Archives for November 2018

Taking to the Road With an Open Heart: Adventures in Mindfulness and Self-Compassion in Vietnam

Something inside me said “Go!” So I did. I went to Vietnam in the Spring of 2018 with an international delegation of like-minded people with two objectives: firstly, to bring the Mindful Self-Compassion, MSC program to Vietnam and make the program more accessible to the locals; and secondly to enable Vietnam to self-sustain MSC programs in the future. We would ultimately achieve these objectives with our Vietnamese partners and the generosity of people from all over the world.

The non-profit Center for Mindful Self-Compassion’s Vietnamese partners is a group of educators and professionals committed to deepening mindfulness and bringing self-compassion to Vietnam. The other people, mostly from the west, joined us to participate in the MSC program for themselves and to sponsor Vietnamese people who could not otherwise afford to participate. Each participant from the west made it possible for up to four local Vietnamese people to participate.

I knew this was going to be a chance for real adventure and deep intercultural exchange, so with an open mind and open heart, the adventure began and continues.

The Adventure Begins

On our first pioneering trip we landed in Ho Chi Minh City airport, and from the moment we deplaned, I felt as though I was being greeted by the whole of Vietnam. What a fanfare! So many people to greet their loved ones. I got caught up in the celebration and felt so welcomed. The energy was palpable.

I got checked in to my hotel, settled in, then could not wait to venture out onto the streets where I encountered more lively energy. The city was bustling with movement, lights, people, thousands of scooters, and not many cars. Action.

I learned quickly that one has to get in the groove of this wild, alive, vibrating place, or you’ll get left by the wayside.

People from all over the world convened for this Mindful Self-Compassion adventure in Vietnam. Together we explored the city before the MSC program commenced. We roamed, visited museums, exhibits, temples and best of all, we got the opportunity to hear from the people themselves of their personal history, their trials, and their triumphs. This was the start of life-long friendships and bonds. An up-close encounter with our shared truths.

We had the incredible opportunity to experience a homemade lunch in the home of a family of four generations. I had conversations in English, a little Vietnamese, drawings and lots of hand gestures with a six-year-old boy who took me under his wing. I learned from the little boy’s grandmother, who passionately expressed her perspective of life in Vietnam and her pain of having lived through so much.

Feeling immersed in this faraway world, I gave further thought to why so many people in Asia have become disconnected from some of their own ancient wisdom traditions, teachings and way of life. I have suspected, it is due, at least in part, to Western ways of living influencing the east. Being in Ho Chi Minh City, I witnessed this to be true. Sleek buildings, housing commercial interests crowd out and suppress the natural tendencies, values, and age-old ways of the people. Families, friends, and colleagues struggle to maintain a sense of interconnection as the forces of materialism erode the glue of interdependence. There is positive evidence of the economic growth that has certainly helped and supported the population. But in the growth process, some of what the people held so precious has been lost — or at least lies dormant.

Happily, there are seeds of wisdom and compassion that are being nurtured in Vietnam, and I am honored to be a part of this re-awakening. The people, sowing these seeds, welcomed us wholeheartedly.

The MSC Experience


The MSC program in Vietnam evolved into an experience that exceeded expectations. Engaging in the MSC program in this context opened growth and connection in profound and unexpected ways. People explored their inner landscape in a safe, supportive way, learning together how to apply skills to nurture their inner resources and strengthen clarity. As for the Vietnamese participants, I witnessed the beginnings of them tapping into their capacity to be kinder to themselves without feeling that this was selfish or that this behavior was contrary to their cultural norm of serving others.

This experience for them was the beginning of discovery into how self-love can actually make us more powerfully caring, giving and connected to others.

Ironically, the MSC experience seemed to serve as a back door to enhancing what the Vietnamese culture already values, namely, “interbeing,” the term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk. “Interbeing” describes the interconnection of all things.

For the western participants, I witnessed something similar.

Interestingly this belief that it is selfish or wrong to truly appreciate and care for ourselves cuts across many cultures worldwide. I sensed the beginnings of freedom from those present from this limiting mindset.

I delighted in people from all over the world looking at themselves and each other with a kind of innocent recognition:

“Hey! We all struggle with this limitation and what if it is not even true?”

