Archives for July 2019

Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program: A Guide for Professionals

“Wise and heartfelt, visionary and thorough, this guide is a rich and practical treasure. The work of Germer and Neff is an invaluable gift for our times.”

– Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

Six years in the making, this is the authoritative guide to conducting the MSC program.

MSC provides powerful tools for coping with life challenges and enhancing emotional well-being. MSC codevelopers Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff review relevant theory and research and describe the program’s unique pedagogy. Readers are taken step by step through facilitating each of the eight sessions and the accompanying full-day retreat. Detailed vignettes illustrate not only how to teach the course’s didactic and experiential content, but also how to engage with participants, manage group processes, and overcome common obstacles. The final section of the book describes how to integrate self-compassion into psychotherapy. Purchasers get access to a companion website with downloadable audio recordings of the guided meditations.

Note: This book is not intended to replace formal training for teaching the MSC program.

Curious to learn more? Read the complete interview with Kristin and Chris about the co-creation of this authoritative guide for teaching MSC.

Table of Contents

PART I
Self-Compassion:
Theory, Research and Training

  1. An Introduction to Mindful Self-Compassion
  2. What is Self-Compassion?
  3. The Science of Self-Compassion
  4. Teaching Self-Compassion

PART II
On Teaching
Mindful Self-Compassion

  1. Understanding the Curriculum
  2. Teaching Topics and Guiding Practices
  3. Being a Compassionate Teacher
  4. Facilitating Group Process
  5. Engaging in Inquiry

PART III
Session-by-Session

  1. Session 1 – Discovering Mindful Self-Compassion
  2. Session 2 – Practicing Mindfulness
  3. Session 3 – Practicing Loving-Kindness
  4. Session 4 – Discovering Your Compassionate Voice
  5. Session 5 – Living Deeply
  6. Retreat
  7. Session 6 – Meeting Difficult Emotions
  8. Session 7 – Exploring Challenging Relationships
  9. Session 8 – Embracing Your Life

PART IV
Integrating Self-Compassion into Psychotherapy

  1. MSC and Psychotherapy
  2. Special Issues in Therapy

Appendices

  1. Ethical Guidelines
  2. Companion Reading
  3. Resources

References

Index

Endorsements

“This outstanding, inspiring book comprehensively draws together the impressive body of work on the MSC program. The book is deeply personal–the authors share their motivations and process as they embarked on this work–and also offers a big vision for the potential of the practice of self-compassion across cultures, ages, and contexts. The authors ground the writing in a clear overview of the current research evidence. At the heart of the book is crystal-clear guidance on the content and process of MSC. It is an invaluable guide and companion for MSC teachers as well as other professionals who are integrating self-compassion practices in their work.”

–Rebecca Crane, PhD
Director, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University, United Kingdom

“Our world is crying out for compassion. But compassionate action presupposes self-compassion–an attitude we urgently need to learn, an attitude that can indeed be taught. In this pioneering work, Germer and Neff describe how to teach self-compassion step by step. Professionals who want to introduce self-compassion to their clients to enhance their psychological resilience and emotional well-being will find this book a rich resource.”

–Brother David Steindl-Rast
Cofounder, www.gratefulness.org

“Over the past decade, Germer and Neff have spearheaded a revolution that has spread rapidly around the globe. MSC teaches us to extend compassion to ourselves–instead of simply mindfully witnessing–which can create parallel ripples in how we treat one another. This book describes the tools and techniques that Germer and Neff have developed to teach MSC. I urge you to learn about this approach and join Germer and Neff in helping people change how they relate to themselves.”

–Richard C. Schwartz, PhD
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance

“The innovative approach to self-compassion training pioneered by Neff and Germer is internationally recognized for helping people learn to be kinder to themselves. MSC has set countless people free from the tyranny of hostile self-criticism; consequently, there has been a growing need to understand how to teach the program. Based on years of experience and research, this clearly written, step-by-step book outlines the central features and focus of MSC. It is full of insightful and practical guidance, and will be a source of wisdom for all interested in how to help people bring more compassion to themselves and others.”

