Archives for July 2021

MSC Japan Website is Now Live

Hello, Everyone!
We are delighted to introduce MSC Japan and our new website! (
MSC in Japan is still in its beginning stages. Japan has had a long history and strong tradition of Buddhism, which promotes the virtue of compassion. However, the emphasis is on having compassion for others rather than for ourselves. For example, the lack of self-compassion is reflected in high suicide rates in Japan.
Self-Compassion is becoming popular as part of the mindfulness boom in Japan but there is still a lack of information and knowledge about Self-Compassion and how it can be cultivated. To address this situation nine MSC teachers came together to start MSC Japan (MSCJ), a community intent to share information about MSC programs in Japanese.
Who Are We?
In 2015 a few Japanese MSC teachers began introducing the work of mindfulness and self-compassion to the Japanese community. In November of 2018 Chris Germer led a five-day MSC Intensive in the ancient capital of Kyoto. By January of 2020 there were ten Japanese MSC teachers, a year later the number continues to grow. Our members consist of professionals from diverse fields including clinical psychology, business, social work and academia.
Our Website
Our website launched in the beginning of June 2021. This new website reflects our development and growth as a community. We continue the process of dialog, of exploring our voice as MSC teachers, of finding our place as a group and community. The result of our deliberations is reflected in the definition of who we are on the website:
MSC Japan is a community of voluntary MSC teachers collaborating to introduce Mindfulness and Self-Compassion to the Japanese community through personal and group practices, to contribute to the development of a compassionate society.
We are grateful to Kristin Neff and Chris Germer for providing their personal video message for our website. Their message emphasizes the efficacy of mindfulness and self-compassion, motivating us to bring authentic MSC practice into our daily life.
The journey of MSC Japan has just begun and we do not know where the road will lead us. We know that we want to be “slow learners”, confirming our compassionate presence and gratitude to worldwide MSC family members for their past and future support.

Opening Hearts Through Mindful Self-Compassion in Italy

“The radiant, elegant cosmos that we can observe is actually our own consciousness and not something separate from us on the outside.” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

We are always connected. From this perspective, everything on earth is a generous gift—be it the nourishing raindrops, the warming rays of the sun at just the right distance from the earth; the changing seasons, the natural rhythm of day and night, the evening to rest. Nature offers so much presence in the different colors, sounds and scents, the power of the germinating plant, the oxygen-producing green leaves of a tree, the mushrooms in the ground, the bees, the ants and so much more.

Our human body is also a gift, in which all elements of the beginning of life are found – iron, silicon, carbon. Everything outside of us and everything inside of us comes from the earth. And a long time ago, our planet Earth and all life came from star dust. The first multicellular organisms developed about 600 million years ago. This innovation happened when a bacterium decided not to eat a smaller bacterium, but instead invited the smaller bacteria to live within it – a very intelligent decision. In nature we find qualities such as non-judgmental awareness, stability and immense creativity. And so our coexistence as people can be of strength and joy that we can actively shape as a gift and as a response-ability—giving and receiving in equilibrium.

What does it take to become more aware that we are embedded in the great web of life? In our often hurried everyday life we ​​rarely remember or perceive it with all our senses. Worries and fears in a pandemic make us even more vulnerable to ongoing change and overwhelming complexity in our lives. Understandably, we then lose the wide view into the universe and the natural human closeness to the smallest in nature—nature outside as well as inside. The notion that humans and the environment are separate is causing global fear and competition. Life requires a careful look: the Earth is more than “our environment”; we are not separate from her. We are not separate from each other, as MSC wisely helps us understand under its pillar of “common humanity.”

The happiness of human life is inextricably linked to the well-being of the Earth. The way we think and act is closely related to the state of this planet on which we are currently guests. A deep questioning and striving to “help the Earth,” which many of us are currently feeling very intensely with a certain grief, can only be sustainable if we learn to take wise care of our body and mind. If we perceive our body as a miracle, we can also perceive the Earth as a miracle; this will help heal our relationship to her, each other, and to ourselves. When we come home to ourselves and take good care of ourselves, we not only can heal our body and mind, we also grow in our awareness of the preciousness of life and can act accordingly together, because this is a task that can not be shouldered alone.

If you are interested in a deeper exploration of these ideas, join us for one or all of these experiential events:

Full 5-day Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Intensive program July 11-16, 2021 at Mon Viso, an Alpine Italian village that combines the ancient with the innovative. 

You may choose to continue the journey by further immersing yourself in a variety of other forms to explore the relation of inner and outer nature “on the ground” in a new course format: “Mindful Innovation—Becoming Change Agents for Sustainability,” (July 19-23, 2021) followed by a 4-Day “Mindful Hike around Monte Viso” from July 25-28, 2021.

Learn more or register here.

Answering the Fundamental Question of Mindful Self-Compassion

It’s a simple question, really. But one that often brings on a state of perplexed astonishment when someone asks us.