There was an almost gleeful, mischievous energy in moments of little rebels: “Hey! Maybe we don’t need this? Dare we collectively let it go? There is power in numbers. We are not alone!” I still smile inside at these fierce internal freedom fighters.

Taking in the Culture

After attending the MSC Program, we had a few glorious days to explore more of Vietnam. Jumping on buses and boats, we ventured into the streets and waterways. We took a boat ride up the Mekong Delta and stayed the night in a beautiful homestead. There we had a hands-on lesson in cooking our own Vietnamese meal, enjoyed traditional Vietnamese music, singing, and dancing. We took a wonderful bike ride around the island and a canoe ride in the Mekong Delta, all the while donning our wide-brimmed traditional hats.

The food throughout the trip was fascinating, creative, colorful and delicious.

Some of us then went on to another adventure in Cambodia to take in more history, food and sites.

The Vietnamese adventure was a life-changing experience for me. Getting to immerse in compassion for ourselves and others — and doing it in a diverse world setting — was a gift. My encounters with the Vietnamese people were warm and alive, and I so enjoyed their willingness to connect and exchange stories, their history, and their healing.

Hope and Healing

There is a merciful and graceful kindness that lives in the hearts of humans all over the world. No matter what hurts, divisions and misunderstandings have transpired there is a freshness in our capacity to come together and heal. I experienced this with the people in Vietnam:

Despite their history with America and the Vietnam war, which, by the way, they call the “American War,” there was an open-hearted willingness to connect in new ways. I was willing to bear witness to their pain and to their truth with the belief that healing, kindness, and connection could emerge. And it did.

Rumi said: “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”

I look forward to going back and doing it again. My next trip there will be co-teaching the MSC program with CMSC Executive Director Steve Hickman in March 2019 and supporting the two newly trained Vietnamese teachers of MSC. They will be assisting in teaching the program, thereby strengthening their ability to teach the program themselves in Vietnam.

Like engaging again with a good novel, film, piece of art or classic teaching, I trust that I will continue to learn new things and deepen my appreciation of MSC, Vietnam and simply being human.

When we wander the globe with compassionate awareness, we can discover things we didn’t know we were looking for. It can turn our assumptions upside down and leave us with the belief that there is hope in this world.

This is the wonder! This is the awe! This is the adventure!

Consider joining me in 2020 and read more about the project here.

Learn More About Upcoming Global MSC Intensives

Find out how you can join CMSC to take the Mindful Self-Compassion program in Hoh Chi Minh, Vietnam or Nairobi, Kenya in 2020. Learn more about these upcoming events as or register using the links below. Or contact us HERE with any additional inquiries about Globally Engaged MSC intensives. 

Information: Vietnam, Spring 2020

Information: Kenya, 9-16 Feb 2020

Zoom 컨설테이션 회기: 좋은 사례가 아닌 경우

모든 MSC지도자는 Trained Teacher가 기 위해 반드시 그룹 Zoom 컨설테이션 회기에 참여해야 합니다. 그런데 컨설테이션 회기에 한번도 참석하지 않거나 10회기를 마치지 않고 MSC를 가르치는 선생님들이 다는 사실을 알게 되었습니다. 그래서 CMSC는 trained teacher가 되기 위한 절차에 해서 분명하게 알려드립니다.

일단 6박 7의 MSC지도자 훈련과정을 마치게 되면 여러분은 [훈련 에 있는 지도자 (Teacher in Training)]간주됩니다.이 반드시 10번의 온라인 Zoom 그룹컨설테이션에 등록해야 MSC 로그램을 가르칠 있는 한이 주어집니다. 훈련 중에 있는 지도자는 컨설테이션 회기 이 MSC를 가르칠 수 있는 권한이 없습니다. 10번의 컨설테이션 회기를 진행하면서 동시에 번째 MSC 지도과정을 마쳐야만 Trained Teacher 자격을 신청수 있습니다. 그런 다음에 CMSC 공식정책에 라 8주간 MSC 프로그램을 스로 가르칠 수 있는 권한이 주어집니다. 이러한 사항은 여러분이 지도자 훈련에서 은 ‘지도자 훈련 록’에 잘 요약되어 있습니다. 