–Paul Gilbert, PhD, FBPsS, OBE
Centre for Compassion Research and Training, University of Derby, United Kingdom

“Years of refinement have gone into making MSC the preeminent self-compassion training program, and now its creators have given us a great gift–a text that helps the professional develop an MSC program from the ground up. The book brings us up to speed on the theory and science of self-compassion, guides us through the nuances of teaching it, and presents a detailed session-by-session outline. This well-written resource is essential reading for any helping professional interested in teaching self-compassion.”

–Russell L. Kolts, PhD Department of Psychology, Eastern Washington University

“I Can’t Fix This, But I Can Love You.”

Dear Friends,

I received this beautifully articulated letter from a young man who has been attending our annual January secular, six-day silent retreat for several years. In between, he sits regularly with a Dharma group, works closely with a wonderful teacher, and takes classes like MBSR and MSC.

One of things I so appreciate about extended retreat practice is that we may access our inner wisdom in the midst of even our retreat struggles! As you will see, this happened in “Scott’s” report below.

I’m so glad he did, because I have “borrowed” his phrase, “I can’t fix this, but I can love you.” It has changed me. I also wanted to share it with you to support and encourage your own regular retreat practice.

Some of our upcoming retreats are directly based on MSC, and others are oriented toward a broader set of practices from the ancient traditions, including Loving Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity. I invite you to read Scott’s transformational experience below, and if it inspires you to attend your own retreat, please check out these offerings led by teachers Certified in MBSR and MSC, and are International Teacher Trainers in both programs.

Scott’s Letter

Hello Dear Teachers,

I wanted to share an experience I had at the retreat this year that has stuck with me since. I shared this with my MSC teacher, as feedback about how the MSC teachings have affected and integrated into my experience. I just finished my second pass through MSC class. I’m so grateful to each of you for reminding me of these teachings and their roots in the Buddha’s teachings.

I told Beth in my interview on day three, “I am not really wrestling with anything.” My mind had been noisy but I was letting things be. Not resisting. Observing. Then I woke on day four with feelings of dread and regret. Dread at returning to normal life soon. Regret that nothing felt resolved or better after four days of retreat. My mind was just as noisy as when I came to retreat.

Then during a 30-minute sit, I heard the following phrase in my mind’s ear “I can’t fix this for you, but I can love you.” This made my heart tender and I cried through the rest of that sit.

I had noticed the previous evening that I wanted things to be fixed. To be better. And was hopeful that compassion would make things better. I had previously correlated shifts in experience with bringing in self-compassion. But then I recalled from MSC that true compassion doesn’t come with expectations. That and the teachings about the possibility of cultivating an inner compassionate voice were the seeds that made this loving voice and phrase possible. 

That loving part of me then asked “what is it that you need?” The response that came back was “I just need a break.“ My mind got quieter, more settled after that. I was able to focus on my breath more steadily.

When any other inner voices would begin speaking, that loving part would say, “Not now. He requested a break.” I had an inner ally.

For the remainder of the day, I experienced moment-to-moment mindfulness like never before. Afterward, the following words came to mind. “There is no next retreat. There is no next step. There is no next bite. There is no next breath. No next moment. Only the one thats happening right now. Each one is right here to be experienced fully. Each one could be enough. I don’t want to keep deferring to the next, hopefully better moment so that, in the end, I regret that I was never really here for this precious life.”

Even after returning to home and work after retreat the phrase “I can’t fix this, but I can love you “ has stayed with me. Sometimes shortened as “I can love you.” I encoded a reminder of the short version into my work computer password which I have to enter at least 10 times a day, usually more. No matter what’s going on when I enter that password it always touches me and brings me back to the present moment and the possibility of being loved and having that love in me, no matter what. And so far I never tire of hearing it.

Truly transformational.

I wanted you to know that what you do, what you teach, what you model, really matters and changes the lives of your students. I suffer less and I see how that ripples out to those I relate to.

