Integrating mindfulness and self-compassion

Integrated Mindfulness is an interesting project from Tim Duerden and Annette Dunn which brings together insights from Mindfulness Based Stress Education and Mindful Self-Compassion Training into an integrated approach which they call Mindful Resilience Enhancement.

MRE frames the cultivation of mindful awareness as a value. We have many opportunities in our daily experience of life when we can choose to move towards being more mindfully aware and the motivation to do so can, in time, become important to us in its own right. In this way being mindfully aware becomes more about how we are (a core value) than about something that we do for a particular end (a goal)…..

MRE seeks to explicitly teach ways of enhancing self-compassion just as it seeks to explicitly teach ways to enhance mindful awareness. The centrality of the cultivation of self-compassion to MRE is supported by research that indicates that when self-compassion is explicitly cultivated alongside mindfulness, the enhancement to well-being and the development of mindful awareness are greater and longer-lasting.

Their curriculum overlays this approach onto a traditional 8 week MBSR/CT type program in a very interesting way that gradually scaffolds the introduction to mindfulness practices:

The first phase is learning to mindfully be more at ease alongside difficulty with kindness and is the focus of the Level 1 teacher-training. Mindfulness in daily life is emphasised as the core practice in the MRE Level 1 curriculum, with short mindfulness practices that incrementally build to longer practice periods being progressively woven into daily routines supported by self-compassion practices. It is important to note that the Level 1 Competency Certificate only applies to teaching brief mindfulness and soothing practices that support being at ease alongside difficulty.

The second phase is to approach and explore difficulty with kindness and curiosity and is the focus of the Level 2 teacher-training. Building on the Level 1 curriculum, the Level 2 MRE teacher-training curriculum has a greater emphasis on cultivating self-compassion and on more sustained periods of mindfulness practice. These support the approaches that encourage turning towards difficulty.

This approach could be very useful with students in addressing a range of both personal transition issues and transition to study issues and the emphasis on kindness and self-compassion is a great balance to the competitive pass/fail orientation of higher education.





Compassion and Social Justice: building connections

I wrote last year when we launched this blog about expanding the field of contemplative pedagogies by building connections across the curriculum. One such set of connections could be between programs on human rights and social justice and those on compassion.

There have been a number of projects recently that have looked at social justice education. Sydney University’s Human Rights Program has recently released some great resources about using simulations to teach social justice and human rights. In this video introduction Dr Susan Banki outlines the principles underlying her approach. She rightly emphasises the structural nature of human rights violations and outlines an applied approach for students to develop strategic approaches to social justice activism.

This structural approach with practical applied learning activities is a great example of how a curriculum can be developed to provide an integrated educational, professional and personal development experience. However from a contemplative pedagogies perspective additional work on the science and practice of compassion would add a further dimension that could complete this experience. This could be particularly valuable from the point of view of self-care and exploration of the links between compassion, social justice and self-compassion. Kristen Neff one of the leading researchers on self compassion has shown that although there are notable links between compassion for others and self compassion, this is not necessarily the case in young people:

Because young adults in college are still forming their identities and understandings of intimate relationships, they are unlikely to have the same in-depth knowledge of themselves or others that comes with greater age and experience. Young adults also struggle with recognizing the shared aspects of their life experience, often overestimating their distinctiveness from others (Lapsley, FitzGerald, Rice, & Jackson, 1989). Thus, young adults’ schemas for why they are deserving of care and why others are deserving of care may be poorly integrated, so that their treatment of themselves and others is relatively unrelated. As individuals learn more about suffering and the causes of suffering with development, however, they may come to form a more unified understanding of compassion that generalizes to human beings more broadly, the self included. This may help explain why self-compassion was linked to compassion, empathetic concern and altruism for community adults and meditators but not for undergraduates. (Neff & Pommier 2012)

A range of Compassion Cultivation tools have been developed by groups like The  Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. Roshi Joan Halifax has also developed a detailed enactive model of compassion which has been used extensively in nursing education.