens for a A 5-day Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL) Professional Training Retreat April 29-May 4, 2014, at Great Vow Monastery, Clatskanie, OR.

Locally in San Diego, we invite you to join Allan Goldstein and Megan Leuchars for our 8-Week Mindful Eating Program beginning Monday, March 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m, at our University City location.

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.

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.

Staying : turning towards what is difficult [ Part I]

By Char Wilkins,

charwilkinsChar Wilkins, MSW, LCSW is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist who works with individuals, couples and groups incorporating the intention and skills of mindfulness as a foundation from which to explore one’s life. She leads  MBSR, and Mindful Eating/Conscious Living (MECL) retreats for our Professional Training Institute and programs in her own practice for the general public.

When challenging or unwanted thoughts, emotions or behaviors arise most of us want to avoid or distract ourselves. We may use food, drugs, work or exercise to temporarily sooth, comfort or numb the difficult internal experience. Unfortunately, repeatedly coping in this way creates a habituated pattern that carries with it more shame and fear, and the hope of change slips further away into a seemingly endless out-of-control cycle.

There is of course, a reason why in mindfulness-based work we turn towards what we believe to be so difficult that if we don’t run, we won’t survive. And that is because when we come to know the taste, texture, temperature, shape, sound and movement of the unwanted thought, emotion or sensation, it is no longer a lurking shadow threatening to overwhelm us. It is felt and known for what it is: just a thought. Observed and held in awareness without judgment, it takes its right-sized place in the scope of who we are. Turning toward the difficult offers the possibility of freeing ourselves from the very patterns we fear the most.

Perhaps you’re thinking that this “staying with thing” is not the way you want to spend your day off. It’s not a comfortable thing to do. It just doesn’t have the same feeling that you get when you’re angry, depressed or anxious and think: ” A day at the beach is what I need.” or “A hot fudge sundae would do the trick right about now.”   But one getaway is never enough, is it?  And then, of course, returning is too much. This jumping back and forth we do is wearisome. That’s why the practice of mindfully staying with what is here right now, is so important. Ultimately it conserves energy, time, wear and tear on body and soul, and so much drama is avoided.

I’m aware that I ask participants in MBSR, MBCT and MECL programs to do a very challenging thing: be present to what is arising in the moment and to allow it to be known. It isn’t easy to not turn away from, to not disassociate, to not to run.  Bolting is the norm. If it doesn’t feel good, leave. Leave the person, place or thing. I’m not suggesting that you stay if you’re being abused. I’m talking about the everyday moments when we think, “I wouldn’t have to get so angry if only he wouldn’t ____________.  If she’d just ______________, I’d be happy.” As I’ve sat with clients and participants over the years, I’ve watched so much “bolting,” that recently I thought a new reality TV show entitled “Extreme Bolting might get higher ratings than the X Games since more people bolt than Cave Dive, go Wingsuit Flying or attempt Extreme Ironing. Look it up, it’s worth it.

In Part 2, I’ll share how in working with women who have experienced abuse or trauma mindfulness of the body can help them learn how to stay with what is difficult.

Listen on Monday September 9, 2013 from 12:00pm-1:00pm to Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW, in a special teleconference  exploring how we sometimes use food which temporarily soothes, comforts or submerges the difficult internal experiences.

 

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

Mindfulness Invites Engagement & Connection

charwilkins-2By Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW

What fascinates me about this mindfulness work is the way in which the different qualities and characteristics of being mindful engage and connect us. Recently, I wrote about the rich possibilities inherent in cultivating the skill of listening mindfully and the presence of respect, wonder, gratitude, reverence and connection that naturally seem to co-arise.  It makes me think of the lyrics from an old song that goes “. . . you can’t have one without the other.”  I haven’t done any scientific research on this, but it seems that when making the intention to cultivate even one of these, the others appear.

reflectionsTeaching MBCT or MBSR in a group setting or adapting the program for individual work provides multiple opportunities to nurture connections.  In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown has a lovely, yet practical, definition of what she feels it means to be connected. She writes “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

As we teach we become aware of many different connections and relationships that arise as the weeks pass.  Daniel Goleman, in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships writes about how recent findings in neuroscience and biology confirm that we are hard-wired for connection and that our relationships shape our biology as well as our experiences.

There is the relationship a participant creates with the material being presented which may fluctuate from boredom to confusion to excitement.  There is the evolving relationship he or she establishes with the teacher.  In a group setting, each participant determines whether or not they will connect with others and to what extent they will interact with fellow participants.  And then there is the intra-personal work of connecting to oneself that each participant is invited to embark on.  For the teacher, there is the opportunity to model healthy boundaries while nurturing curiosity, potential, and the possibility of connection to self and others.  And there is the ongoing development of the teacher’s own relationship with the program material, the practice and the embodiment of the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness that Jon Kabat-Zinn articulated: patience, trust, beginner’s mind, non-judging, acceptance, non-striving and letting go. Maybe it is true that we teach what we most need to learn.

I’ve barely touched upon the value of and ways this work invites us to connect. Perhaps you have an example or are aware of other connections taking place as you teach a mindfulness-based intervention that you’d be willing to contribute to expanding this exploration.

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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, June 2-7, 2013 at Joshua Tree Retreat Center, in Joshua Tree, CA

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. and November 11-16, 2013 at the Chapin Mill Retreat Center, Rochester, NY

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.

Learn About “The Science Of Compassion” First “Unprecedented!” Large-Scale Conference

The Science of CompassionStanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) presents world experts on compassion, altruism & service The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures & Interventions
July 19-22 in Telluride, Colorado.

The Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) presents The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures and Interventions, the first large-scale international conference of its kind dedicated to study of compassion. The Telluride CCARE event will provide an unprecedented gathering of leading experts in research on compassion, altruism, social connection and service to discuss their latest findings. The conference will explore the origins of compassion and compassionate action, how it can be measured, and how we can foster it through interventions.

CEU: APA-approved Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) offered to psychologists and master’s level clinicians. 1 credit per hour of conference attendance.

The conference is open to researchers and the general public. Among the presenters are key figures in Psychology such as Dr. Phil Zimbardo and keynote speaker Dr. Richard Davidson, pioneering researcher on meditation and brain function. Other invited speakers include such distinguished scholars as Thupten Jinpa Langri (His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s long-time translator).

“While compassion is a fundamental part of every religious tradition, there is an ever enlarging body of scientific evidence that being compassionate has immense positive impact on the individual both in regard to their mental and physical health. This first-of-its-kind conference will highlight these scientific findings and provide a forum for researchers from around the world to collaborate with colleagues from a variety of disciplines. We at CCARE are very excited to sponsor the conference and contribute to this expanding field.” says Dr. James Doty, director of CCARE.

Event co-sponsors include the Telluride Institute, the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, and the Swedish Association for Contemplation in Education and Research.
Between sessions, compassion meditation opportunities practices and interactive workshops will be offered. Seats limited.

For more information/registration, please go to CCARE. For questions and media inquiries, please contact Emma Seppala emmas@stanford.edu (650) 723-3248

SAVE THE DATE! Attend a Self-Compassion Workshop with Dr. Kristin Neff in San Diego.

Saturday, September 22, 2012, Special 1-Day Self-Compassion Workshop at UCSD presented by, Kristin Neff, PhD, author Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.