My Deepest Gratitude to You,

Scott

“How is Your Heart Today?”
Compassion at Angola Prison

Lara Naughton and I arrived at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as “Angola Prison”) around 8:15 a.m. anticipating a lengthy security check to enter. Fortunately, Lara’s colleague at Angola had arranged for a visitor pass and we sailed right through.

I understand the need for prisons, but I don’t like them. Three nights before we arrived, I had a nightmare of being stuck in Angola for life. Driving through the gates, however, the white wooden fences along the fields reminded me of horse farms in Massachusetts. I started to relax a bit.

Angola is a complicated place. It is one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the United States, covering more ground than Manhattan. The prison holds more than 5,000 incarcerated men, some of whom are on death row. It is named after a plantation that existed before the Civil War, and Angola is a country in Africa from which many of the slaves had come.

Angola still carries a fearsome reputation for violence, despair, and human suffering, although conditions have improved markedly over the past decades.

Still, it is a prison in which approximately 75% of the inmates are African-American and 70% are serving life sentences.

Lara and I waited about an hour for the 150 men who were scheduled to show up for my talk on self-compassion. Only 75 men eventually came due to transportation difficulties from the various “camps” that are scattered throughout the property. As we waited, I noticed clusters of men chatting amiably with one another, or just sitting quietly. No cell phones. Groups of men talking together seemed like a fond and distant memory to me and I felt strangely comforted by it. Lara went off to talk with some others in the room—all of the men in the room were graduates of the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program she has taught at Angola over the past 3 years.

While I was sitting there taking it all in, one man came up to me and said, “I see you sitting here and don’t want you to feel all alone.” His kind gesture touched me, almost uncomfortably so, as my defenses relaxed still further.

When we finally started our program, an hour late, Lara read a beautiful poem that spoke about common humanity and then invited everyone to pair up and ask one another, “How is your heart today?” She and several of the men developed this practice, and they use it at the beginning of every gathering. My plan was to visit Angola, deliver a talk on self-compassion, chat with some people, and then get back to the French Quarter in New Orleans in time for dinner.

Yet here I was, sitting opposite an incarcerated man with a ton of compassion in his eyes, answering his question, “How is your heart today?” I explained about my nightmare and he softly said, “I’m so sorry.”

It wasn’t the best talk of my life. Lara had told me that these men had already been introduced to some of the research on self-compassion, and have begun to develop both a learned and practiced sense of what self-compassion is and isn’t. Many of them had been practicing compassion for themselves and others for a couple years after taking the CCT course, and some were even CCT teaching assistants. Others had attended the Angola Bible College and were pastors and had their own congregations consisting of other incarcerated men. A few of the men just had their dreams of parole eligibility dashed by a court ruling that week; another had just been granted parole that morning and would be leaving Angola after being convicted as a juvenile more than 25 years ago—he had never been out of Angola his entire adult life. What could I possibly say to these guys as a married, upper middle class, white, PhD psychologist and author?

The men were genuinely interested, polite, and generously volunteered answers to my questions, such as “Is there a difference between how you treat yourself and how you treat others?” They definitely perked up when I mentioned the word “shame” and how self-compassion is an antidote to shame.

Shame is a deep river that runs through their lives. There is the shame of committing a grievous crime, the shame that comes with systemic oppression of people of color, the shame of not being able to care for one’s family, the shame of being incarcerated—the list is long and deep.

The CCT teaching assistants had lunch with Lara and me after the talk. Lara paid for it from her grant sponsored by the Compassion Institute and it was catered by men in the Re-entry Club—a group associated with Angola’s Re-entry program, which is run by mentors with life sentences who help other incarcerated men prepare for life outside Angola. Lara always orders a couple extra meals so she can invite additional people to join, or so men can take an extra back to their dorms and share it with their friends. At lunch and through the afternoon, the guys asked very personal questions, such as whether I think the mother of the person he killed could ever forgive him, or what to do about trauma flashbacks. I was blown away by the urgency of their questions, and their candor. A group of guys asked later on, “Do you ever swear?” I explained that I was from New Jersey and that we love to drop the F-bomb in every sentence, but I was controlling myself in public. We also had a lot of laughs together.

