MSc Mindfulness and Compassion students Cathy Bosworth and Anna Gillions talk about their experience at a Mindfulness Retreat.
How do you please 14 people and fit a retreat, teacher training course and academic module into one week? You’d imagine with great difficulty but it worked! We all needed and found something different in a week of slowing down and looking inside ourselves – with some intense practice.
We are a diverse bunch, all studying the MSc Mindfulness and Compassion two year course, exploring Buddhist origins of mindfulness, western mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions, mindfulness teacher training, neuroscience and more. Some of us already teach mindfulness, others have no intention of teaching it. Some are studying for professional reasons, others personal. This retreat – a teacher training module – came at the beginning of our third semester. We came together to practice, learn and laugh, and left a closer knit group after the week. Of course, the beautiful countryside location proximity to Stratford-upon-Avon, good food and attentive hosts all helped!
The agenda for the retreat was based around teaching, an 8 week mindfulness programme, and was a good opportunity to learn experientially. Even presenting sessions for summative assessment became an opportunity to observe our emotions and reactions. The week included sessions on mindfulness teaching interspersed with mindfulness practice, our own presentations, opportunities for us to be on the “hot seat” and lead enquiry sessions about mindfulness, and some mindful movement in the form of yoga. There were regular breaks in the schedule where we could talk or be alone, walk or sit, and a 24 hour silence part way through the week. There was some flexibility in the agenda, which allowed for some of us to lead mindfulness meditation sessions and to benefit from each other’s expertise; for example a T’ai Chi session led by one of the group.
How far we immersed ourselves into the “retreat” nature of the week was also flexible. Phones, for example, were not banned, but some of us chose to keep contact with the outside world minimal. On the other hand, we had the option to go to the pub in the evenings, particularly for those who were accommodated off-site. Importantly, there was space for each of us, for us to be with our own experience and the range of reactions that comes with that. An excellent week in a very interesting course – we recommend it!
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