Tag Archives: mindfulness

CARE for Teachers: 7th Annual Retreat, Garrison Institute, NY, August 2014

The Garrison Institute is situated on the banks of the Hudson River, an hour norht of New York City.  It is located in a beautifully renovated former Cupucian Monestery, surrounded by forests and fields.  Its focus is on using contemplative practices to support social and ecological change.

The Garrison Institute is located in a beautifully renovated former Capuchin Monestery, of over 7000 square metres, surrounded by forests and fields.

This summer, from 8 to 13 August, I had the privilege of being at the Garrison Institute, NY, for their 7th Annual retreat on Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) for Teachers.

The Garrison Institute is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian organization siutated on the banks of the Hudson river, an hour north of New York City.  Its focus is on using contemplative practices to support social and ecological change.

CARE for Teachers is an innovative and well-researched programme that directly enhances teacher well-being and indirectly that of their students.

CARE for Teachers is an innovative and well-researched programme that directly enhances teacher well-being and indirectly that of their students.

CARE for Teachers was developed by a team of researchers and professionals working in education and contemplative practices, including mindfulness-based approaches.  The 5-day retreat included daily meditation and other mindfulness practices and explicit teaching of key prinicipals.  The goals were to develop skills to manage the demands of teaching, enhance the joy of teaching and student-teacher relationships and prevent burn-out.

On some days, the retreat began with an early morning  meditation at a nearby waterfall.  There was the option to swim in the waters too: a refreshing way to begin the day.

On some days, the retreat began with an early morning meditation at a nearby waterfall. There was the option to swim in the waters as a refreshing way to begin the day.

The course included consideration of the resources required to develop emotional awareness.  This included respecting emotions and being able to recognise and label them.  It also involved improving how we regulate emotions and respond to complex and challenging situations.   Overall, greater awareness, presence and compassion were developed for use in complex and demanding work contexts, which for most of us, included classrooms. For more information see the CARE for Teachers website.

Presenting the Mindfulness-based Awareness Training intervention at the Implementation Science Conference

The Handbook of Implementation Science contains essential information for those wishing to implement interventions in educational settings.

The Handbook of Implementation Science contains essential information for those wishing to implement interventions in educational settings.

On 28th July 2014, I gave a presentation on the Mindfulness-based Awareness Training (MBAT) intervention at the Implementation Science Conference, organised by the East London Consortium of Educational Psychologists (ELCEP).  Implementation Science is a relatively new area of scientific, academic and practitioner interest that focuses on exploring and explaining what makes interventions work in real-world contexts.

The conference included inspiring talks and workshops.  One keynote speaker, Barbara Kelly, University of Cambridge, was the co-editor of the “Handbook of Implementation Science”.  She spoke about making use of implementation Science in order to successfully transfer and replicate evidence-based approaches, outlining what an intervention needed in order to be implemented successfully.  The factors for this included focusing on the beliefs and values of those trained to deliver the specific intervention and providing consultation and coaching during the implementation process itself.

Another keynote speaker was Elaine Wilson, also from the University of Cambridge.  She presented two case studies in educational contexts; firstly Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in school-university partnerships and secondly, teacher education reform in Kazakhstan.  She explained that certain factors were important to implementing sustainable change, including adopting a “can do” positive approach and focusing on a few, important ambitious goals.

Download the handout of the presentation on the MBAT intervention given at the Implementation Science Conference 28/7/14

Download the handout of the presentation on the MBAT intervention given at the Implementation Science Conference 28/7/14

One of the workshops was my presentation on the process by which the MBAT intervention had been developed through doctorate research and further refined when implemented in another setting.  The MBAT intervention is a mindfulness training course for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).  It aims to empower the participants with skills for self-regulation of emotions, helping them be calmer and better focused. The intervention includes gathering information about the context in which the child or young persons needs to develop their skills and understanding.  This enables the MBAT intervention to be adaptable to the needs of the individual concerned.