Lara said that she needs the 2 ½ hour drive home to New Orleans to digest what happens during the day at Angola. I realized what she meant when my new friends at Angola could not pass through the gates when we left, and maybe never in this lifetime. Lara has never gotten used to that. Lara also predicted that I would probably get more out of the day at Angola than I could give, which is also Lara’s experience even after 3 years.

That was a comfort because I was blown away by the immense suffering I experienced, but even more so by the depth of caring and authentic brotherhood that I was invited to share in. Those interactions seemed strangely healthier than most interactions I have outside the gates.

Still, I felt a little nauseous over the subsequent days when I reflected on the pain those men experienced in their lives, including the pain they caused to others and are likely to relive every day. It could hear Helen Keller’s words in my head, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the alleviation of it.”

Where do we go from here?

The work that Lara and her assistants are doing at Angola is deeply inspiring and I’m drawn to support it. This fits well with the commitment by the CCT and MSC organizations to collaborate on projects to can bring more compassion into the world, especially to underserved populations. The self-compassion component seems to be particularly helpful for those living in a prison environment.

What originally brought me to Angola was a dear friend, Jenny Phillips, who was making a documentary on the compassion work at Angola. She is the same person who directed the amazing film on teaching mindfulness meditation at an Alabama prison, The Dhamma Brothers. Her passion was criminal justice reform and, sadly, she passed away last year in a swimming accident. I had the privilege of meeting several of the remarkable men who are featured in Jenny’s film. Her colleagues are determined to complete the film, so please stay tuned for that.

My First Experience as a Person of Color in MSC — “Is it Really Me?”

I can remember my very first MSC training experience from several years ago like it was yesterday. There was definitely a surge of internal experiences that I observed as I launched into this new journey of both questioning and enlightenment. I can clearly recall scanning all the participants who had gathered and were nestled together awaiting the start of the program. There was a broad spectrum of about 100 strangers who generally did not seem to reflect my own sense of a “cultural and racial self.” Yet, in the past I had experienced a plethora of social-educational scenes such as this all throughout my life. Therefore, why was I thinking this environment would be any different? Why was I still silently scanning for some other type of internal cultural-racial connection with my perceived sense of tribe after all of these years? What was I really searching for and questioning in this particular environment that seemed so familiar and repetitive, but yet so foreign?

As a woman of color I remember searching the landscape of this room to hopefully catch a glimpse of at least a few others who might visually mirror “my cultural self.” I wondered how in the world would this enormous group of people be able to connect and build trust. How will I be able to connect and build trust as well?

Initially, I did not feel as though I belonged with this group of people. How could self-compassion help me navigate my experiences of racism, sexism, discrimination, lifelong micro-aggressions, and social injustices?

All the MSC teachers seemed to be visually expressing the exact same reflection of the majority of the participants. I realized that I should be totally accustomed to this type of social reality, but seeking out diverse strangers who looked like me in various contexts has been my social reality. I have lived in a social world in which the majority of people in my day-to-day professional and educational spaces have been members of the dominant culture. Some of my underrepresented cultural identities are totally invisible to the social world and others are very visible and carry a socially constructed “single story” about who I am. Consequently, being a member of various underrepresented cultural groups has sustained an ongoing flavor of bittersweetness. There are times when these realities fuel certain identity conflicts and other times in which they tend to cultivate strength.

As I began to find my spot during the MSC training, I finally noticed two participants who appeared to be people of color. From the sheer sight of these two strangers, I began to experience a slight sense of silent connection to the space. Perhaps this was not just a “white thing” that was created by white people, for white people and delivered in a way that would focus exclusively on the white, upper-middle class, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, colorblind experience of being in the world. There was a glimmer of some human technicolor in the space. Maybe there would be a possibility that this “compassion” experience might openly embrace all the dimensions of human suffering, including cultural experiences.

