Precious teachers of the present

Sometimes, we are blessed to have auspicious conditions that bring inspiring teachers into our lives.  Perhaps it was a book that they wrote or said at a lecture, retreat or on-line video.  Perhaps a chance meeting brought you together.  Whatever it was, a seed was sown that changed your life for the better.  For this reason, these teachers are precious.

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A selfie with Bhante at Adhisthana on 7 April 2018, celebrating 50 years of the Triratna Buddhist Order.

Yesterday I was fortunate to meet (for the second time since 2012) a teacher who has deeply inspired me and many of my friends in our commitment to practicing meditation: Urgyen Sangharakshita (aka Bhante).

This weekend I was at Adhisthana, a retreat centre in Herefordshire.  It was for a short weekend retreat to celebrate 50 years of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, now the Triratna (“Three Jewels”) Buddhist Order and Community.  About 50 or so people were present for the event.

We were celebrating what happened fifty years ago when Bhante started a chain reaction of ever increasing friendships of those inspired by his teachings.  For 20 years Bhante had lived in India, where he was ordained and studied with a range of Buddhist teachers. Inspired by all major aspects of Buddhism, he has since written and lectured prolifically both in the West and the East. In the light of modern scholarship and his own spiritual experience, he has brought out and emphasised the core teachings that underlie and unify the Buddhist tradition as a whole.  His teachings clarify the essentials and outline ways of practice that are spiritually alive and relevant to the 21st century.

In 1997 I first went to the London Buddhist Centre, one of the Triratna centres and where Bhante once lived.  Since January 2009, I started going regularly.  I really appreciate what I have learned since then, the friendships that I have developed and the love, joy and light that has been a deep inspiration, including for the research into mindfulness, becoming a mindfulness teacher and also, more recently, becoming one of the support yoga teachers at the LBC.

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Trauma Center Trauma-sensitive Yoga (TCTSY): an empowering, healing and mindful approach to teaching yoga

paperback-book-coverSome of you may have heard of the work of Bessel Van Der Kolk author of “The Body Keeps the Score”.  He explains how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences and how findings from neuroscience and attachment research can be inform a range of potentially effective treatments for traumatic stress.  Bessel also founded the Trauma Center in Massachusetts, USA where treatments to address complex trauma are developed and tested.

One of the approaches is Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY).  This is an empirically validated, clinical intervention for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The TCTSY program is included in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) database.  TCTSY has foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory, and Neuroscience as well as on central components of the hatha style of yoga, where participants engage in a series of physical forms and movements.

Last month I participated in a 20-hour training in TCTSY run by Alexandra Cat  who is based at the Yoga Clinic, UK.  In this course, I learned how to teach yoga in a way to cultivate a sense of empowerment and a more positive relationship to one’s body, using the TCTSY approach:

  • TCTSY does not use physical hands-on adjustments to influence a participant’s physical form.  Instead, the approach invites participants to be in charge of themselves based on a felt sense of their own body; the participant is empowered.
  • TCTSY enables a focus on the internal experience of a posture, not the external expression or appearance.  There is no ‘right’ way to do a posture, based on external approval or judgment; the participant is empowered to make his or her own choices.

By focusing on the felt sense of the body to inform choice-making, TCTSY allows participants to restore their connection of mind and body and cultivate a sense of agency that is often compromised as a result of trauma.

This training has informed the teaching of yoga that I do and I have started using in it the classes that I teach.  For more information, feel free to contact me.

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Division of Educational and Child Psychologists (DECP) Conference: my workshop on using mindfulness as a whole school approach to wellbeing

What a beautiful morning in Brighton! This is where I started off the day. I was there for the Division for Educational and Child Psychologists (DECP)  Conference.

After listening to an inspiring keynote speech, I delivered a workshop entitled “Mindfulness, Educational Psychologists and Whole School Wellbeing”. It was a privilege and pleasure to outline a vision for how educational psychologists can implement  mindfulness-based interventions in schools.  This is a a subject based on my experience, which has built up over the years since my doctoral research in this field.

The feedback from the participants was positive. One described the session as “very clear, well based on research without losing the presenter-audience relationship“.  Another wrote that it  provided the “simple straightforward basics of mindfulness including clear steps of how to implement practice in schools with an informed good foundation.

I also asked what further training would be important to EPs and discovered an interest in how to implement mindfulness interventions in schools.  There is a need for training and supervision of mindfulness teachers so that there is authenticity in the approach.  Again, following the UK Network of Mindfulness Teachers Good Practice Guidelines is recommended.

I have a plan to make that happen. Watch this space.

Warm wishes, Bernadette

Endings unfold into new beginnings

It has been a long time since I have sent some news about Holistic Education and my work teaching mindfulness, yoga and using holistic approaches.  As a result there is a lot of news to share.

