Archives for April 2019

Expanding Your Practice: CCT Classes Now Available to MSC Teachers for 10% Discount

As a result of our continuing collaboration with the Compassion Institute, we are pleased to announce that all MSC teachers may take online offerings of Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) and Continuing Education classes for a 10% Discount. Check all the classes available and register here (https://bit.ly/2Vhhbib) with the code “MSCTeacher”.

Register Now

Discount Code: “MSCTeacher”

Online CCT

CCT is an 8-week program that provides skills, tools, and practices for strengthening your capacity to care for others as well as yourself. The course integrates evidence-based meditation techniques with interactive discussions and presentations as well as real-world exercises to put your learning into practice.  CCT will support you to improve your relationships with friends, family, clients, patients, staff, and coworkers. Until recently, CCT was only offered in person. Now, CCT is also offered online exclusively through Compassion Institute. This program is designed to make CCT accessible to those who are not able to take the course in person. You’ll walk away from each CCT class with tools and practices you can immediately put to work. CCT will help you:

  • Improve awareness
  • Increase connection to others, to increase your effectiveness and influence
  • Decrease the distress you may feel in difficult situations
  • June 11 – July 30 | 2:00 – 4:00 pm PST (https://bit.ly/2Vk5My3)
  • July 10 – August 28 | 5:00 – 7:00 am PST (https://bit.ly/2G1vxhr)

Active Compassion: Tonglen Intensive Course

The two-session 4-hour Active Compassion Course will be a deep-dive into the active compassion practice of Tonglen. Tonglen is a powerful practice that helps us learn to be present with the suffering in ourselves and others and envision ways to transform that suffering into ease. For experienced meditation practitioners only.

Setting Aside Your Teacher’s Hat: Join Peers in the Humbling Art of Exploring Practice Edges

By Aimee Eckhardt

CDP Creator and Communications Manager
Center for Mindful Self-Compassion
April 19, 2019

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As an MSC teacher, you know that your embodiment of self-compassion is your single most powerful teaching tool. Your actions and the quality of your presence are at least as impactful as your words. Further, your embodiment of mindfulness gives rise to the wisdom and equanimity needed to respond skillfully to suffering in both your personal life and your teaching.

Yet it’s natural that there will still be areas where we struggle in our personal self-compassion practice.

Especially for those of us who were called to teaching because of our own difficulties with self-compassion, the nourishment that we receive by sharing MSC with participants is just one part of a longer personal healing path. And so an integral part of our work as teachers is continuing to be students! For these reasons, we’re offering a dedicated, teachers-only cohort of the 8-month Community for Deepening Practice course.

Starting this July, a small group of MSC teachers (all levels) will gather and explore their own practice edges and strengths with the guidance of experienced MSC Teacher Trainer and Teacher Mentor, Tina Gibson. Free of the expectations and pressure that come with wearing our “teacher hats,” we’ll discover that everyone’s teaching journeys are works in progress; and that we may not be as alone as we think in not “having it all together” as MSC Teachers — or as perfectly imperfect humans! We’ll also delight together in discovering where our strengths are getting stronger.

In the generous reflection and warm community of your peers, you’ll take eight months together to re-discover the MSC curriculum from the inside, out. Slowly and experientially, you’ll deepen your personal embodiment of the practice that you wish to teach. This results in a more mature understanding of self-compassion, plus greater integrity, capacity, confidence, and authenticity as a teacher.

Participants will:

  • Encounter new learning edges and strengths within the six domains of teaching MSC as they embark on a slow, deliberate unpacking of MSC from the inside, out;
  • Cultivate a more authentic teaching voice;
  • Explore the humble art of self-reflection and self-inquiry;
  • Receive expert encouragement and guidance; The CDP for MSC Teachers is facilitated by one of CMSC’s senior teachers, teacher trainer, and MSC teacher mentor, Tina Gibson.
  • Co-create a new community of peers — especially invaluable for teachers who may not have many peers currently in their network who share the unique language of MSC.
  • The small, group experience of the CDP is held in the same compassionate container and with the same guiding principles as we provide for our participants. From this holding space, participants build confidence in themselves and MSC.
  • Enjoy 24×7 connection with their peer group on the shared discussion community. In the safety of this private space, participants can share resources, pose questions, and learn from common struggles.

What the CDP for MSC Teachers is not:

  • A supervision, consultation, practicum, or mentoring requirement for MSC teachers, but it is strongly encouraged for any teacher who wishes to remove their “teacher’s hat” in the ease and spaciousness of a tight-knit community of peers;
  • Explicit teaching instruction; the focus during this course is on deepening personal practice. Greater teaching competency will naturally arise through this focused personal work.

Classes are currently in session. Please check back soon or contact Aimee Eckhardt for questions.

Approaching Back Pain with Self-Compassion

By Lyndi Smith
MSC Teacher
Email | Website

 

Low-back pain is a big deal. An estimated 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point1, and in Australia (where I’m living), 1 in 6 people have chronic back pain.2 Self-compassion can help.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t walk.

I was stuck in bed with acute lower back pain. Even standing in the kitchen to make tea was too painful. I’d somehow triggered an old condition of sciatica that gradually got worse and worse.