The process of developing the MBAT intervention was outlined in the presentation and the handout for this is available here.  Overall, the conference was an inspirational experience, motivating me to learn more about Implementation Science.  Currently the materials for the MBAT intervention are being developed into a practitioner workbook.  If you are interested in this work, please contact Holistic Education.

 

Taraloka and the “Wisdom of the Awakening Heart” retreat (July 2014)

During July this year, I was priviledged to be at the “Wisdom of the Awakening Heart” Retreat at Taraloka.  It was led by Vijayamala and Maitrivajri, two ordained Buddhists from the Triratna Buddhist Community.  I realise that it is beneficial to attend retreats regularly to develop my own practice of mindfulness and meditation.  In the past, I had attended classes by a range of teachers.  I noticed that I found Maitrivajri’s style of teaching meditation to resonate with me and for that reason I chose this particular retreat.

Taraloka is a beautiful retreat centre in Shropshire, run by members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.

Taraloka is a beautiful retreat centre in Shropshire, run by members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.

The retreat ran for seven days and each day involved several hours of meditation, starting at 7am with a 90 minute session before breakfast.  After breakfast there was a talk and another 90 minute session before lunch.  In the afternoon, there was a third practice before supper and a final one before bed time.  So each day, apart for helping out in varioius community related activites (such as helping to make a meal or with tidying up), there was ample opportunity to develop meditation experience.  The retreat was also held in silence, from the second day to the second last day, allowing five days of no speaking (or speaking limited to essential moments) except during the two 10 minute meditation reviews, which for me, were on the third and 5th days of the retreat.  I also enjoyed running each day and doing some yoga, and altogether this helped deepen the experience of being.

The meditation practices and talks were on an aspect of Buddhism called the “Mandala of the Five Prajnas”.  The Prajnas (or ‘wisdoms’) are qualities that are beyond words and which need to be experienced to be understood, as they exist in the awareness we bring to our experiences.  One ‘wisdom’ was in perceiving things as they are, thereby coming into relationship with our experiences in an authentic way.  Another was in awareness of our shared humanity.  The third wisdom was in noticing, accepting and rejoicing in our uniqueness and individuality.  The fourth was in cultivating freedom and spontaneity in awareness.  The fifth was in deepening awareness into something beyond words, the infinite and boundless present.

Overall the retreat was a much appreciated as a opportunity to cultivate insightful and deeper aspects of awareness.  I hope that in reading this, you may feel inspired to explore the Mandala of the Five Prajnas.  For more information, please get in contact.

Here I am (Bottom left of picture) at the Wisdom of the Awakening Heart retreat at Taraloka.  It was an inspiring event that helped to further develop and deepen my meditation practice.

Here I am (see bottom left of the picture) with almost all the other participants at the Wisdom of the Awakening Heart retreat at Taraloka. It was an inspiring event that helped to deepen my meditation practice.

 

Teaching Yoga in Prisons: 4 days of training for yoga teachers by the Prison Phoenix Trust and British Wheel of Yoga

The Prison Phoenix Trust is a charity that encourages prisoners in their spiritual lives through meditation and yoga, working with silence and the breath.

The Prison Phoenix Trust is a charity that encourages prisoners in their spiritual lives through meditation and yoga, working with silence and the breath.

From Monday 23 June to Friday 27 June, I trained to teach yoga in prisons, though a programme taught by the Prison Phoenix trust (PPT) and accredited by the British Wheel of yoga (BWY).  I’ve been teaching yoga since 1998, and qualified as a yoga teacher in 2001.  This intensive training enabled us to learn how to teach yoga, breathing practices and meditation in a way that was accessible to a range of participants and adapted to meet their needs, safely and effectively.

Brent Scott (left) and Sally Buxton (centre) are both Yoga Co-ordinators for the PPT. Sam Settle (right) is the PPT Director. They co-led the training programme.