Questions for Contemplation:

  • We all have multiple social/cultural identities. As an MSC teacher how might your own social-cultural identities impact your teaching?
  • How might you increase your sensitivity to your participants’ multiple social-cultural identities?
  • How might you sensitively acknowledge your participants’ multiple social-cultural identities?
One MSC teacher privately inquired about my experience of the training. This teacher’s curiosity was meaningful to me because it expressed recognition that my perceptions mattered. Simple acknowledgements such as this can be useful ways of advancing a sense of cultural inclusivity, belonging and trust.

For many diverse people their multiple cultural identities are very powerful parts of their worldview and sense of self. Acknowledging the fact that there are multiple cultural identities in the space not only adds more richness and depth to the cultivation of mindfulness self-compassion, but it can also foster validation of diversity, inclusivity and belonging within MSC teaching.

Currently, as a MSC trained teacher, I always acknowledge and honor participants’ visible and invisible intersections of diverse identities and my own diverse identities of marginalization and privilege. All participants want to feel a sense of connection, belonging and trust. Yet, there are certain underrepresented participants who need to understand that their cultural identities are recognized and included aspects of suffering and self-compassion. Ultimately, I feel it is imperative to create a space that holds and supports the full reality of our human suffering which includes both our cultural differences and commonalities.

Sydney will be joining MSC Co-Founder Chris Germer to co-lead a Mindful Self-Compassion 5-Day Intensive program at the Esalen Institute on the Central California Coast on December 8-13, 2019. Register today to reserve your spot.

Resources for Further Exploration of Diversity and Inclusion

▸ Deep Diversity: Overcoming the Us Versus Them
Book by Shakil Choudhury

▸ “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by Peggy McIntosh – Essay first appeared in Peace and Freedom Magazine

▸ White Fragility
Book by Robin DiAngelo

▸ I Am Not Your Negro
Film co-written and directed by Raoul Peck

Sydney Spears, PhD, LCSW, LSCSW, TCTSY-F, MSC Trained Teacher is a licensed clinical social worker, adaptive yoga facilitator, mindfulness instructor and professor who resides in the Kansas City area. In the past she has worked as a presenter, psychotherapist, community mental health social worker, elementary teacher, and academic administrator. Her areas of interest, teaching and research have included trauma-sensitive responsive care, somatic approaches to trauma, mind-body therapeutic movement, mindfulness-based practices, diversity, equity and inclusion, and grief and loss. She has taught academic courses in cultural diversity, social justice and clinical social work practice for 15 years. You may contact Sydney at DeepInsight4RealTransformation@gmail.com 

Upcoming Courses: MSC (8 weeks): September 29th, 2019-November in Kansas City and MSC 5-Day Intensive program at the Esalen Institute with Chris Germer on December 8-13, 2019

Loving, Connected Presence in a Global Classroom

“Each week, I am in awe of how I feel it. The feeling of connection even grows! I see these gatherings as the high points in my week and my practice. I love the MSC community!”

– Cecilia Fernandez-Hall,
MSC Teacher and Circles of Practice Coordinator

While it might be difficult to imagine an online learning experience being as effective as a traditional classroom experience, we’ve found over the years of teaching MSC online that with skilled teachers and an ongoing commitment to loving, connected presence, we can come close. If you have doubt or have had poor experiences with online learning in the past, you’re not alone. We invite you to test for yourself by sampling a free MSC practice session, an introductory session, or taking a class to see how warm, connective, and nourishing the live online environment can feel.

