adelaide mindfulness thoughts MSC

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is not a therapeutic program, where you come along and then leave all sorted. It is in no means such a quick fix. I would truly be the busiest person in the world if it was.

The wonderful reality is that MSC is a way of being in the world, a way that is kind, mindful and compassionate. I often think of MSC as an ongoing way of creating balance, the balance we are always needing of wisdom (mindfulness) and compassion (loving connected presence).

With all this in mind - it naturally evolved that after the MSC program is finished there needed to be a place for ongoing practice, growth and connection. The practice sessions held regularly at The Heart's Nest at Henley became this place. I will post the discussion notes for each of the sessions up on this page. So we can all stay connected.

In kindness,


Activating the Calming System

Photo 10 4 10 6 24 11 pmSession Details - February, 2018 - Mindfulness and self-compassion practices for activating the calming and soothing system.

We started with an open awareness mindfulness practice:

 Meditation is, first of all, a tool for surveying our territory so we can know what is going on. With the energy of mindfulness, we can calm things down, understand them, and bring harmony back to the conflicting elements inside us. Like a caring parent holding and guarding the life of her/his only child, so with a boundless heart of loving-kindness hold yourself and all beings as your beloved children.- Thich Nhat Hanh


We then moved on to practices based on some of Paul Gilbert's work: the soothing breathing rythm and finding your place of peace and contentment. 

If the ocean can calm itself so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air Your heart is the softest place on earth. Take care of it. - Nayyirah Waheed, from her book - Salt

The last exercise was writing a compassionate letter to self. I will mail these in 3-months time to assist to deepen the compassionate connection. A current issue was noted and then the letter flowed just as you would write to a loved one with the similar issue, words of understanding, support and love.

Sufi prayer (adapted) - When I listen to the voices of animals, the sounds of the trees, the murmuring of water, the singing of birds, the whistling of the wind, the boom of thunder - I feel the evidence of unity. May I understand this unity with equanimity, calmness and doubtlessness.

The Wisdom of Anger

IMG 1938Session Details - December, 2017. We started with a mindfulness practice followed by the heart practice of the giving and receiving of compassion for self and others. Our discussion explored the topic of anger, how our MSC practice can give us the resources to look into our anger to perhaps allow it to lead us to wise compassionate responses. 

Truly living mindfulness and compassion means connection, living with an open heart. Within this loving energy we experience pleasure but we are also are vulnerable to pain. So let’s get curious about the potential value of the pain in leading us to wise compassionate action.

Forgiveness; the role MSC may play

CohenSession Details - November, 2017 - An exploration on forgiveness, how it may well be an integral part of compassion.

We started with a mindfulness practice emphasising listening, listening not just with the ears, but with all of the senses. Our heart practice was also around listening from the inside out. Listening to our inner response when we silently offered ourselves the word compassion. We then meditated on our inner courage, wisdom and commitment in regards to our intention to live a compassionate life. Finding these resources within, savouring and validating them in our own way. 

From our practice arose the discussion of what does compassion truly involve? What does forgiveness truly involve? Where does MSC and courageous presence sit within this?

“Compassion is the courage to descend into the reality of human experience.” – Paul Gilbert

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid". - Frederick Buechner

So courageous presense...

MSC and role it can play in shame resilience

3000 puppy smileSession Details - October, 2017. We started with a mindfulness practice followed by the heart practice of Compassion for self and others. Our discussion explored the findings of Brené Brown around shame reslience and the key role MSC can play in building this. 

‘To be in harmony with the oneness of life, is to be without anxiety about imperfections’ - zen

I think this photo from Animals Australia speaks to this zen quote beautifully!

“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

These two sayings make sense right? MSC invites us to stay human and to be realistic about what that means, bringing compassion to the struggles this being human involves. So why do we all still have parts of us that we fear showing to others, that we resist coming to harmony with? Perhaps it is time to bring our kindly curiousity to this?

Being with difficult emotions, softening, soothing and allowing

waterlilly pondSession Details - September, 2017 - Strategies for building our resource of holding difficult feelings in our compassion.

On this topic last year we discussed the wisdom of Joanna Macy, a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change. Pivotal to this work is learning to be with the difficult emotions that arise due to the problems our world is facing.