“What do you need?”

Unless we are a sobbing child who has come rushing to his mother after some sort of sibling transgression, or we are urgently and frantically searching for the restroom in an unfamiliar restaurant, we have an unusually hard time answering that question.

In a moment of suffering, sorrow, despair or betrayal, can we actually answer the very deep and important question of “What do I need? Right now, in this moment.”

What we often needed as children when we were distressed, was to be comforted, reassured that we are still loved and cared for, and soothed by the gentle unconditional touch of a loving parent. We needed someone to kiss our “booboo” when we stumbled and fell. Or to be consoled by a loving embrace when we were excluded from a game of hide-and-seek.

But for many of us, our distress was met by something else, or as we grew older we had difficult or traumatic experiences that disconnected us from our deep need to be loved, accepted and appreciated. For whatever the reason, we have found ourselves removed from a sense of what we really need when we suffer, and often are not even aware much of the time when we DO suffer. We overlook our fears of being disconnected, unloved or, ironically, overlooked, often by tending to the needs of others instead.

We throw ourselves into caring for the needs of those around us and many of us are quite adept at such acts of service. We channel our inner desires to be cared for by caring for others, and when done with a true connection to one’s own heart, this can be a beautiful thing. And we often instinctively know just exactly what others need. Our mirror neurons fire wildly when we contact another person’s pain and difficulty and through that resonance with another, we are miraculously able to muster up just the right expression of comfort, the perfect words and the much-appreciated offer of kindness or consolation.

But what of the darker moments of our own despair, fear or desperation? What do we need in those moments for ourselves, because this one matters too? We often struggle to answer that question and as a result, further suffering arises as we resort to other less helpful and more destructive ways of meeting that deep inner need to be loved and connected.

We criticize ourselves for having this need, we tell ourselves that if we just tried harder, got things right more often (or better yet, if we were perfect), or removed ourselves from contact with others, THEN we would feel OK.

And so it is that a growing number of people find themselves in the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course developed by leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and noted author and expert on compassion and mindfulness in psychotherapy Christopher Germer, Ph.D.

MSC could be considered an “antidote” to the shame and self-criticism that many of us bear, and which cripples many of us with self-doubt, fear and self-loathing. By systematically cultivating the ability to be kind and loving to ourselves, especially in those moments of suffering that arise when we feel disconnected, lost, alienated or dismissed, MSC slowly helps restore in each of us our natural capacity to be kind, loving and compassionate to ourselves in the way that we do so effortlessly for others.

One of the first questions that MSC participants ponder in the course is the curious one of “How would you treat a friend when they are struggling, when they fail or feel inadequate?” Typically, the responses flow quickly and fluidly when we contemplate that question. And then, when the question turns to how we typically treat ourselves in those very same situations, the responses are often starkly in contrast. Especially when considering something as seemingly innocuous as the tone of voice of our inner dialogue. Many find that their inner critic is harsh, demanding, dismissive and belittling (and often echoes with the pain of the voice of people from the past who have treated them in this way). They notice how it feels to be spoken to in this way and it can often be a revelation for people who have never actually considered how it feels to be talked to in this way.

This revelation is often reflected in comments by participants like “I would NEVER talk to someone else like this!” In fact, this phenomenon is more widespread than one might think. In fact, Dove dramatized this fact in a YouTube video where they asked women to write down the things they say to themselves about their appearance. They then set up public conversations between two women in cafes and restaurants where one woman said those same things out loud to her companion. Strangers nearby were horrified and, in some cases, actually interrupted the two actors to comment on how terrible it was that one person would speak to another in such a way!

The MSC program sets about to help participants begin to “warm up the inner conversation” and begin to cultivate a loving, tender, accepting attitude toward oneself, that motivates us out of a desire to be happy and free from suffering, rather than one of perfectionism, fruitless striving, fear and shame.

Research on the program is promising and the huge existing body of research done by Kristin Neff and others already demonstrates a strong association between self-compassion and a huge variety of measures of well-being and good mental health, as well as the ability to make changes in unhealthy behavior, persist in the face of adversity, and to be perceived more positively in intimate relationships, just to name a few.

If you find it difficult to answer the fundamental question of Mindful Self-Compassion of “What do you need?” when you are feeling overwhelmed, afraid, sad or fearful, you might benefit from a greater ability to bring kindness to yourself and soothe yourself in these moments, as well as in your daily stressful life. Consider taking a Mindful Self-Compassion course to discover your compassionate inner voice and to find a way to meet yourself in the way in which you tend to meet others, reversing the Golden Rule and doing unto yourself what you would do (and say) to others!

MSC Core Skills Online Workshop

Steve Hickman is the Executive Director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, an MSC teacher and co-creator of the MSC Teacher Training program. He is also the author of “Self-Compassion for Dummies”, a lighthearted guide to treating yourself with the same kindness you extend to the ones you love.