Top 6 reasons to join an online practice group or course:

  1. You’ll receive the same skilled teaching, the same MSC curricular standards, and the same community guidelines as in an in-person class.
    The majority of MSC Teachers in online classes you encounter through CMSC will have obtained the highest level of Teacher Training available. Many teach primarily in online classrooms, so they are skilled in holding warm, connected presence in this unique environment. Online classes also maintain the same rigorous curricular standards as in-person classes, and online classes maintain the same community standards of safety, inclusion, non-fixing, non-judgement, etc.
  2. The commute is short and hassle-free.
    There’s no need to dress up, hire an expensive sitter, or travel into town. This ease of access from home can be especially important for those who don’t have access to in-person MSC classes in their area, who are housebound due to illness or disability, who have caregiving responsibilities, transportation limitations, and who have exceptionally busy lives. Often, people in these situations could most benefit from this practice and have the least access to it, so online options are a great way to overcome these barriers.
  3. Each online class includes a truly multicultural community of participants.
    Because we are not limited by physical location, participants from all parts of the world converge in each class. This adds a valuable multicultural aspect to learning online, and it allows us to feel even more clearly the nourishing quality of common humanity.
  4. There are opportunities for 24×7 connection and deepening between classes
    In many online MSC courses, participants have the benefit of further sharing about their in-class experiences in online discussion forums. This adds depth and connection to the online learning experience, particularly in between class meetings.
  5. Pets get to come to class!
    For many people, pets are a great comfort during online classes. This companionship allows both easefulness and common humanity amongst the group.
  6. Participants can review and reinforce learning via class recordings.
    In MSC, the material we cover is rich and broad. Some of the topics can be emotionally activating, so absorbing it all in one sitting can be tricky. To help with that, most online MSC courses will provide private recordings of each session (for a limited time) so that participants can go back and reinforce their learning. This service is not provided in the live classroom.

Current Online Learning Opportunities:

Live Online MSC (10 weeks, foundational MSC course for all)
MSC Circles of Practice (Ongoing, donation-based practice groups for MSC graduates)
MSC Community for Deepening Practice (8-month program of deepening practice for MSC graduates)

Frequently asked questions
about online learning

➠ I’m very uncomfortable with technology. Is online learning for me?

If you struggle with technology, you will have many opportunities to practice self-compassion in an online class — especially common humanity! It can be tricky to wrap your head around new technology, but rest assured you are not alone, and teachers and fellow students stand ready to support you. And with a bit of practice, you will gain the knowledge to provide support to others!

No one is exempt from the occasional internet disconnection, faulty microphone, or poorly functioning headphones. But there are a few basic technical things you can do in advance to keep your experience as smooth as possible:

  1. Expect the unexpected. Technical glitches happen to every single person in class from time to time.When it happens to you, you can offer yourself a deep breath of compassion and a soft smile, knowing that today is your day. You’re not alone! Simply take the time you need to rejoin the session, restart your computer, etc. Let this be an opportunity to practice compassion in real time. If you need help, your classmates or course facilitator has probably experienced something similar and will be able to offer help.
  2. A strong internet connection is essential. Before joining, do a test run to be sure your internet reaches the place where you’ll be sitting. If your internet is unstable at times, you may wish to buy an Ethernet cord and connect directly to your modem rather than connecting through wifi. Losing connection multiple times in a session can be very personally frustrating and isn’t something we have much control over, so it may be more self-compassionate to forego sessions in which the connection is lousy.
  3. Make the best of the aspects of communication you can control. Since we lose many of the usual non-verbal communication cues in an online class where we can see only faces, it’s important to maximize our ability to see, hear, and speak clearly with each other. As best you can, sit facing a good light, minimize background noise in your area, and have a quality pair of headphones with a microphone. This allows your voice to be heard, it allows you to hear others well, and it also ensures others’ privacy if you happen to have others in the room during the session or class. 
  4. Minimize distractions. Just as you might silence your cellphone before entering a meeting, closing out other activities will help you focus and be present. Oh, and turn off the cellphone too! While in class, close all other windows on your computer so you are not tempted to do anything other than to be present. 
  5. If your course offers a Tech Check or Intro Session prior to the beginning of the course, attend it if possible. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the tools and the online classroom in real time, preparing you to ease into your class with confidence. It also gives you a chance to get to know your teacher(s) and ask them any questions you may have.

➠ Is it really possible to experience loving, connected presence online?

