This last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be working on mindfulness weekend one of our Masters degree in mindfulness studies, which is a partnership between the MA and Aberdeen University. This was our tenth cohort of students beginning or continuing their journey of mindfulness, compassion and insight.
They were a lovely group bound by a common motivation to train their own minds so that they are better able to help others. We focussed a lot during the weekend on facilitating connection between the participants.
Over the weekend we connected on the basis of geography (we had two students from the US and two from Germany), on the basis of professional context (mental and physical health and wellness, training and education, business and several wonderful and unique others) and on the basis of our tutor group. By the end of the weekend strong connections had been made with a strong intention to move forward together, helping each other.
On the Thursday evening and Friday before the weekend the teaching team met up to socialise, review the student feedback from last year and to explore possible opportunities for improvement. It was so important for us to connect personally as well as professionally. Some of our friendships are over a decade old and some are new and it was a delight to share this time together.
One of our focusses was to support the students, on their first weekend, to feel comfortable and part of the group. I think we succeeded in this, as best we could and we will continue this endeavour through the year.
My dear friend and colleague Jane, who I haven’t seen in person for over a year was there to tell the students about her own experience of being a student on the MSc. Our last few attempts to meet up in person have been scuppered at the last minute, although we do meet online regularly. Despite both of us being very busy we prioritise and make time for each other. That was a highlight of the weekend. You can’t have a hug or go for a walk together when you meet online!
Today I am heading down to Manchester for our MAHQ meeting with Helen, Alan, Jacky and Duncan. This week we are staying on for an extra day of ‘team building’. We all work so hard, nose to the grindstone, that often we don’t look up to see how we could help each other in our work or how our work might be done differently.
This is again another opportunity for us to get to know each other better and to connect as friends and as colleagues. We are also a group that is united in a common purpose; to help people to train their minds so as to enable them to flourish in their lives and to help the wider world be a kinder and a more awake place.
We are working as normal today – although it is a big day with the launch of our new website this week – fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!
We are doing a break out room together this afternoon. I hope we manage to succeed in breaking out – always good for morale! Then tomorrow we are facilitating each other in team building exercises that we have each selected to share with the rest of the team. Finally, we will explore new ideas to work and support each other and will see what unfolds!
So lots of connecting for me at the moment!
I am a bit of an introvert and so connecting with others can sometimes take effort. But I have learned over the years that connecting and speaking openly with friends and colleagues is very important for good relationships to thrive. Then the more I have practiced connecting with others, the more effortless it has become.
Mindfulness, compassion and insight training has really helped with this. I do like to talk about myself! My mindfulness training has helped me to recognise this habit more so that I can refrain and make space for others to speak. So I have become a better listener. The compassion training has helped me to be less judgemental and more unconditional in my connections with others. The insight training has helped me recognise my ego-centricity and how this can damage connections with others particularly through feelings of impatience. Once I can recognise this, I can refrain and make space, hopefully for something more skilful to unfold!
It is where I don’t connect regularly, often through fear, that relationships can deteriorate.
I am so very fortunate to have many awesome friends, colleagues and family members to connect with. These connections sustain and support me in my work and in my life, especially when the going gets a bit rough.
They are worth paying attention to every day. Are there any connections that you want to strengthen today?
You can practice mindfulness with Heather by joining her on the following courses:
Teacher Training Level 1 at Samye Ling – 29-31st May, 2020 (date subject to change)
Heather also teaches on the MSc Studies in Mindfulness.