Since 2001, I have taught yoga and meditation in a range of settings, including private yoga centres, individual homes, adult education settings and schools.  The participants have been from a range of ages, from 7 to 81 years, backgrounds and levels of ability from complete beginner to advanced.  Yet this training prepared me for something different and altogether unique: to teach yoga and meditation in settings where the individuals there had acted in ways that meant not being allowed to participate in general society for a period of time.

The 4 day training programme was wonderfully practical, informative and fun.  There were speakers from prisons, including Prison Officers, ex-inmates and yoga and other teachers working in prisons, youth offending institutions, prison hospitals and other high security settings.  There were talks, meditation and yoga sessions and discussion groups.  We even had a bit of time to fit in a few walks in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside and have an evening of games, singing and music provided by ourselves.

We not only deepened our personal practice, though morning and evening practice sessions, but also our understanding of the complexities of the lives of those living and working in prisons.  Overall, I gained confidence not only in how to adapt the teaching of yoga and meditation, but also in how to adapt myself to a setting in which security is of paramount importance.  It was a brilliantly run and intense training course and I highly recommend it to any yoga teachers interested in such work.

How can mindfulness be adapted for different populations?

Chris Cullen from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Mindfulness in Schools Project.  He presented the workshop for the Exeter Mindfulness Network.

Chris Cullen from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Mindfulness in Schools Project. He presented the workshop for the Exeter Mindfulness Network.

On 12 June, Chris Cullen, from the Mindfulness in Schools Project and Oxford Mindfulness Centre gave a workshop by the Exeter Mindfulness Network, University on “Adapting mindfulness for different populations”.

I was inspired.  Here was a clear way to make mindfulness accessible to those with a range of needs, from young people to those in highly stressful work situations, while maintaining the essential integrity of the programme. The key message: follow the structure of the well-researched, tried and tested Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy programme.

The workshop was designed for those with training and experience in teaching mindfulness, following the Good Practice guidelines for teaching mindfulness-based courses.  While MBCT was designed for preventing relapse into depression, with care and consideration, it can be made applicable to a much wider audience, including the general population itself, and maintain its essential integrity.

When considering how to adapt MBCT, the first step is to bring to mind are the core intentions of the programme itself and to ensure that the teaching is orientated towards these throughout.  Then, bearing in mind the particular needs of the target group, the theoretical and practical reasons for making the changes are considered. Essentially, the training aims to empower the participants with mindfulness-based skills to better manage “crux” moments in their lives.  These are times when mindfulness skills are drawn upon to respond rather than react, to make ‘wise’ choices, rather get drawn into automatic, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Finding Peace in a Frantic World - a book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, which is a newly developed 8-week course.

Finding Peace in a Frantic World – a book by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, which is a newly developed 8-week course.

These steps are key to the process of developing a well-structured mindfulness programme for a range of populations and needs, and it has been tried and tested in the development of the  “.b” (dot-b) programme for teens by the Mindfulness in Schools Project and the Peace in a Frantic World course for in the general population wanting to enhance resilience to stress and promote well-being.

The workshop was run by the Exeter Mindfulness Network and held at the University of Exeter.

The workshop was run by the Exeter Mindfulness Network and held at the University of Exeter.

New! Join the Holistic Education Mailing List

MailinglistThe website has been updated! Now you can join a mailing list to receive updates from Holistic Education on events and information about its activities.  You can also specify your interests, choosing from Mindfulness, Yoga, Holistic Therapies and Educational Psychology Services.  if you’d like to join, please click on the picture or here for the sign up form.  Best wishes, Bernadette

Mindfulness Interest Group meets again at the Hackney Learning Trust

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney. It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney.
It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

Last week, on 20th May, I held the third session of the Mindfulness Interest Group.  It was heartening to see over twenty people, from Hackney Council and the Learning Trust, giving up their lunch break to learn about and practice mindfulness together.

I gave a short presentation on Mindfulness and Finding Peace in a Frantic World and we did the Raisin Exercise and a sitting mindfulness practice.