만일 여러분이 어떠한 이유로 이러한 지침을 놓쳤다거나 훈련된 지도자 자격을 받지 않은 상태로 MSC를 가르쳐 다면, 다음 프로그램을 진행하기 에 (아니면 록 스 진행 중이더라도) 되도록 빠른시일내에 Zoom 컨선테에션 회기에 등록할 을 강력하게 권고 드립니다. 이 Zoom 컨설테이션 회기는 동료 지도자와 경험이 은 공인된 지도자들로 부터 각 회기들을 효율적으로 진행할 수 있도록 지지와 내 그리고 지혜를 을 수 있는 아주 좋은 기회입니다. Zoom 회기를 공적으로 마치는 것만이 여러분이 trained teacher가 되어 계속해서 스스로 MSC 프로그램을 가르칠 수 있는 유일한 입니다. 

일단 여러분이 trained teacher 자격을 얻게 되면, 스스로 가르칠 수 있을 만 아니라 여러분의 MSC 코스 홍보를 위해 CMSC 홈페이지에 자기소개와 함께 가르칠 코스를 기재할 수 있습니다. 한 CMSC 정책은 Zoom 회기에 참여하지 않고 MSC 프로그램 보조 진행자는 수 있지만 보조진행 할은 trained teacher가 되는 요건에는 부합되지 않습니다. 또한 보조진행자로서 Zoom 컨설테이션에 참여할 수는 있으나 (권장사항) 이 또한 trained teacher가 되는 요건에는 함되지 않습니다.

해 주세요. 2019년 1월 1일부터 Zoom 회기에 참석하지 않은 Teacher in Training에게 MSC 수업을 받은 분들은 입문과정을 이수한 것으로 인정하지 않는다는 사실을 유의해 주시기바랍니다.

Zoom 회기를 등록하고 구매하려면 Power School Learning에 로그인하고 ‘Zoom Consultation Sessions’ 페이지의 지시 사항을 따르십시오. 이 과정에 도움이 요하면 CMSC의 지도자 련 매니저 Kim levan (kim@centerformsc.org)에게 연락하십시오. 우리는 여러분이 MSC 선생님으로서 성공할 수 있도록 전적으로 지지하고 있으며, 특히 중요한 컨설테이션 회기에서 우리가 공하는 모든 지원 혜택을 받으시길 바랍니다. 또한 이러한 CMSC 정책과 관련하여 우려 사항이 있거나 어려움이 있으시면 CMSC 전무 이사 인 Steve Hickman (steve@centerformsc.org)에게 의주십시요.

Zoom 网络督导:不仅仅是一个好主意

我们注意到,在世界各地有一些教授MSC的人从未参加或完整参加过成为静观自我关怀正式老师(Trained Teacher)所必须参加的Zoom网络督导——这是获得正式老师资质的必修课。这一令人警醒的消息促使CMSC进一步阐明和澄清我们关于教授MSC的政策,以及如何成为一名静观自我关怀正式老师。

在成功完成为期6天的MSC师资培训课程后,您将被视为MSC实习老师(在训师资,Teacher-in-training)。此时,您只被授权在同步接受10次Zoom网络督导的情况下教授MSC课程。作为一名实习老师,在未参加Zoom督导的情况下,您无权教授MSC。当您教授完第一个MSC课程并同时接受了10次Zoom督导,就可以申请成为正式老师(Trained Teacher),从而在遵循CMSC各项官方政策的前提下,在您所在的地区教授8周形式的MSC课程,如您在师资培训课上收到的《教师手册》所介绍的那样。

如果因为某种原因,您没有留意到这项政策,或是在没有获得正式老师资质的情况下已经教授了MSC课程,我们强烈建议您在教授下一次课程时尽快报名参加Zoom督导(如果您正在授课过程中,也可以开始参加Zoom督导,如果您认为可行的话)。Zoom督导由认证老师或资深老师主持,参加这些督导将让您有机会得到他们的支持和引导,并分享他们的智慧。成功完成Zoom督导是您成为正式老师并被授权独立带领MSC课程的唯一方法。