This condition had previously flared up from time to time, but nothing so dramatic for years. This time however, my approach was more accepting, less resistant. I “surrendered” into the experience.

“Well, if that’s what my body is saying right now, I better listen!”

It didn’t decrease the pain, but it sure felt softer, kinder and eased my tendency to tense up and brace against the discomfort.

As well as following medical advice, I tackled the emotional and mental side of back pain with self-compassion. Every day I practised Affectionate Breathing, Loving Kindness or Giving and Receiving Compassion, specifically for my back.

I religiously asked myself, “What do I need?” and asked friends, family and colleagues for more help. I felt so grateful to them, and this felt new and unusual to my proud, independent self. I gave that self some kindness and forgiveness.

Mindfulness helped me discern between when I needed rest and when I was just avoiding exercise. I did gentle physio exercises every day. The inflammation died down with medication, and soon I returned to walking and swimming. I was listening to my body’s needs with more sensitivity than ever. Dancing slowly around my living room one night felt so good, answering a heartfelt wish and feeling the joy of moving again.

After a lovely, long Loving Kindness practice one day, I felt like exploring any unmet needs around my back pain. Something that “pinged” for me emotionally was sometimes feeling unsupported in life. So I called a counsellor and started exploring any life events that felt related. This was helpful; a great complement to practising self-compassion.

Five Tips for Working With Back Pain

Give yourself a break! 

    • Acknowledging we are suffering and bringing loving awareness to the pain can help decrease our resistance to the pain.
    • Asking, “What do I need?” Maybe it’s rest, maybe movement.
    • Lowering your expectations of what you can do.
    • Adding rest and self-care breaks into the day.
    • Dropping work or activities that feel too exhausting. Say no, if you can!

Ask others for help 

    • We all feel pain, sometimes. Wouldn’t we help a friend with back pain? Maybe this is your turn to ask for support and help
    • Self-Compassion Break for feelings of pride, inadequacy or independence.

Lean on formal practices for support 

    • e.g. Affectionate Breathing, Loving Kindness and Giving and Receiving Compassion
    • What words of kindness would you like to hear when in pain?

Emotional needs 

    • Are there some emotional aspects of pain to explore, such as shame, anger, or feeling unsupported?

Self-kindness during the healing process 

    • Self-compassion for our impatience to heal, or about giving up some of the things we want to do

Mine isn’t a unique case. Research suggests that self-compassion training reduces pain severity and pain catastrophising as well as the anger, disappointment and frustration associated with pain. It also reduces self-blame, self-criticism and poor acceptance of one’s physical limitations.3, 4

In this interview (at 35:20), Chris Germer discusses working with clients with back pain:

“One of the core aspects of chronic back pain is wishing not to have chronic back pain. It hurts and every fibre in our body says, ‘No!’ But the problem is, the more we do that, the more we activate the threat defence system and the body becomes tighter and we get more pain.”

“Self-compassion activates a different physiology — the mammalian care-giving system. We all know what this is like. If you have pain and someone puts their arm around you and really loves you, inside you have a feeling like, ‘Ahhhh!’ Your whole relationship to your back pain changes. There’s a relaxing, a letting go. This is called regulating emotion through affiliation; a sense of connection, a sense of care.”

“People with lower back pain are criticised for being in a bad mood, for not being able to do everything they used to do, so back pain becomes a social problem and becomes a shame issue. So there are so many levels of pain. What we do in self-compassion for back pain is learn to name all this stuff and know that back pain is not our fault, we know that we’re not alone and we begin to treat ourselves in the opposite way that the body treats us and others treat us. In other words, we begin to relax and give ourselves the messages we need to hear when we’re struggling.”

Five weeks after taking a self-compassionate approach, I could cut down the medication without feeling much pain. Self-compassion helped my impatience to heal, and it also highlighted any catastrophising: “What if I can’t balance properly? How can I continue to teach qi gong with no balance?!”

I feel so grateful for self-compassion practice and for supportive friends and family. Asking for help more often is something I’ll keep doing, whether in pain or not. It sure feels more supportive, more connecting and kinder. And it contributes to a more self-compassionate lifestyle and a healthier relationship with my body.

Sources:

(1) In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MD.

(2) Impacts of chronic back problems (full publication; 15 Aug 2016) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

(3) Pilot study of a compassion meditation intervention in chronic pain, Chapin, Darnall, Seppala, Doty, Hah and Mackey, 2016

(4) Self-Compassion in Patients With Persistent Musculoskeletal Pain: Relationship of Self-Compassion to Adjustment to Persistent Pain, Wren et al, 2012

Lyndi Smith is a Brisbane-based mindfulness facilitator and trainer and CEO of charity Mind With Heart Australia. She is qualified to teach mindfulness meditation (BSY), qi gong and is a graduate of the Mindful Self-Compassion teacher training. She has trained in both secular and traditional mindfulness-and-compassion-based practices and regularly instructs at Rigpa Brisbane and Heart Insight.

Lyndi has been training in mindfulness and compassion for ten years, and her wellbeing rests on the power of these practices. She is very grateful for her teachers, who have taught her everything she knows. You can learn more at www.MindWithHeart.org