This time we discussed the wisdom of Tara Brach, and investigated some tips that she finds helpful for bringing compassion to difficult feelings. We then explored what was workable for each of us in regards to the practice of softening, soothing and allowing in the presence of difficult feelings. 

Self-Observation Without Judgment - Danna Faulds
Release the harsh and pointed inner voice. 
It's just a throwback to the past,
 and holds no truth about this moment.

 Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up for each imagined inadequacy.

 Allow the dialogue within the mind to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift out of inner criticism and life suddenly looks very different.

 I can say this only because I make the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to acknowledge the real me.

 What's needed here isn't more prodding toward perfection, but intimacy - seeing clearly, and embracing what I see. 

Love, not judgment, sows the seeds of tranquillity and change.

Core Values, What's Important for a Life Well Lived?

budha blueSession Details - August, 2017. We started with a mindfulness practice followed by the heart practice of Softening - Soothing & Allowing.

“The most important thing is remembering the most important thing”

- Suzuki Roshi

In our time you can Google anything to gain instant information - yet the honing of true wisdom – finding the most important thing, takes far more than a Google search - it takes practice from the inside out, an inner deepening of understanding from continued effort.

We sometimes refer to the importance of ancient wisdom – can we find our deep core values this way? Perhaps the wisdom is already inside of us, we just need to go within to re-connect with it.

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the things I want to live for.” - Thomas Merton, The Man in the Sycamore Tree (1970)

Loving Kindness Practice: the research that supports it

prayer flags2

Session Details - May 29th. Discussing the research that supports the numerous benefits to our well being via practicing loving kindness meditation.

Our practice:

We started with a mindfulness of sounds - the body - the breath and then moved to an open awareness practice. Our heart practice was a loving kindness for a loved one, then tucking ourselves in, the practice then focussed on moving to compassion for someone we know is struggling - then easefully into a giving and receiving of compassion. 

Attention is like a spotlight – whatever it shines on becomes brighter in the mind. This knowledge can help us build compassion’. - Paul Gilbert

Our discussion:

Paul Gilbert's quote speaks to much of the research findings regarding the impact loving kindness meditation can have on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. As the prayer flags remind us, people have been sending well-wishes, prayers off into the winds of the world for a long time.

In today's world loving kindness practice can play an important role in bringing balance to the mind's negativity bias, and also meeting our innate need to feel into the love and good that we are - the basic goodness that resides within the hearts of us all.

MSC for Creating Wise Compassion

Photo 12 12 16 12 37 52 pmSession Details - May 1st, 2017. We started with the river mindfulness meditation, followed by a compassion with equanimity practice. The discussion centred around how we find balance in amongst our tough times, like the wings of this bird - finding our way to a balance of wisdom and compassion.

‘If you don’t get what you want, you suffer. If you get what you don’t want, you suffer. Even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality’. - Socrates

In MSC we open to this reality of the full experience of being human, as Socrates explains, the joys – the sorrows, the ease and the struggles. The only certainty is actually uncertainty, wow – one certainty… now take a breath… This is actually good news, because this understanding can give rise to our motivation to keep deepening and widening our MSC practice, because with it we can learn to surf!!! ‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf’. - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Anyone who has tried to learn to surf knows that it is all about paying attention, not giving up, and most importantly – finding balance amongst the waves. You can enjoy the learning along the way, but most of all you enjoy surfing. Equanimity is a way to manage the ebbs and flows of life. Mindfulness allows us to understand this being human; with the warmth and connection that compassion brings this understanding can be how we learn to surf.

Fears and Blocks to Receiving Compassion from Self and Others

snowy river

Session Details - March 27th. Exploring why it is so common to have blocks and/or fears regarding self-compassion and how these may be linked to harsh inner criticism and to trouble receiving from others. We then focused on the tools from MSC Paul Gilbert's Compassion Focused Therapy to slowly begin to melt the barriers and let compassion flow.

Our practice:

We started with a mindfulness practice, with the understanding that taking time on a regular basis to practice mindfulness and concentration allows us to get more familiar, therefore more friendly with our inner world. We then moved into the heart practices of firstly recalling a memory of a time someone showed us compassion, how they did it, what we felt like to receive it and what we felt in that moment of recalling it. We explored playing with the idea of giving compassion a colour. Lastly we recalled someone we are grateful to, someone who has helped us along the way - not necessarily with a struggle. We noticed how their help has affected us, and then how we felt recalling it.   

