We are now in the second year of the University of West Scotland (UWS) MSc in teaching Mindfulness and Compassion. It is a collaboration between the Mindfulness Association (MA) and UWS Psychology Department. The MA provides the teaching in mindfulness and compassion and UWS provides academic input on psychological theory underpinning mindfulness and compassion as well as a thorough grounding in research skills.
The teaching weekends take place at the beautiful UWS London campus situated in Docklands. We have now held three training weekends at this campus and one of the highlights has been the excellent Greek ice cream shop just around the corner from the campus building – close enough to get a delicious ice cream and coffee in the breaks! On the last weekend I have fond memories of sitting with the students and savouring our ice creams and coffees while looking out across a man-made lake with beautiful red lotus flowers. This reminded me of the lotus of compassion that grows out of the mud of our difficulties and afflictions that is one of the guiding metaphors of the compassion training.
A lovely feature of this programme has been the good humour and close collaboration between students and staff. So far the intakes have been quite small and this has led to a closeness and intimacy between us that is conducive to teaching mindfulness and compassion in the most effective way.
The annual retreats take place at the beautiful Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland. During our last retreat in August we were graced with wonderful sunny weather and students enjoyed going for afternoon dips in one of the pools on the Esk river that runs alongside Samye Ling. This is one way of clearing the mind! We also went for evening walks in the forests and hills around Samye Ling. This was a great way of connecting with nature and restoring balance after being in the lecture hall all day, and it was also a way of deepening the bonds between all of us on this course – walking and chatting and enjoying the beautiful views of sunshine playing on the green hills of the Scottish lowlands. It was a memorable time filled with laughter and fun and relaxed time together.
The UWS programme offers a hybrid approach of both in-person and online teaching. So for those who cannot attend the weekend teachings in London or the annual retreats in Samye Ling, there is the option of doing the programme online and not missing out on any of the core components of the teaching curriculum.
This MSc is unique because it is the first one in the UK that offers a comprehensive training in teaching compassion as well as a training in mindfulness teaching that meets the requirements of the British Association of Mindfulness Based Approaches (BAMBA). What also makes it special is the thorough grounding in psychological approaches closely attuned to the teaching in mindfulness and compassion. This is further augmented by the close collaboration between teacher and student. In my opinion this is what makes the difference and what makes this training unique and special.
As a Buddhist monk I know that for millennia what has worked best in the teaching of meditation has been a close one-to-one relationship between teacher and student. This synergy of collaboration and trust is what has proven through the ages to be the number one factor in instilling a deep, personal understanding of what mindfulness and compassion meditation is really about. No amount of apps, books and online teachings can compare with this. We live in an age of virtual teaching where teachings are easily downloadable onto our smart phones. All of these methods have their place, but none of them compare with the close collaboration between teacher and student and also between student and student – what has been known in Buddhism as ‘sangha’.
This is what the UWS masters is succeeding in doing – creating bonds of trust and connection and mutual learning that deeply instil and cultivate an experiential understanding of mindfulness and compassion practice. This has been achieved through our small class size, through small tutor groups where we discuss and share practice, and most importantly through 1:1 sessions between the tutors and the students.
Therefore, if you are looking for a programme that genuinely works in learning to teach mindfulness and compassion, then come and join us for our next intake of the UWS Masters that begins in January 2023
Choden is a lead tutor on the two post graduate programmes run by the Mindfulness Association – MSc Mindfulness and Compassion and MSc Studies in Mindfulness. He also teaches on the Mindfulness Teacher Training, Wisdom, Insight, Compassion and Mindfulness Courses and has co written three books. Read more about Choden here.