Last updated on 6th January 2012
It's a funny week for me. On Thursday I'm due to start an 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course as a participant, and on Saturday I'm scheduled to co-run a one day workshop on Mindfulness & Hypnosis. I've been involved in mindfulness practice for a long time. I joined the university Buddhist Society as a student in about 1970. Round about the same time I took up practising yoga pretty seriously too. In 72 I started going to a series of one week and ten day mindfulness meditation retreats. I've practised "formal meditation" - in other words sitting quietly focusing internally - most days of the week for the last forty or so years. Typically this practice has involved a combination of Autogenic Training (a "concentration" form) and mindfulness. I've taught too - yoga in the mid & late 70's and meditation from the late 70's onwards. So why am I going to an MBSR course as a participant and why am I teaching the day on Mindfulness & Hypnosis?
Well, the "why the teaching?" query is probably easier to answer. A colleague and I were approached by the Scottish branch of the British Society for Medical & Dental Hypnosis to run this day workshop for their members. The learning objectives we've suggested are:
1.) Understand what ‘mindfulness' involves & how it relates to therapeutic approaches such as applied relaxation, compassionate mind training, therapeutic imagery and hypnosis.
2.) Be introduced to the rapidly accumulating research evidence documenting the value of mindfulness approaches for a variety of indications including reduction of depressive relapse (NICE guideline), anxiety disorders, substance abuse, coping with cancer, IBS, chronic pain, emotion regulation, cognitive abilities, overall wellbeing, for school children & for therapists themselves.
3.) Experience and discuss a variety of practical mindfulness exercises.
4.) Have the opportunity to consider how mindfulness might integrate with participants' current interest in and use of hypnosis.
I intend to write more about this Mindfulness & Hypnosis workshop very soon.
But "why the learning?" Why participate in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course? Basically because I think it would be rather interesting! There's a real groundswell of energy for mindfulness based approaches at the moment. Some of it is "faddy" and will ebb away over time. Some of the energy though is helping us understand much more about mindfulness and how it can best be used in helping us live lives with less suffering and more joy. So what are my "learning objectives" for the MBSR course?
A.) At a personal level, I live life somewhat at 110%. There's lots that's good about this but definitely, at times, I miss the taste of the moment as I reach out for the next goal. I welcome the opportunity to explore "being" and "savouring" more.
B.) I think I'm going to resent some of the time demands of the course - for example the initial request that we do long "body scans" each day. I suspect that during some of these exercises I'll be questioning the course design, whether it is time well spent, and feeling rather bored & irritated. No doubt there will also be other "opportunities" to face "unpleasant emotions/sensations" and this too can be an interesting & helpful personal challenge.
C.) In general I'm a fan of mindfulness approaches, but I also question their limitations. I suspect that "mindfulness" is being over-stretched sometimes just now to cover therapeutic & wellbeing applications where it shouldn't be a first choice intervention. I welcome that the course is likely to help me become clearer where mindfulness best has its place.
D.) In the Life Skills for Stress, Health & Wellbeing courses that I run, I introduce a number of mindfulness ideas & practices - as I do in one-to-one therapeutic work as well. I hope that participating in an MBSR course will throw up a series of ways that I can improve the helpfulness of my own teaching.
Well ... two "meals" waiting to be digested ... two initiatives to explore. I look forward to them, and to chewing over what I learn from them. For more on the day I'm teaching, see the blog posts "What is mindfulness?" and "Co-running a day on mindfulness & hypnosis". For the MBSR course and associated learning there is a wealth of exploration - see, for example "MBSR: first evening of the course" later this month, eight posts next month, and still more the month after!