一旦成为正式老师,您不仅可以独立授课,还可以在CMSC网站的教师目录上列出您的个人信息和课程,这将增加您课程的曝光率和课程报名。CMSC政策允许您以助理身份协助另一位老师共同教授MSC。作为助理,您不需要参加Zoom督导,但是担任助教的经历也不能作为晋级正式老师的资质。作为助理,您也可以参加Zoom督导(我们鼓励您参加),但这些督导也不能作为晋级正式老师的资质。为了有资格参加并完成Zoom督导,您需要成为一名联合带领者(co-teacher),也就是说您带领的课程内容需要是课程全部内容的大约50%。

请注意,从2019年1月1日起,如果一个MSC课程的授课老师是未参加Zoom督导的实习老师,这个课程的学员可能将不能以这次学习经历作为报名参加师资培训的前提条件。

如欲报名Zoom督导,请登录Power School Learning网站,并按照’Zoom督导’页面的说明进行购买和注册。在此过程中,如果您需要任何帮助,请与CMSC教师关系经理Kim Levan联系,地址是Kim@centerformsc.org。我们非常重视每一位MSC老师的成功,并希望您能从我们提供的所有支持中受益,特别是这些极其重要的课程督导。如果您对该CMSC政策有任何担忧或面临任何困难,请与CMSC执行董事Steve Hickman联系,地址是Steve@centerformsc.org

When the Dopamine Blinders Come Off, Self-Compassion is There

Many of us can probably remember a time when we fell madly in love, convinced that our beloved was our life’s crucial missing piece. Fiery for this new person, we believed that we must be with them in order to be happy!Of course part of the human condition is the deep desire to be seen and loved.

When we are marinating in the hormone cocktail of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine which fuel the early infatuation stage of relationship, we are experiencing the very real effects of the “most addictive substance on earth.

1” We are easily swept away on the resulting effects of joy and well being. Meanwhile, our new partner’s less-than-pleasant qualities go blissfully undetected.

What’s really going on?

In looking at this a bit more closely, we see that our partner is actually attracted to their own projection of us. They aren’t seeing us any more clearly than we’re seeing them.

The cocktail doesn’t last forever, and when eventually it wears off, we begin to see our partner more clearly. We notice now the parts that we are not so fond of.

In fact, we can begin to feel we may have made a mistake. Our person is no longer making us happy. And on top of it all, they actually have qualities we dislike!

… That awful way they scrape their teeth with their fork when they eat.

… Their chronic lateness.

… Their frustrating habit of leaving their breakfast dishes in the sink.

Yikes!

This can lead to a certain disillusionment in relationships. The negativity bias kicks in and our field of vision narrows to what we don’t like in our partner. Sometimes we even launch a campaign to change them. Their good qualities are still there, but we no longer see them in the midst of our disappointment.

When self-compassion kicks in

In the best case scenario, our self-compassion practice kicks in when we notice aspects of our partner we don’t like. We begin to comfort and soothe ourselves and we realize we can actually meet our own needs.

Then from this place of feeling comforted and soothed, a certain equanimity can arise. We can now, perhaps for the first time, see our partner more clearly.

The parts of them we love, the parts we dislike, and we can begin to become curious about the parts we fail to notice. Who is this person anyway? What is deeply meaningful to them? They begin to exist for us, separate from our own liking and disliking. No longer an extension of me, we can see who they are. And beyond seeing who they are, we can accept and love them just as they are. Being loved for who we are — warts and all — is very different than being loved for our partner’s projection of our good qualities. We don’t have to be good to be loved. An excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” comes to mind here:

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. …”

Letting relational core values guide us

One way we can see our partner as they truly are is to become curious about their core values. What is it that is deeply meaningful to them? And we can also share our own core values. Then we can create a set of core relational values that really function like the rudder in a ship. The shared values keep us on course, or help us find our way back to what we are about when we discover we have drifted off course. In the Compassion for Couples program (a couples’ adaptation of MSC I created), we do such an exercise, and I love seeing the benefits that arise in couples. They report feeling connected, supported, and a sense of belonging to each other. Often there is a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.

Free audio meditation:
Lovingkindness in Times of Difficulty
from the Compassion for Couples program
(Please choose standard or customized lovingkindness phrases before beginning.)
🎧 Listen now. (16 min.)