Our discussion:

Compassion can be defined as sensitivity to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to relieve and prevent it. Mindfulness can assist with the sensitivity part of this but a significant amount of people experience some form of block and/or fear to opening to the full flow of compassion. By the full flow I refer to the three ways the energy of this second component of compassion beckons to flow:
1. From others
2. To others
3. From self to self (self-compassion) 

Resistance: how MSC can assist you to resist a little less

pedro reaching for the cloudsSession Details - March 6th, 2017. We started a deep listening practice, followed by the heart practice of giving and receiving. The discussion flourished post an exerices of deep listening in pairs regarding part of the body that we resist. 

The origins of resistance:

There are definite moments where it may be wise self-care to distract and even protect one’s self from certain things in life. Unfortunately ‘what we resist persists’. As we strengthen our mindfulness and our self-compassion resources we can begin the process of ‘attending and befriending’ those things in our life that we would dearly like to be different. Mindfulness is needed as most our resistance is unconscious, once the light is on – ‘what we feel we can heal’, this is done with the balm of loving acceptance and warm connection to our humanity. ‘The curious paradox of life is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.’ – Carl Rogers

Suffering = Pain x Resistance

Resistance often manifests as judgements / criticism, a solid sense of right – wrong. After all, we are social creatures, and in part, a product of our societal norms. It is easy for this to create a sense of them and us as a means of control and safety; this can also be created within one’s self, leading to disconnection within one’s own skin so to speak. The medicine of this is MSC.

How MSC wove its way into softening my habit state of resistance:

A personal reflection from Tina

Activating the Calming / Soothing Emotional System

dogs connectedSession Details - February 6th and 23rd - Exploring the science behind a lot of the MSC practices, the ways in which they are activating the body's calming / soothing system. How combined with mindfulness these practices assist to create greater balance and well-being.

We started with a mindfulness practice, then moving into the heart practice of firstly creating a place of peace and contentment, then connecting with ourselves at our compassionate best - feeling into the qualities of compassion, in particular courage - wisdom and commitment.  

In looking at Paul Gilbert’s work on compassion via an evolutionary context, we didn’t chose or design our brain that is aimed for survival and protection. So – it is not our fault! … But we can choose to do something about it.

Research shows that we can make changes to bring about a greater state of ease, balance and well-being by consciously practicing turning on the contentment / calming system.
3 important steps to take and practice to strengthen this pathway in the brain:
1. Motivation
2. Mindfulness & concentration
3. Cultivating stillness within the body, harnessing the calming effect of the Vagus system

You can see from the photo of my two dogs an example of how mammals need nurturing via this calming system. Little Scooter gets so much comfort from dear old Bob...

MSC for strengthening faith, trust and confidence

Sl Beach sunset Dec 16Session Details - December 19th, 2016. We started with an open awareness mindfulness practice followed by the heartfulness practice of giving and receiving - expanding it to flow far and wide. The discussion on faith included:

  • The cycling through of striving, disillusionment and allowing
  • How suffering is part of this cycle and plays a role in faith
  • Faith not needing to be seen as a belief system or religion
  • MSC as a vehicle for strengthening faith in our own basic goodness, wisdom and compassion

So what do I mean by faith?

I follow a similar concept of faith as the Teacher and Author Sharon Salzburg shares in her book entitled ‘Faith’. She feels faith does not require a belief system, it is a verb – something we do. It is founded in our own experience and is the opposite of resignation and despair. Faith speaks of our acceptance, trust and confidence that life is transition; there is rhythm, oscillation and change everywhere. Faith entails the understanding that we don’t know how things may unfold; yet we aspire to positive growth and deepening our own understanding. Faith doesn’t pray for things to be different, it is the steady heart that refuses nothing, it is our willingness to trust things just as they are. 

“[the] aspiration to have faith as a steady illuminating glow within is.’”(Sharon Salzburg)

MSC practices of gratitude, savouring and awe

bush rainbow2Session Details - December 5th and 8th - Weaving positive experiences into the fabric of our brain. In turn allowing them to find their way into our everyday life. Bringing greater balance to the mind's negativity bias. 

