Archives for May 2018

Well Adjusted?

As a Zoom host and MSC Mentor, I often hear about how people are adjusting the MSC curriculum. I also field questions about when and how to decide to make an adjustment. While there are some adaptations that are important and skillful, beautiful actually, others seem to actually detract from the program.

At the root, most adaptations are based in a sense of discomfort in the teacher.

For example, one of our teachers, Greg Serpa, felt uncomfortable with the idea of asking Veterans to imagine each other as children in the Awakening Our Hearts (AOH) exercise. He understood this population well already as he is experienced with this population and he knew this would be a miss with them. He understood the point of this exercise, the underlying framework, and the intention.

Informed by this understanding he guided the exercise inviting them to imagine their partner as a veteran, instead of as a child, and he guided them to see the strengths and suffering of their partner as a veteran. He knew that this would engender common humanity and help these vets have the experience of loving-kindness and compassion for self and other. This was a beautiful and important adaptation. And it started with his feeling of discomfort.

I really trust this feeling of discomfort we as teachers sometimes have. It says to me that there is something there at which it is important to take a closer look.

Very commonly, too often, teachers conclude that the discomfort is due to the curriculum and, sometimes hastily, adjust the curriculum. Over the years I have really come to appreciate the design of the program and the sequencing of what is introduced and when. As Kristin notes, there are often many layers to why things ended up where they are. The curriculum has been so very well-honed over the course of thousands of participants. It works well for most people just as it is.

So what to do with the discomfort of the teacher if not changing the curriculum? First, it is helpful to pause and really understand the discomfort. What is it about, really? Then we might explore our options for dealing with the discomfort. I’ll say more about this in another article. For now, teachers might explore working with their own self-compassion practice while teaching. We should all be familiar with what comforts, soothes, and grounds us when we get pulled off balance while teaching. Of course, getting support from an experienced teacher or mentor can be really helpful. Often this brings a bit more wisdom to our compassion teaching.

At the heart of things, I find many teachers try to adjust the curriculum to adjust the activation level of the group, and therefore their own activation level too. I’d like to speak to this common and normal urge.

Over the years I have come to understand that while we ask each participant to manage their own activation, the teacher(s) are managing the activation of the group as a whole. Before changing the actual structure of the curriculum it is worth seeing if we might work with the delivery of the exercise.

It’s important to carefully monitor the activation level of the group, modulating your delivery to keep participants within the “challenge” zone.

This is an area I appreciate more fully now than I did earlier in my teaching. When I lead AOH now, it is rare that I lead the whole exercise at the same speed and with the same tone. I am continually adjusting my delivery, not just with each group, but actually during the exercise itself in order to keep the group as a whole in the challenge circle. When I think it is too much on the safe side (which diminishes the power of the exercise and their likelihood of benefit) I slow down and warm up my tone so that they drop deeper. On the other hand, if it seems the group as a whole is more in overwhelm than challenge, I deliver the exercise more quickly and with a matter-of-fact tone. I find this works really well in making the exercise as effective as it can be. When groups are in overwhelm, the exercise is also less effective.

Of course, there are other areas where switching things out needs to happen. For example, as Chris points out, poems are just ink on paper until the person who voices them brings them to life. For that reason it is unwise to read poetry we don’t personally resonate with. Switching out the poem for one you do resonate with can be wise. When doing so, just keep in mind why the poem is inserted at this point and what is the underlying intention in putting the poem in that particular spot. What are we trying to illustrate or bring home with that poem? Let that guide you in your selection of another poem.

Don’t worry if you’re a bit unsure or uncomfortable. It took most of us many rounds of teaching to see the underlying wisdom of the scaffolding in the curriculum and to get more skillful in delivering the program. This is completely normal. Trust in the curriculum and in your own good heart. May we all continue to learn and grow as teachers!

Meet Beth Sternlieb, Mindful Self-Compassion Sponsored Retreat Teacher, co-leader of the upcoming Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Retreat, July 22-27

An Interview with Kimberly Sogge, MSC Volunteer Retreat Coordinator

It was such a delight to spend an hour on May 1, 2018 reaching out from snowy Canada to sunny Los Angeles to get to know the amazing woman and Mindful Self Compassion retreat leader Beth Sternlieb. Beth is a presence of kindness and joy, and a senior teacher at InsightLA. (A little known fact is that InsightLA actually started in Beth’s living room! ) 

In this interview with Beth, we learn more about the CMSC Sponsored Summer Mindful Self Compassion Retreat in Beautiful Palos Verdes, California she’ll be co-leading with fellow certified MSC teacher David Spound in the Center for Mindful Self Compassion’s only U.S. sponsored retreat this July. Do not miss out on this one.

