Processing the Conference

Thank you to all of you who attended the MA’s conference at Samye Ling this last weekend. My experience of it was overwhelmingly wonderful, with many old friends and new sharing practice and experience and supporting the vision of the MA to spread the benefits of Mindfulness and Compassion around the world.

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We started with a keynote speech from Lama Yeshe Rinpoche on the importance of Compassion in Mindfulness practice and in society. He particularly emphasised the importance of Mindfulness teachers to practice until they see a meaningful transformation within themselves before teaching others. Then our most recent MSc graduates took part in a moving and personal graduation ceremony with our patron Lama Yeshe Rinpoche in which each graduate came onto the stage and were presented with a katta and Akong Rinpoche’s book ‘Limitless Compassion’. Beautiful!

Many of these students went on to present the results of their research to the conference, evidencing again the transformative power of Mindfulness when it has Compassion embedded within it, particularly self-compassion. We heard about research in the areas of health care staff, chronic pain sufferers, primary school children in deprived areas, paramedics, pregnancy and birth, among others! For more information about the MSc with Aberdeen University, please click here.

We provided an overview of the Everyone Project (click here) which is delivering MBLC courses to those who would otherwise be excluded from Mindfulness. There was a poster exhibition about some of the different courses, including work with carers, drug rehabilitation, neurological disorders, among many others. Our research including over 70 participants from these diverse groups showed significant increases in wellbeing and mindfulness and significant decreases of stress, including case study examples of lives transformed. This research was generated by our very own Alan Hughes from MAHQ and Julie McColl from Glasgow Caledonian University.

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Our other patron Paul Gilbert – our very own Luke Skywalker – spoke about some of the challenges (the dark side) to cultivating Compassion, emphasising that this evolved brain, with its neurotic habits, is the result of evolution and conditioning and so is ‘not our fault’. Paul was warm and funny and we at the MA are hoping to work more closely with his Compassionate Mind Foundation (click here) to join forces in spreading Compassion all over the world.

Vidyamala Birch, the founder and head of Breathworks (click here), gave a very moving talk about her own story of exploring Mindfulness, loving kindness and Compassion in order to live well with debilitating chronic pain . She shared her passion for her work at Breathworks, driven by a motivation to ensure that no one should suffer as she did. This was very inspiring, as were her thoughts on taking this work forwards in a pragmatic and accessible way.

On Friday evening we watched the film of the inspiring life story of the founder of Samye Ling and ROKPA – Akong: A Remarkable Life (click here).

On Saturday morning we heard from the warm and insightful Sharon Salzburg about her understanding of loving kindness – what it is and what it isn’t – informed by decades of teaching and dotted with hilarious anecdotes to elucidate her points. A real masterclass on how to convey the subtleties of practice. I particularly liked her approach to cultivating loving kindness to the likes of Donald Trump as a way of preventing even further separation and division. She then did a book signing of her new book ‘Real Love’ (click here).

Then Rick Hanson (click here) was intent on moving us into the green zone by soothing our inner lizard, mouse and monkey. Great advice to enable us to better refrain from unskilful habitual patterns and to enable us to be happier.

Saturday evening brought a fascination presentation on possible causes for the growth of Mindfulness in our post-modern context by Dr Graeme Nixon from the University of Aberdeen. While, Sunday included presentations from two PhD students from the University of Aberdeen, both sponsored by the MA.

Jane Kellock shared some of the transformative stories from her phenomenological research into long term Mindfulness, Compassion and Insight meditators who are following the MA’s trainings. Her research is almost complete.

Heather MacKenzie, who is a year in to her research shared her adaptation of the MBLC for Young Adults – MBLC-YA – and her motivation for developing this to help teenagers to understand their developing brains and to cultivate Mindfulness and self-compassion. We are doing the first teacher training for this course in August (click here) in order to start extending the benefits of the MBLC to a younger audience.

Everyone was very happy!

Don’t worry if you weren’t there – it was all captured on film and will soon be available to watch online!

It was a lot to process and so I am glad to be in Italy to lead a Mindfulness retreat this week. Lots of space to practice and rest and allow all the wisdom and wonder of the conference to sink in!

Kind Wishes,

Heather

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