We started with an open awareness mindfulness practice, followed by the heart practice of giving and receiving. 

"The key to knowing joy is to be easily pleased." - Mark Nepo

We discussed Rick Hanson's metaphor of gardening in relation to our MSC practice:
1. Observe the garden
2. Pull the weeds
3. Plant the flowers

Being with and working with:
Bringing curiosity to Rick Hanson’s swing on our practice assisting us to improve our well-being via experientially directed neuroplasticity. This metaphor perhaps speaks to the practice of being with our moment-to-moment experience – but at the same time noticing what is helping and what is hindering our experience being one of warm acceptance. The brain does not change through observation alone. Reducing the negative and growing the positive helps to change the brain via changing our mind (just pause on that one a moment or two...)

Being with the garden and working in the garden of the mind are synergistic:
I have found MSC to be the ‘work’ – the gardening, of particular value are the practices of gratitude, savouring the good and coming to a sense of awe and wonder. 

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) in everyday life

IMG 1935Session Details - November 21st, 2016 - MSC in everyday life, keeping it workable and flourishing.

A compassionate body scan was then followed by an open awareness practice with the emphasis on the compassionate quality of allowing.

Our shared discussion was on what is working for us to keep bringing MSC into our everyday life to help feel into balance.

Living a balanced life: - Jane O'Shea

‘I know that point of balance, I swing past it all the time.’

We started with the gift that a simple pause can bring to our ability to choose how we respond to life's ebbs and flows of comfortable and uncomfortable, light and dark, hard and soft, joyful and sad moments.

Mindful pause: 
Mindfulness is being in the present moment, as an act of friendliness and non- aggression. There are many doors to the present moment the breath, thoughts, sound, sight, taste, touch and movement.  The following three steps come in the shape of an hourglass; opening – narrowing – opening. The mindful pause allows for a fresh start - ‘growth & freedom’ as Viktor Frankl said.

1. Opening to all that is happening, allowing and letting be
2. Narrowing the focus to come to one of your senses
3. Opening afresh to all that is

MSC for transforming anger 

IMG 1059Session Details - November 7th, 2016 - Starting with a mindfulness practice, taking our compassionate seat and then re-visiting the MSC exercise of transforming anger via 'meeting our unmet needs'. Our discussion was based on Thich Nhat Hanh's book 'Anger'. 

Kindling for Anger - Pema Chödrön
“The mindset of friend and foe, like and dislike, for me and against me. 
And how that very mechanism of buying so tightly into this notion of the good people and the bad people - the ones that I like and the ones I don’t like - and how we get so invested in this and how this is "the kindling" or "the fuel" for anger and aggression to escalate.”
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

Reading the above words from Pema invited curiosity in our group about the role of our common humanity in easing the added suffering that some forms of anger are fueled by?

In Thich Nhat Hanh's book entitled 'Anger', he walks us through using our mindfulness, embracing our anger and cradling it in our compassion - soothing and caring for it. He uses the metaphor of our holding our anger with the same tenderness we would hold a baby, using our ability to be mindful and to be compassionate towards our own difficult emotions. 

The role Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) can play in forgiveness

small creeper on fig copySession Details - October 17th, 2016 - Exploring the complexities of forgiveness and how it plays out within our unique stories of pain and struggle. Can MSC put the wheels in motion towards opening to a different relationship with forgiveness? 

I woke up this morning to a divine sweetness in my mouth.
In the night, someone had forgiven me.
Or, perhaps, it was I who had forgiven.” – Jane O’Shea

We know that forgiveness requires us to first validate the pain, tend to it. We then need to manage the risk regarding lot letting it happen again. So how does MSC assist us to open to the wounds / pains that are associated with forgiveness? Unpacking the three component of self-compassion, being with them, finding our way to that point of balance between wisdom and compassion.

1. Mindfulness, courageous presence – as opposed to auto-pilot and dismissing the pain
2. Common humanity – as opposed to feeling like you are alone in your pain
3. Kindness – as opposed to criticism, judgment

The opposite to this kind of loving, connected presence continues to keep the fuel the pain.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”– Martin Luther King Junior

In the MSC program we feel our way into developing a greater sense of warm, accepting awareness and experience how this allows for the gradual dropping away of resistance. Forgiveness starts to also gradually bloom with this dropping away of resistance. As Jack Kornfield said, “Forgiveness is letting go of wishing the past were different.”

