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Mindful Self-Compassion Intensive, Big Sur , CA , United States

Chris Germer and Sydney Spears

December 8, 2019 - December 13, 2019

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This offering is an intensive version of the empirically-supported 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion. It was developed by Christopher Germer, PhD, a leader in the integration of mindfulness and psychotherapy (www.MindfulSelfCompassion.org) and Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneering researcher in the field of self-compassion (www.Self-Compassion.org). This program fulfills a prerequisite for becoming a MSC teacher.

MSC combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion to enhance our capacity for emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness is the first step—turning with loving awareness toward difficult experience (thoughts, emotions, and sensations). Self-compassion comes next—bringing loving awareness to ourselves. Together, mindfulness and self-compassion comprise a state of warm, connected, presence during difficult moments in our lives.

 Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention from yourself when you needed it most? All that’s required is a shift in attention—recognizing that as a human being, you, too, are a worthy recipient of compassion. Self-compassion involves the capacity to comfort and soothe ourselves, and to motivate ourselves with encouragement, when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Self-compassion is learned in part by connecting with our innate compassion for others, and self-compassion also helps to grow and sustain our compassion for others.Burgeoning research shows that self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, coping with life challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and more satisfying personal relationships. It is an inner strength that enables us to be more fully human—to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and make necessary changes with an attitude of kindness and self-respect.

Fortunately, self-compassion can be learned by anyone, even those of us who did not learn these skills as children.

MSC Objectives

At the completion of this activity, participants should be able to:

  • describe the theory and research supporting mindful self-compassion
  • motivate themselves with encouragement rather than self-criticism
  • relate to difficult emotions with greater moment-to-moment acceptance
  • respond to feelings of failure or inadequacy with self-kindness
  • begin to transform difficult relationships, old and new, through self-validation
  • practice the art of savoring and self-appreciation
  • integrate core mindfulness and self-compassion exercises into daily life
  • teach simple self-compassion practices to patients, students, or clients

This program is designed for members of the general public. It an intensive training program rather than a retreat or a vacation.  Meditation experience is not necessary to participate in MSC. All are welcome!

Program activities include short talks, experiential exercises, meditation, group discussion, and home practices.  MSC is an opportunity to explore how we typically respond when difficulties arise in our lives and to learn tools for becoming a warm and supportive companion to ourselves.

The MSC program is a journey—an adventure in self-discovery and self-kindness. Self-compassion has the paradoxical effect of both soothing our emotional distress as well as opening us to the pain that we may have been unconsciously holding inside, often for many years.  Therefore, some difficult emotions are likely to surface during the program as we grow in our capacity to embrace and heal them. MSC teachers are committed to providing an environment of safety, support, privacy, individual responsibility, and a common commitment to developing compassion for oneself and others.

MSC is therapeutic but it’s not therapy. The emphasis of the program is on enhancing emotional resources to meet emotional challenges, old and new. MSC is also not primarily a type of mindfulness training; MSC is mindfulness-based compassion training in which the quality of warmth is emphasized more than awareness itself.

In a randomized, controlled study, MSC significantly increased self-compassion, compassion for others, mindfulness, and life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression, anxiety and stress. Improvements were linked to how much a person practiced in their daily lives. For the full-text article, please click here (PDF).

Tuition and accommodation fees are payable to the Esalen Institute: Registration link here



 Christopher Germer is a co-founder of CMSC and co-developer of MSC. He is a clinical psychologist in private practice, specializing in mindfulness- and compassion-based treatment. He has been integrating the principles and practices of meditation into psychotherapy since 1978. He is a lecturer on psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School, and a founding faculty member of both the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance. Chris has co-edited two influential volumes –Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, and Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy – and is author of the popular book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. Chris is an MSC teacher trainer, and leads MSC intensives and workshops around the world.


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.

This Intensive is a Fundraiser for Center for Mindful Self Compassion. The teachers are graciously donating their time.

Venue and Schedule

This course is being managed by CMSC and held at the beautiful Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.**  Please see the Esalen site here for travel information and other tips on how best to plan your stay.  And this page for Accommodations pricing.

The course begins with dinner at 6:00 pm on Sunday, December 8, 2019 and ends by 12:00 pm on Friday, December 13.

Approximate Course Times:

Sunday:  8:00-9:30 pm
Monday – Thursday:  9:15 am-12:45 pm
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday:  2:45– 6:15 pm
Friday:  9:30–12:00 pm

There may be optional sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  And optional morning meditations (or yoga with the Esalen community) daily. 

This course will have 80 participants. **

**For those of you seeking a retreat experience, please be advised that Esalen is designed as a workshop center (with multiple programs at the same time) rather than a silent retreat center.   Also, please be aware that this is an intensive training program rather than a retreat or a vacation.
Tuition and accommodation fees are payable to the Esalen Institute: Registration link here


Continuing Education and Scholarships

    Psychologists: Continuing Education Credit for this program is provided by UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This course offers 24.0 hours of credit.


California licensed MFTs, LPCCs, LEPs, LCSWs: The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness maintains responsibility for this program and its content. 24.0 contact hours may be applied to your license renewal through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.  For those licensed outside California, please check with your local licensing board to determine if APA accreditation meets their requirement.

    • Nurses: UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number CEP16351, for 28.75 contact hours.


      • Social Workers:  Re-approval pending by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # 886771645-2718) for 24 continuing education contact hours. Some States do not accept this approval. Please contact your local board if you are unsure.


        • Fees for APA CE credits: $75  (CE credits will be opened-up for purchase a few months before the start of the program.  An email will be sent when they are available, or please check back in September.)


      • There are a limited number of scholarships available for this program. CMSC is especially committed to providing access to participants of color and members of other underserved groups and we prioritize scholarship applications of these individuals.  If you are interested in a scholarship please email events@centerformsc.org
          • .

    • Highly recommended while participating in the MSC course:

It is recommended, but not required, that participants read the following two books before participating in MSC:



December 8, 2019
December 13, 2019


Chris Germer
Sydney Spears


Esalen Institute
55000 California 1
Big Sur, CA 93920 United States
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