Please listen to our online interview to get a sense for Beth’s presence as a retreat teacher, and enjoy a wide ranging conversation on the beauty and benefits of retreat practice.  

If you are short on time, below is quick guide to the intriguing retreat practice topics we discussed.

  • 00:00 Greeting by Dr Kimberly Sogge MSC Certified Teacher and Volunteer Retreat Coordinator
  • 00:45 Introducing Beth Sternlieb, InsightLA Senior Teacher and Founding Member
  • 02:42 Description of Rancho Palos Verdes near Los Angeles
  • 04:00 Beth’s Background with InsightLA and Founder Trudy Goodman
  • 05:31 Why Retreats Are Important
  • 06:22 Why Go on Retreat?
  • 07:00 Silence is not the purpose.
  • 07:30 Going deeper.
  • 08:30 Befriending your heart.
  • 09:48 Are retreats for beginners? A description of retreat structure: Meditation jail or meditation heaven?
  • 12:30 Teacher availability on retreat.
  • 14:00 Retreat diversity: Everyone is welcome. This retreat is set up to prepare people to teach. We want others to have courage.
  • 16:00 Why Beth loves retreats.
  • 18:49 Feedback from prior retreats by David and Beth,
  • 20:40 Encountering the multiplicity of our selves/Encountering the heart of hearts.
  • 21:40 Meditations on MSC retreats: What to expect in practice.
  • 23:07 Why do an MSC Retreat if you have an established practice.
  • 25:35 Retreats meet MBI teacher requirements (MSC, check requirements for Mindfulness teachers, MBSR, MBCT)
  • 27:27 Embodied knowledge as teachers: Connecting and evaluating fit in selecting retreat teachers
  • 29:20 How to register for a retreat; and talking to David and Beth
  • 30:26 Imperfect buddhas: not all lotus blossoms
  • 30:43 Thank you and where to call or email with questions

Register now

Register now for the Summer 2018 CMSC Sponsored Mindful Self Compassion Retreat with Beth Sternlieb and David Spound

Meet the Mentor: Tina Gibson

Professional Biography:

I am an experienced and passionate Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) and Mindfulness Teacher, having facilitated programs within the Education System (to both children and teachers), Cancer Support, Women’s Health and the general community.

I have a sound knowledge of health and education stemming from years of experience working with diverse populations in the roles of Kinesiologist, Health Care Worker, Rehabilitation Counsellor, Health Educator and Emergency Paramedic.

As well as teaching MSC, I currently spend a lot of my time offering compassion-based mindfulness meditation sessions in the community and ongoing booster sessions for my past MSC participants here in Adelaide.

What I Love:

Walking, swimming, listening, dreaming, talking, singing, whistling, hanging out with my chooks and dogs and yes of course my family – playing with my grandchildren, yarning with my children and hanging out with my husband. I love connecting with people and also take refuge in the bush / nature, so I enjoy the balance of both. 

To take a moment to dip into the MSC exercise of self-appreciation… courage, joyfulness, caring and gratitude are the qualities that come to mind. In response to the reflection of whom or what has help nurture these qualities in me, it would be life itself, both the challenges and the love that have come from my connections — most importantly with family — my mob. The courageous souls that take my groups and that MSC teachers that I work with are also my teachers. For this I give thanks.

Practicing MSC continues to deepen my understanding of the full picture of this being human. As my understanding grows, my tenderness to what I find grows. One in the same this nurturing and holding that I reside in with MSC.

Email Tina for mentorship opportunities


MSC Teacher selected as one of China’s Top 50 Influential Figures in the Mental Health Sector

Our China-based Certified MSC Teacher and Teacher Trainer, Hailan Guo was selected as one of China’s Top 50 Influential Figures in the Mental Health Sector by YiXinli, China’s largest mental health education and consultation platform with over 17 million subscribers, and was feature reported on China’s nation-wide leading media – China Women’s News – for her contribution in dissemination of mental well-being knowledge and practical tools to millions of Chinese people, including emotional regulation skills and Mindful Self-Compassion in particular.

Hailan and her team, Hailan Family Well-being, offer a full range of MSC products and services in China, including all kinds of MSC programs as well as MSC related publications, videos, cartoons, and peripherals. In partnership with CMSC, they’ve launched an innovative Live Online and Offline MSC Program which enables much broader access to MSC while ensuring the essence and felt-sense of MSC via embodiment based teaching, safe and deep community building as well as dedication to on-going practices. By far, they’ve offered MSC programs to over 2500 people and trained 120 MSC teachers in China. Half of them have taught at least one MSC program.

Let’s congratulate Hailan and her team for the recognition and for bringing MSC to China in a significant way.