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Compassion lecture: a quick overview

I'm due to give a short lecture tomorrow on "Compassion".  Here is a downloadable copy of the slides ... sadly with most of the images removed for copyright reasons.  The event is a "Collider session".  It's a kind of upmarket brainstorming exercise with an invited group of participants to look at how compassionate ideas & interventions might be helpfully introduced when the new Edinburgh university student intake arrives this autumn.  I'm being wheeled on to give a brief introductory overview.

Useful to have Paul Gilbert's very recently published book to refer to:

Self-compassion: soothing touch helps us settle and relax

Touch can be profoundly soothing and settling.  In an intriguing study - "Nonverbal channel use in communication of emotion: how may depend on why" - researchers found that when participants generated displays of eleven different emotions, touch was the most preferred nonverbal way of showing love and sympathy.  Welcomed touch can be very good for us physically, so we know touch settles stress hormones - "Social touch modulates endogenous mu-opioid system activity in humans"  ( ), and can even reduce vulnerability to infections - see "Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness".

Mindful self-compassion: affectionate breathing meditation

I'm just back from a five day Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) retreat in Iceland with Chris Germer & Christine Brahler.  MSC teaches a whole host of meditation practices, with three underlined as core meditations.  These three are Affectionate Breathing, Loving-Kindness for Ourselves, and Giving & Receiving Compassion.  In this post I talk a bit more about the initial core meditation practice - Affectionate Breathing.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (3rd post): embodied values & goodwill

I have already written a couple of blog posts "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" and "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing" where we have taken our attention inwards, noting & naming our internal state/our internal weather, and responding to this inner state with settling touch, self-compassion & relaxation.  These posts have introduced nine suggestions that potentially upgrade a more standard breathing space practice.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing

I recently wrote a blog post "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" where I commented that if the thousands of recent research papers on mindfulness, emotion regulation & related subjects couldn't help us improve on the helpfulness of brief meditation practices, then science hasn't been doing its job adequately.  I went on to describe five possible upgrades saying that, if you're interested in trying out these ideas, maybe just explore a few at a time.  In this post I mention a further four upgrade options.  As with the first five suggestions, build up step by step, experimenting with what works well for you personally.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming

Many forms of stress management & meditation teach brief "breathing space" exercises that can be used to bring oneself into the present in a variety of helpful ways.  These seem to have been particularly popularised by the 3 minute breathing space exercise (3MBS) taught in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  Zindel Segal (one of MBCT's developers) describes the development of this Widen-Narrow-Widen attentional sequence in this short online article.

Mindful self-compassion residential: last morning, reviewing & appreciating

The first evening of this residential was back on Tuesday and it's now Saturday morning.  I've already written an initial post "Mindful self-compassion residential: first morning, doubts & overview".  So how am I feeling about the workshop now after three full days ... with just one to go?  Happy, touched, engaged, questioning, quietly inspired.  My initial doubts & impatience with the fact that such a widely taught training hasn't been backed up with better research still holds.  It wouldn't have taken a huge initiative to have set up a straight comparison trial between Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC).  How would they compare?  Would they have similar effects?

Mindful self-compassion residential: first morning, doubts & overview

Well this is interesting.  Here we are - Catero, my wife, and I - at the start of a five day workshop on "Mindful self-compassion" run by Chris Germer & Christine Brahler at Drangshlid, Eyjafjoll on the south coast of Iceland.  We flew into Reykjavik yesterday from Scotland, met up with a fellow course member who wanted to share transport, picked up our hire car and headed East on a two & a half hour or so's drive here.  Such a landscape ... bleak, beautiful ... in places a bit like driving across Rannoch Moor in Scotland.  And then arriving in time for supper.  Forty participants.  About twenty five are from Iceland and then there are about fifteen of us "foreigners".  And what a mix we foreigners are - from Estonia, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Canada and just three British.  The course is being run in English as Chris is from the States.

Recent research: articles from the winter journals

I read a lot of research.  When I find an article of particular interest I download it to my bibliographic database - Endnote - which currently contains close to 25,000 abstracts.  I also regularly tweet about emerging research, so following me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (click on the relevant icon at the top of this web page) will keep you up to speed with some of what I'm finding interesting. Additionally you can view this highlighted research by visiting Scoop.it (click on the "it!" icon at the top of the page).  At Scoop.it, I stream publications into five overlapping topic areas: Cognitive & General Psychotherapy, Depression, Compassion & Mindfulness, Healthy Living & Healthy Aging, and Positive Psychology.

Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - aspects of self-compassion

I've woken early.  Lying here I feel an unfamiliar hollow pressure in my gut.  What is this?  Fear?  Anxiety? Tension?  "Tense apprehension" seems to fit.  I'm lying here in the early hours of the morning, a hollow tense apprehension in my belly.  And it isn't surprising.  Pretty normal in fact as I move closer & closer to major surgery.  Consciously.  By my own decision.  On this journey, travelling down the "kidney donation river", I can hear the roar of the approaching rapids.  Surgery soon.  It's a pretty standard, basic, healthy response to tense a bit as I move towards the crux, possibly the most intense section of this "donation river".  And I don't have to tighten the rest of my body around the belly apprehension.  I can let go, loosen in my arms, my face.  It's OK. Nothing to do right now.

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