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Doing a warm up with Richard Branson prior to the Hackney Half-Marathon

As something ends, something begins.  I have renewed my interest in running and on 30 April 2017, I ran the Hackney Half-Marathon with my daughter.  I also used this as an opportunity to fund raise for St Joseph’s Hospice who had been so kind and supportive to our family.

On 6 June 2017, an opportunity to teach mindfulness at work suddenly manifested.  There is a lot of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace for mental health and wellbeing.  I welcomed this new beginning and so I began to teach a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course on Tuesdays for staff at Hackney Council.

Due to the additional course, I decided to let go of my Wednesday yoga class. I made a resolve and on Wednesday 12 July, I taught my last class, marking a pause in almost 19 years as a yoga teacher.  It was sad, but in the space that followed, I sensed light emerging in my heart, a gift to encourage me taking steps into the unknown.  Incidentally, I was recently reflecting on how I missed teaching yoga and tonight I am looking forward to covering my old yoga class as their current teacher is away.

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My Buddhist study group – our last session

The next day, on 13 July,  after nearly 6 1/2 years, my Mitra Study course  was coming to an end  That evening, we completed the presentations of our very last Year 4 module.  After a chant for ‘transferring merits’ together, I realised just how much studying Buddhism on a regular basis had been a key part of my life.  At the moment, I am looking to co-teach a study group and am optimistic that something will arise in 2018.

On Saturday 15 July, I had my last acupuncture session until September – the series of treatments has really supported the grieving process and helped me cope with the intensity of change.  It has rekindled my interest in promoting Shiatsu in schools.

On Friday 21 July the school holidays began and a week later, I went on a 9 day “Women’s Intensive Retreat” at Vajrasana.  As a mindfulness teacher following the UK Network of Mindfulness Teachers Good Practice Guidelines, it is important to participant in retreats regularly to deepen one’s practice of mindfulness meditation.  This retreat included a week of silence (with opportunities for a 10 minute ‘meditation review’ every other day).  It was a deeply healing process and I would like to share more about it in another post one day.

That’s the first part of the update for now.  So much has also happened since July, including traveling to Japan in August and then, in September, being involved in a BBC 1 documentary with Susan Bogels and Esther de Bruin who run the MyMind for ADHD in Amsterdam – I had done the MyMind training with them in 2014.

Thank you for sharing this update with me by reading this post.

Warmly,

Bernadette

Endings and beginnings

 

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At the crematorium, at the end of the funeral: the last moments.

Right now, there is a sense of spring in the air.  The trees are in blossom and the light from the sun is a little stronger, streaming in from the window next to my desk. Winter is ending, summer is beginning.

 

Recently, I have had a bereavement: my father, Dr Xavier Francis Carelse, passed away last month.  For several months, my mother and I had been closely involved in his care, as he had chosen to pass at home.  This period of great activity and intensity suddenly ended as his life drew to a close and a new experience of his ‘not living’ arose.

In treasuring and honouring the life and death of this man, there has emerged a deeper sense of staying present and ’embracing’ the moment.  It arose from a perspective of perceiving each moment as precious and unique and having infinite possibilities, including opportunities for connectedness with rather than separation from others.  In acknowledging this oneness, there arises a poignant sensitivity towards all beings.

The alternative is to allow the mind to become distracted and separated from the present, preoccupied with thoughts: plans for the future and memories of the past.  However, this choice sustains the mind and heart in a state of mourning and distress, making the process of healing painful and slow.

It is poignant to recognise each moment as embodying opportunities for oneness with and sensitivity towards all beings.  In this middle way, ending and beginning are embraced for what they are: two sides of the same coin.  In this moment, life and death are one, the mind and heart are at peace and the path to healing becomes clearer.

In this experience, there is no end state.  There is no goal to reach.  In this time-space continuum, there is neither ending nor beginning: an unfolding of beauty and love.

 

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A celebration with friends and family in honour of Dr Xavier Francis Carelse, my father and friend, who lived from 11 March 1933 until 26 March 2017.

 

My Mindful Little One: interview with WHSmith

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This beautifully illustrated children’s book was published on 5 May 2016.

Last year, in September, I had the pleasure of being invited to write a book by Scholastics.

In the process, many were involved, including Emma Drage, the editor and Paula Bolwes who provided the beautiful illustrations.

Finally, last week, on 5 May 2016, “My Mindful Little One: Bedtime” was published.

And today there is an article about it on the WHSmith website.

Enjoy.

Bernadette

Sponsor me in fundraising for a meditation retreat centre

2016-02-18 14.44.56I am running the Hackney Half-Marathon on 8 May 2016.  This is to fundraise for Vajrasana, an amazing retreat centre that is close to my heart.  It is set in the Suffolk countryside and has been a special place where I have been inspired to learn more about and teach meditation and mindfulness.

Retreat centres have helped countless people.  Please help me support Vajrasana.  All contributions are welcome.  Click the button below to visit my Just Giving webpage and to make a donation.  Many thanks, Bernadette
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!