Archives for November 2017

Burning Desire, Telling Truth

by Dr Jo Gosling

Whilst working as a Clinical Psychologist, I trained as a teacher of Mindfulness Meditation (MBCT) and then Mindful Self-Compassion. This journey shook up my life and set me on a path where I am, to quote Joseph Campbell, the famous researcher on mythology, ‘following my bliss!’ The catalyst came on a Mindful Self-Compassion retreat on Holy Isle, near Arran, Scotland. I recall my visceral response to Chris Germer’s question: ‘What burns most in your heart that has to be done in this lifetime?’ Having just been through serious surgery and the loss of my oldest friend through breast cancer, that question revealed the silver lining – returning to my love of textiles! Textiles were in my blood: my grandparents, and women ancestors before that, worked in the linen industry in Ireland and, as a teenager, my refuge from struggle and pain had been in textiles.

Jo at work

I used to be inclined towards struggle (understandable given my life experiences). Recovering from major surgery, I knew the importance of creativity and self-compassion in the healing process so I learned the basics of weaving. I later attended courses by outstanding artists and, after many decades in the NHS, I left the organisation in order to weave. Through the practise of MSC I came to understand the importance of joy and how our own joy impacts on the world around us.

I summarise the theme of my work as ‘Threads catching light’. It symbolizes the gold that emerges from those wounded places in ourselves when they are ‘broken open’, the beauty that can blossom from within us when we can tenderly embrace those wounds. I love how the Japanese art of Kintsugi uses gold and precious metals to repair broken ceramics: the gold shines out from the very place where the piece was broken. Embracing our human frailty also means finding a way of being with our imperfections, even celebrating them, and so I make space for honouring of impermanence and imperfection, known in Japan as Wabi Sabi.

The focus required in the making of a piece has a devotional feel for me. It is an embodiment of Mindfulness. I linger with the breath, and what arises is a much-treasured place of peace, a softening, a homecoming… an adventure.

I aim to work from the heart – that place of softness and ease. Much of my work (using copper and brass wire or metallic threads) depicts the healing effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, as understood through neuroscience.

The piece called Soothing the Traumatised Amygdala expresses how the practice of self-compassion, releases oxytocin (the ‘love chemical’) and soothes agitation of the amygdala (our reptilian brain) where there has been trauma. The silver wires depict the agitation of the amygdala.

A piece called Hard-Wired for Survival (depicting a single neuron firing) speaks to how neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, describes that our brains are hard-wired for survival and not happiness, which gives us a natural ‘negativity bias’. Thus, it can be helpful to actively cultivate our happiness: when I notice my own negativity bias in action in the form of unhelpful thought patterns (‘Am I entitled to be in the art world? I don’t have a Fine Art degree…I’m an imposter!….this piece is not good enough!’) I can step back and see what’s going on, rather than get drawn into habitual tendencies.

Mirror Neurons: the Empathic Brain (which I was thrilled to have selected for the Cordis Showcase last year) depicts mirror neurons, which give us the capacity for empathy. Without these we would not be able to feel compassion for another or share their joys and sorrows on a feeling level.

In my first exhibition, an exhibit (in a series of five) called Blessée II (Blessée is French for ‘wounded’), was placed behind a Japanese screen with an invitation to spend a short time alone with it listening to a brief recorded Mindfulness practice; many people found it deeply moving and recorded their experiences. (The piece has mosaic gold glass woven into the piece with steel wire.) When my work touches people in this way, and helps them to feel a connection with our common humanity, instead of feeling alone with the challenges that life inevitably brings, I am deeply moved and satisfied.

I am currently working with two deeply gifted colleagues, and friends, to develop retreats ‘Exploring the Threads of Creativity and Mindfulness’ . It is my deep wish that others can experience and cultivate feelings of joy – vital to balance the suffering in life – through creativity.

Dr Jo Gosling

Maintaining Consistency and Integrity of MSC

In the last 3 years, over 800 people have become Trained MSC Teachers and the program has been taught to tens of thousands of people around the world. Most of the momentum has been driven by word-of-mouth and the experience that “self-compassion works!”  The MSC program itself has been steadily refined over the past 7 years to be effective for the general public across cultures and our teachers have also found their own teaching voices to make the program fit local conditions and needs.