MSC for creating balance: Equanimity 

stone scalesSession Details - October the 3rd, 2016 - Discussion around the meaning of the word equanimity. We connected with MSC practices that foster a greater sense of acceptance, calm and balance amongst the ever changing nature of life. 

Living a balanced life - Jane O'Shea
I know that point of balance,
I swing past it all the time

I feel equanimity to be an evenness of mind, calmness, feeling a sense of balance in one’s life. This state of balance is most important during difficult period of life. It brings to mind the advice Pema Chödrön often gives of feeling into being the landscape not the weather.

Mindful self-compassion (MSC) practice enables us to respond to difficult moments in our life with kindness, care and understanding, a way of ‘attending and befriending’ all that is in our world, with that balance of wisdom and compassion. This is quite a different approach than the usual one taken in our busy lives of the ‘subtle aggression of self-improvement' (Bob Sharples), which can add to the stormy weather.

MSC for nurturing a sense of our interconnection

handsSession Details - September 12th - Discussion around our common humanity, exploring ways that strengthen our interconnection and shedding light on some habits of mind and language that actual cultivate a sense of 'us' and 'them'.

We are biologically set up to connect and relate with others, and if we are starved of these connections our lives are greatly impoverished. - Paul Gilbert

In this MSC booster session we shared the practices of the river meditation, befriending the inner critic and then, in pairs did a version of the awakening hearts practice from the MSC program.

Our discussion focused on the role language can play in both fostering a sense of connection but also creating disconnection. We explored the depth of the three components of SC and exercises that deepen the Common Humanity component. 

Judgment / criticism = separateness, and a sense of us and them
Compassion = common humanity, ultimately interconnection with all things
Mindfulness + compassion = spaciousness + warmth = courageous presence

Charles Darwin found that the primary reason for compassion is that it helps us survive – to make successful and cohesive communities. Compassion requires the courage to approach, turn towards and understand suffering and the dedication to alleviate and prevent it. It requires wisdom and skills. Seeing the one in the many and the many in the one.

Befriending the Inner Critic

Slack line in the natureSession Details - August 29th - Discussion around Paul Gilbert's work on the evolutionary context of self-criticism, the threat protection system and how we can foster compassionate self-correction and motivation.

As with so many of the practices in the MSC program, working with the inner critic is a practice of creating balance. Creatively engaging with our tricky brain - the one that has evolved to have a velcro like attraction to potential threat. When it comes to the inner critic fostering a sense of balance / equanimity involves getting familiar with our inner compassion - the part of us that is supportive, encouraging, caring and motivates with the balance of wisdom and compassion. The next step it to strengthen this compassionate self, developing an inner resource of strength, wisdom and compassionate motivation. We practiced this via activating the bodies calming system and then writing a compassionate letter. Research has found that this practice alone increases our self-compassion. 

We discussed Paul Gilbert's work on the evolutionary context of the threat protection system and the link between perceived social threat and the origins of self-criticism. 

Self-Compassion Break in Relationships

Dog koalaSession Details - August 15th - Exploring using phrases that directly speak to the three components of Self-Compassion as a way to address the struggles that can come whilst relationtionshipping. 

"Your heart is the softest place on earth – take care of it." – Nayyirah Waheed

The practices prior to the discussion were an open awareness mindfulness meditation, mindful movement and then the Compassionate Friend meditation from session-7 of the MSC program.

A common source of suffering is relational pain; the pain of disconnection and the pain of connection (empathic pain). Mindfulness allows us to contact relational pain with greater understanding. Bringing compassion to our mindfulness allows us to cradle these moments of struggle in our warmth and courage. The Self-Compassion (SC) break is a wonderful practice to open the heart, strengthen or re-establish a loving-connection to oneself in moments of relational struggle. It can be done on the spot, once we notice a struggle, it allows us to ‘breath underwater’, stay present for ourself and perhaps others. MSC can evoke positive mind states, these states can widen our perspective – bring the depth and clarity that may assists us to identify our needs, meet them or speak them within in relationships.

“I feel prepared and stronger within myself. I'm more accepting of myself and I know I'll struggle at times but I'm confident I can work with this." - Sarah

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