Connecting through joy

One of the benefits is that when we know and support our partner’s core values, we can share their joy in anything that happens that is in alignment with their values. It is an opportunity to celebrate. Their joy becomes our joy. Maybe they value freedom and they get a chance to go skydiving and they feel truly free. We can celebrate that they had the experience of freedom and take joy in knowing that our loved one is truly happy. And our partner doesn’t have to choose between being connected and being free. To be celebrated even when pursuing the value of freedom, for example, is beautiful.

At the same time, if the other partner values connection, then the celebration together of the joy of skydiving becomes an opportunity for connection. And the gratitude the skydiving partner feels and expresses toward their partner for supporting them also feeds the connection that the other partner desires.

When we can truly see each other and support what is deeply meaningful to each other, each partner, and the relationship itself, is strengthened. The natural result is joy.

And who wouldn’t like more of that?

1Fisher, Helen. (July 15, 2008). The Brain in Love [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYfoGTIG7pY#t=67.

What is Compassion for Couples?

In the Compassion for Couples program, we explore what comforts and soothes us, and we explore what comforts and soothes our partner. The two often are not the same, and we need to understand who needs which medicine when. We also look at our relational habits (rather than our partner’s) and how those habits impact the relationship. Exploring our affect regulation systems and understanding our partner’s behavior as part of being in the threat defense system helps us to unhook from feeling personally injured when they get caught up in unskillful behavior.

We intentionally warm up our attention to our partner by cultivating formal and informal lovingkindness practices. Rooting in our shared relational values helps us live from a place of what is deeply meaningful for us.

We discuss the role, importance of, and blocks to forgiveness and look at how to cultivate the conditions for forgiveness to arise. We also explore how to tend to each other in times of difficulty, especially how to communicate compassionately.

Finally, we explore the importance of gratitude, through partner appreciation and also the role of shared play and joy. Please feel free to visit CompassionforCouples.com for more information about the upcoming programs and resources for couples. Meditations will be posted there soon.

The program is for all couples who are in a committed relationship.

Learn more or register for an upcoming CfC course.

Self-Compassionate Parenting Through Addiction Recovery

The room is full of women and their babies. Babies are cooing and crying, moms are chatting, sharing diapers and parenting tips. It looks like any mom and baby class, but these moms have something else in common: they live in a residential addiction treatment facility. They’re fighting addictions to heroin, to meth, a few to other drugs.

Most have multiple children, many of whom have been surrendered to the foster care system or to adoptive families. Most of the babies herehave been exposed to drugs in utero. Some were born in hospitals, some in parks, some in parking lots. Many of them, at the tender age of one to five months, have themselves already spent time in foster care. But today, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. They are just a bunch of new moms and cute babies.

These moms — who range in age from 19 to 38 — have something else in common too: they are participating in a new and innovative program we call MP3: Mindful Present Perceptive Parenting.

The goal is to create an environment where these mothers can experience themselves with compassion, while they are with their children.

While they nurse, feed, change, rock and soothe, they are learning to cultivate the wholesome states of lovingkindness, self-compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity in order to give balance to a mind that is often preoccupied with everything that is wrong and not working – their past, the challenges of recovery, the uncertainties of a new, unmedicated future – while trying to parent an infant.

Sharon Salzberg says practicing lovingkindness is like planting seeds. You usually don’t see the benefit from the practice right away. But like a seed that is planted, cultivated and nurtured, over time it grows into the plant it was meant to be. The full potential for a tomato plant exists inside the seed even before it is planted. And once tended and encouraged in the soil and through the rain and sun, it grows into itself. This is true with loving kindness, and self-compassion, or any of the Brahma Viharas.

In MP3 we are creating the conditions for experiencing loving, connected presence. This is facilitated by the teacher and encouraged through the training of self-awareness in each mom while she interacts with her baby.

In each class we meditate together, do grounding practices, and direct compassion towards ourselves through the “Self-Compassion Break,” a meditation based on the “one for me, one for you” practice from MSC.

We also learn Tonglen, breathing in joy, experiencing it deeply, and then offering it up our children and others. The moms learn and practice infant massage with their babies as a way of engaging in an activity of parenting while making it a meditation. They also get lots of learning on infant development as well as issues they are dealing with in this phase of their lives.

