The Long Term Path – Mindfulness, Compassion, Insight, Wisdom
Many mindfulness courses last for just eight weeks. Here at the Mindfulness Association we offer mindfulness based meditation training over four Levels over four years. Our training is flexible to meet your needs and we start with one module of mindfulness meditation training over one weekend or over four or five evening sessions. This can be built on at your own pace until a final stage of training including two six day retreats a year apart with monthly evening meetings in between.
There is much research to indicate that a short training in mindfulness can be beneficial. The first thing we might notice is that we become less reactive and a bit calmer when facing challenges, but only at those times when we are mindful. With long term practice the transformative benefits of mindfulness become part of our being, enabling us to respond more skilfully to the ups and downs of life and to live full, authentic and happier lives.
It is not a quick fix. It takes practice and requires us to incorporate mindfulness into the fabric of our daily lives.
In all of our courses we draw on different wisdom traditions, including psychology, philosophy, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, physics and Buddhism. The courses are experiential, in that they are led by your own experience of the mind in meditation and in daily life.
We start with Level 1 Mindfulness training over four modules. Each module is taught over a weekend (generally in person) or over four or five evening sessions online.
Our first module is on the basics of mindfulness technique, including settling the mind, grounding in the body, body scan and using a mindfulness support of sound. We also start developing our mindfulness attitude of kindness. In the second module we introduce mindful movement, using a mindfulness support of breath and begin to explore the undercurrent and observer model of mind, plus a bit more on kindness. In the third module we focus more on cultivating our mindfulness attitude of acceptance, kindness and self-compassion. There is daily practice to do in between and so by module four participants are developing a regular daily mindfulness meditation practice as well as introducing mindful activities into their daily life.
At the end of this course we find participants are calmer, happier and less reactive and more resilient in the face of stress. Their mind is more stable and they are more able to be present with their experience as it is. So a good start!
Our Level 2 Compassion training takes place over three modules or one module and a five day retreat and is focussed on cultivating kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. The first module starts with self-compassion and is based in evolutionary psychology and uses compassionate imagery to support us in cultivating the qualities of compassion. We recognise that the human condition is a messy business and that much of what we struggle with in life is not our fault. We begin to let ourselves off the hook of perfection and become a compassionate mess! In the second module we explore the biggest obstacle to self-compassion, which is the inner self-critic, as well as continuing to use compassionate imagery practices to develop our capacity to feel safe within ourselves. We end this course by moving from self-compassion to cultivating kindness, compassion and joy for others, as well as ourselves, within an atmosphere of equanimity.
At the end of this course we find that participants like themselves a lot more, their self-criticism has loosened and they are more able to be themselves as they are. It is as if a great weight is lifted off their shoulders and they are more able to be authentic and to set healthy boundaries in life. They develop a glass half full attitude to life in general. Our Level 2 training is all about cultivating a kind, allowing and curious internal environment of mind, in particular in the face of troubling thoughts and strong emotions.
Now we have stabilised our mind with mindfulness and are able to be compassionately present with challenging mental states, we have created the foundation to begin our Level 3 Insight training. This training takes place over three modules or one module and a five day retreat and is focussed on familiarising ourselves with the more subtle activity of the mind, which inhibits our freedom. There are two elements to this training. The first is sensitising ourselves to the subtle activity of the mind, including how thought becomes thinking, layers of emotion, and the operation of our sense of self. The second is learning to do less and to be more in our meditation practice. By sensitising and doing less, we create the conditions for insights to arise. Later on in this training we cultivate skills to skilfully navigate the emotions of anger, craving, jealousy and pride.
At the end of this course we find that participants become familiar with more of their habitual patterns of thought and behaviour and are more able to recognise and refrain from unskilful habits, creating the conditions for a more skilful way of being to manifest of its own accord. An exaggerated sense of self becomes less of a hindrance and their ability to make choices about how to respond moment by moment are enhanced. They gain more freewill.
Based on the insight training, our Level 4 training is around cultivating an understanding through meditation of the reality within which we live, what we are and how the mind unfolds. This training takes place over two six day retreats, a year apart, with monthly teaching and practice sessions, weekly peer group sessions and a daily meditation practice commitment of one hour a day. This course addresses our misperception of reality as dualistic (me here and you plus other external objects separately there), permanent and solid – a materialist perspective. It gets us in touch with our actual experienced reality which is an interdependent, ever changing process, based on myriad causes and conditions within which we are all interconnected.
Our first cohort of students are finishing this course at the end of this year and we are currently recruiting our second cohort of students to start in November. Our hope is that this training will enable participants to live more in accordance with the reality we inhabit, so that they are not constantly resisting reality. This will mean that they will suffer less and instead be happy. A good way to live!