Overall, feedback was positive and I look forward to the next session on 17th June 2014.  For more information about this, or if you’d like an introductory workshop on Mindfulness at your workplace, please contact me. Best wishes, Bernadette

Practice mindfulness with the Mindfulness Interest Group at the Hackney Learning Trust

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney. It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

Hackney Learning Trust runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney.
It is responsible for schools, children’s centres, early years and adult education.

On Thursday, 1st May, was the second meet-up of the Mindfulness Interest Group.  It is a supportive and friendly group for those interested in mindfulness who are working for Hackney Council.  The aim of the group is to meet up monthly, at the Hackney Learning Trust, to share about mindfulness-related events and projects in the borough and to do some mindfulness practice together.

Most of the group are completely new to practising mindfulness.. and the advantage is that this encourages coming to mindfulness with a “beginner’s mind”, a combination of openness, curiosity and healthy scepticism.  To learn mindfulness, effort is needed.  Although the practice itself is simple, it takes effort and self-encouragement to persevere with it.  The Mindfulness Interest Group provides an opportunity to take a “breathing space” and practice tools needed to enhance well-being and resilience and reduce the effects of stress in the workplace.

 

New term of yoga classes in the city

The British Wheel of Yoga is the largest yoga membership organisation in the UK. We are committed to promoting a greater understanding of yoga and its safe practice through experience, education, study and training.

The British Wheel of Yoga is the largest yoga membership organisation in the UK. It is committed to promoting a greater understanding of yoga and its safe practice through experience, education, study and training.

On Wednesday, 30 April, the new term began for the beginner and intermediate yoga classes that I run at the City of London Community Education Centre.  I have been teaching in this context since September 2000.  Over the last 5 years, these courses have been managed by Hackney Community College.  If you would like to enhance your health and well-being and live or work close to or in the city, there are still a few places in the classes and you are welcome to join.  if you are interested, call 020 7332 3918 or 020 7608 2753 or email adulteducation@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

These classes are a fantastic opportunity to learn about yoga with an emphasis on bringing mindfulness to the practice to develop awareness, balance, flexibility and strength.  As a British Wheel of Yoga qualified teacher, I have experience and training in adapting the yoga practices to suit a broad range of age and ability.

Experience of the Friday meditation class at the London Buddhist Centre

This is the main shrine room at the London Buddhist Centre.  There is much discussion about the role of 'secular' mindfulness and Buddhism.

This is the main shrine room at the London Buddhist Centre. There is much discussion about the role of ‘secular’ mindfulness and Buddhism.

Last Friday evening, after a day at work, I popped down to the London Buddhist Centre.  Every Friday evening, from 7pm, there is a class.  It is a time for a meditating in a group with minimal if any instruction.  Essentially the evening involves one practice from 7:30pm to about 9:45pm.  It is divided into three parts: two meditations and a Puja, a ritual to cultivate and express particular qualities, such as devotion, joy and compassion.  Between each part is an optional short break of a few minutes, to stretch the legs.

On arrival, I had noticed the impact of having had a busy ending to a very busy week.  Yet, through the practice, I noticed an overall deepening into ‘being’ and related unfolding ephemeral processes.  It became easier to notice the arising and passing of mental events and beyond this, a contextualising quality of spacious, empty, unbounded, joyous awareness. On the journey home, in my thoughts arose a clear solution to work-related issue that I had been grappling with for months.

Scientists now understand that mirror neurons are essential to learning.

A new type of neuron–called a mirror neuron–could help explain how we learn through mimicry and why we empathize with others.

Consequently, this week I found myself reflecting on various aspects of mindfulness practice, including the benefits of group practice, the impact of the context in which one practices and the intention on brings to practising.  Group practice provides support, encouraging and enhancing a richer, felt sense of being, possibly evoked by the mirror neurons in the brain, stimulated by still presence of others to replicate a deeper stillness within.   Further to this is the meaning that the context brings, a symbolism that resonates throughout the practice itself.  Overall, I concluded that the intention, whether expressed consciously or not, is key to influencing the direction of creative expression and that mindfulness practice is essentially a creative act.