As MSC goes far and wide, we feel an obligation to our teachers and prospective students to help maintain the consistency and integrity of the program. Therefore, we wish to remind you that if you call your program “MSC,” that it must contain at least 85% of the content of the latest Teacher Guide (Sept 2017). Furthermore, the sessions should be 2 ¾ hours long, with a 15-minute break in the middle of the session, plus a ½ day retreat between sessions 5 and 7. Experienced teachers may teach each session in 2 ½ hours, but less than that probably means that below 85% of the program is included in the course or that the students are not given the time to reflect, savor and consolidate their learning.   

The 8-session format is considered the “standard format” for MSC.  Certified Teachers may teach more than 3 hours per day, such as in the Intensive MSC format. 

Please remember, that ONLY Certified MSC Teachers are authorized to teach intensive MSC programs (programs that involve more than one session of material in a week). Intensive programs require a great deal of familiarity and fluency with the MSC material, which is CMSC has this policy.

Many of our teachers have expertise in other areas and wish to bring MSC into their professional activities. We welcome those adaptations as we would like everyone to experience mindful self-compassion, but we ask that you only call the program “MSC” (or “Mindful Self-Compassion” in capital letters) if it contains 85% of the curriculum. If that is not the case, then please use another name for your program, such as “Self-Compassion for….” and credit Chris and Kristin in the usual manner for their intellectual property.


Your first course must take place in the “standard format” if you would like to get credit toward being a Trained MSC Teacher. If your first course is not in the standard format, you can still attend Zoom consultation sessions for support but you will need to do another standard format MSC course as a prerequisite for becoming a Trained MSC Teacher.

Certified MSC Teachers:  

You are welcome to create a formal adaptation of MSC for special populations, such as Karen Bluth and Lorraine Hobbs have done for young adults in their “Making Friends with Yourself” program. To qualify as a formal adaptation under the umbrella of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion (CMSC), your program should be submitted for approval to CMSC and also have evidence-based research to support it. We at CMSC would be delighted to work with you to support these efforts to broaden the reach of MSC.

In the end, it is our hope and belief that this policy will make MSC even stronger and more readily identifiable, and that this will benefit all MSC teachers.



Teacher Insights: How do you fill your MSC classes?

Remember the first time you taught MSC? Those early days can feel daunting, and receiving wisdom from those who have walked the path before us can be so supportive. For that reason, we will be offering monthly tips and tricks, for teachers and by teachers, on the various non-curricular aspects of teaching MSC. This month, we ask about marketing. How have you filled your MSC classes?

  • This is optional, but helpful in case colleagues wish to speak with you directly about your experience.

Taking Compassion into the World

By Sara Schairer

Just the other day, I spent two hours partying with 80 inmates on one of the yards at R.J. Donovan Prison in San Diego. That’s a statement I never imagined I would write.

The inmates, a few volunteers, and I ate cake, listened to live music, played a rock-paper-scissors tournament, and shared stories of compassion to celebrate the end of the 30-Day Compassion It Challenge. Each week of October focused on a different aspect of compassion: mindfulness, compassion for friends and family, compassion for self, compassion for all, and compassion for the planet. The inmates turned in written reflections throughout the month, and one of them shared, “I’ve been incarcerated since I was 17, and 22 years later I still struggle with forgiving myself and having compassion for myself.” (You can read several of the inmates’ reflections on our

I’m the founder of Compassion It, a nonprofit and global movement whose mission is to inspire compassionate actions and attitudes. You may be familiar with our wristbands, which inspire compassionate actions and attitudes with a simple flip from one side to the other. That’s our way of making compassion and self-compassion accessible and tangible. We also offer compassion education programs to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, from schoolchildren to doctors, and now to inmates.

I sincerely appreciate our partnership with the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. It’s an honor to know that MSC teachers use our wristbands as a tool for prompting self-compassion and compassion around the world. Thank you for your continued support, and thank you for making our world better.