Each class begins with the invitation to gather the attention in to just their own individual mom/baby space bubble. This is not always easy in a room full of moms and babies. Little by little, they absorb the instructions to feel the ground beneath them, then to feel the sensations of breath in their body. The room starts to settle. Today is Class One and one baby is crying loudly. He’s recently had a bronchial infection and it seems to have settled in his ears. He’s in a lot of pain and cannot be soothed. The wails of the baby are pervasive, and so I take it as an opportunity to give the instruction for everyone to be present and notice what’s happening. We notice the impact his cries have on each of us, and the natural impulse arising to want for him to feel better. This is compassion. We are in it. I invite the other moms to send both mom and baby some compassion.

In the inquiry afterwards the mother describes how she felt the love coming from the other moms, but she also felt self-conscious being the center of attention. This makes her uncomfortable. We all decide it’s best for her to go and take care of her baby outside of class and get him to the pediatrician.

We explore this real-time experience of suffering and the sending out of compassion to unpack what happens inside us when we are in the presence of suffering. The women identify elements of compassion, including empathy, acknowledgment, love and goodwill.

Now, we look at how and why they might want to cultivate those same things for themselves. We explore the MSC exercise called “How Do I Treat A Friend?” Most are shocked to discover how different they are with themselves. This gives us an opportunity to look at how bringing compassion to ourselves can allow us to parent more effectively. One mom chimes in, “it’s so true, when I’m crazy in my mind and feeling out of control, my baby totally picks up on it and then we’re both stressed out. Those are not my finest parenting moments.” Nods of agreement come from the other moms.

We’ve seen over the last three years of running this program that this is a typical experience in the MP3 program. Our intention is to give these mothers resources that will last a lifetime and will support strong bonds of attachment between them and their infants. To that end, we are working with the psychology department at the University of Oregon to look at the effect of the program on the physiological markers associated with attachment, namely oxytocin production in both mothers and infants.

Week two, and the sick baby is doing much better. The mother tells us how hard it was over the last week for her to calm herself down when her baby was so upset. But even with only being there for part of the first class, in the days since we last saw her she found herself becoming more aware of her inner critical dialogue, and able to call on some of her new skills to bring compassion to herself. “I was able to take a few deep breaths and remember that I could be a good friend to myself. That helped a lot,” she says.

This is a class they have to take as part of their treatment program. There are, not surprisingly, some problems with that. Meditation and self-compassion can never be mandated. But I believe in the power of those seeds, and the enduring power of compassion. Even if all a mother in the class gets is small taste of what it’s like to be in a friendly relationship with herself while navigating the joys and stresses of parenting, she will have learned something invaluable for her and her children.

I’ll never forget one mom from our first class, when we loaned the women small music players so they could listen to meditations on their own. Her baby got very sick at one point, and the two of them were quarantined in their room so as not to spread the infection to the rest of the residents. She ended up alone in a locked room with her sick baby for 36 hours. As any parent can attest, that kind of extreme parenting is very stressful. This mom, of course, was also in recovery. She was new to feeling her feelings. Heroin had always buffered them for her. Locked in that room, she said, she spent the day listening to those compassion meditations. “Without that,” she said, “I would have lost my mind completely.”

She told us that experience really shifted things for her and her understanding of how essential it is to “reign in my mind and feed it compassion instead of the criticism and junk I usually feed it.”

Mindfulness and compassion are not just self-oriented endeavors. Another benefit we’re seeing from this program is the ability of the women to express appreciation and love for the other women they are living with, and in so doing expand their web of community. One mother turned to one of the other women in the class and told her that she “was the model for her for compassion.”

“The way you lovingly treated me,” she told the other mother through grateful tears, “has helped me understand what a real friend was like. Now I can use the way you were with me to know how to be a real friend to myself.”

These mothers in recovery face the challenges as parents that most of us will never have to face. But they also face many of the same internal hurdles that bedevil all parents. We can learn from them, and with them, how learning to parent ourselves with mindfulness and compassion can help us engage with and recover from our own daily challenges in the amazing journey of being a parent.