Our teachers and participants routinely report that despite doubts early on, the deep connection and common humanity that are essential in MSC absolutely can be cultivated online, just as in the in-person classroom. Again, we invite you to try a class, a practice session, or an information session and see whether it supports you.

Ways to cultivate an experience of loving, connected presence — both as a recipient and as a giver:

  • Listen deeply. Let your classmates’ sharing be an anchor for your attention; as your classmates share their experiences, tuning in to your own physical experience of the body to help you stay grounded and present in the Zoom room.
  • Avoid logging in by phone unless absolutely necessary. Small screens do not allow you to see faces of all of your group members, nor can they see you.
  • Name it to tame it. As uncomfortable as it may be at first, sharing your discomfort to the group in general (via the chat window or speaking out loud) may reveal a good deal of warm-hearted, common humanity amongst the group!
  • Make a visual connection. You may wish to use “Speaker View” rather than “Gallery View” so that when someone else is speaking they are more visible to you. Rest assured that responding with non-verbals (nodding, smiling, hands-on-heart) is always welcome when something someone says touches you.
  • Self-critic in charge? Try “Hide Self” view. If seeing your own image on screen makes you feel uncomfortably self-conscious — a very common experience — feel free to turn your video to “hide self” view. Others can see you, but you cannot see yourself.
  • Practice “FOFBOC” on a regular basis. It’s the seated version of the Soles of the Feet practice. Stands for “Feet On Floor, Bum On Chair.” Ground your attention in the points of contact between you and the rest of the world, and have these points of contact as places to return to when your mind wanders. You will be present and mindful more often when you are embodied and grounded.

➠ I’m an introvert. What if I don’t feel comfortable speaking during an online class?

  • As in all MSC offerings, participation is invitational. Online sessions offer a unique opportunity to communicate with the group through the “chat” function, which allows you a small stepping stone into speaking directly. 
  • Should you need a moment of privacy, it is OK to turn your video off. You will still be able to see and hear, but others can’t see you. Please use sparingly, as participation in group classes implies mutuality; as best as we can, we maintain loving, connected presence with each other. Your presence nourishes others, just as others’ presence can nourish you. 

➠ I’ve never done this before. How can I prepare myself to have the best experience?

  • Trust that comfort will come with time. Rest assured that this new way of communicating will probably feel awkward at first, but like any new endeavor, it will become more comfortable with time. For many participants, regular online sessions with committed classmates can be a welcome weekly highlight in the midst of otherwise chaotic lives.
  • Talk with others. If you would like referrals, we’re happy to invite past participants to contact you. Also, the course teacher can give you any details you may need in advance. When in doubt, please ask.
  • Tend mindfully to your physical space: Settle in a private, quiet space. Tend to the people or animals in your care before your meeting so that you can relax and focus on your own experience during the session, which will usually be quite experiential.Intentionally prepare for presence in whatever ways are important to you; give yourself plenty of time before class starts to log on, get situated, and settle into the breath and body as best you can. Come comfortably dressed, and you may wish to bring tea or a glass of water to sip on. Have a journal nearby in case you wish to take a few notes.
  • Approach it with curiosity and hold it lightly. As with all MSC endeavors, we encourage you to make your experience your own, reflecting on what supports you in any given moment. If you can, remembering that there’s nothing to do “right” or no specific way to “be” when learning online. Know that if you’re struggling, there’s probably someone else in the room who’s been there, too. You are not alone.

 

With appreciation to the following MSC Teachers for contributing their wisdom for this article: Aimee Eckhardt, Mara Elwood, Cecilia Fernandez-Hall, Steve Hickman, Cassondra Graff, Rochelle Jaffe, Ali Lambie, Kathryn Lovewell, Mirjam Luthe, Rose Mina Munjee, Christine Grace McMulkin, and Ruth Williamson. Also, thank you to those current online participants who shared their own perspectives and experiences. May our efforts serve all those who wish to continue their self-compassion practice online and across the globe.