There’s a lot of talk about increasing flexibility and choice among people who practice with ‘third wave approaches’ which are defined by the inclusion of mindfulness training. Movement in the direction of flexibility is generally considered a marker for therapeutic change and growth, a sign of giving up attachment to any one particular view of the way things are or should be. It seemed a natural progression for me, after delivering mindfulness training groups over the past 10 years in various populations, to continue to open to exploration of new ways to adapt the delivery of the training whilst holding the integrity of the model.
Adapted from Buddhist practice, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was originally offered as an opportunity for individuals disadvantaged by enduring health problems to be empowered by choice. The term ‘Participatory Medicine’ was offered to describe individuals being truly involved and central to their own health care. Beginning with our own experiential practice is always the starting point for incorporating mindfulness into our work. It can only be authentically taught from embodiment of our own practice whilst adapting to the context in which it is delivered.
The choice to explore delivering the MBSR programme over four alternate and one consecutive Saturday in Liverpool arose quite organically in response to a good friend’s aspiration to bring mindfulness training to individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by ADHD. I am so grateful to those who participated in this group in Liverpool at the lovely Quaker Meeting House on School Lane and who I came to respect through their authenticity and generous sharing of experience.
I have enjoyed a friendly relationship with Liverpool since studying at Liverpool John Moore’s University from 1996 to 1999. Although I have delivered in excess of 25 MBSR groups since 2005, delivering week one and two on our first day in Liverpool brought a few new surprises. Perhaps the most memorable was the fun of delivering the mindfulness body-scan to the cheers of football fans! This presented me with a new challenge to be adaptable by dodging between football cheers outside the building in addition to the usual snores inside the room in order to deliver the practice – a great reminder not to take oneself too seriously! Over the weeks the rapport between participants was supported by the friendly buzz of a Saturday atmosphere. This is it!
I’m drawn to express here an observation that delivering MBSR group training in this way might actually have contributed toward an ability to deepen practice and safety within the group. Perhaps the fact that all participants worked in some capacity within the field of healthcare enabled a respect for each other as caregivers. I observed a genuine gentle caring and tenderness that characterised these extended periods of practice and carried over from session to session. Delivered in this way, MBSR could be an accessible and powerful contribution to team building. Despite a deepening understanding of the challenge that stillness and formal meditation practice presents, enthusiasm for mindfulness practice and its potential within their field of work grew steadily for the participants.
I look forward to further exploration of offering MBSR and also MBCT in this format again whilst holding the integrity of the original 8 week / 9 session models. It seems that it may be a particularly pragmatic solution for those who struggle to attend weekly sessions and who want to bring mindfulness authentically into the workplace.
7th December 2014