What is Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)?
MSC is a systematic skill-building program which combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion (as defined by pioneering self-compassion researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff).
Mindfulness allows us to be able to turn toward our difficult thoughts and feelings (such as inadequacy, sadness, anger, confusion) with a spirit of openness and curiosity rather than self-criticism or rejection.
Self-compassion involves responding to these difficult thoughts and feelings with kindness, sympathy and understanding so that we soothe and comfort ourselves when we’re hurting. While this may seem like a leap for those who have a lifelong habit of punishing themselves with self-critical attitudes, we have seen that self-compassion skills can be taught to anyone. And the more we use them, the greater the gains.
How is this course different from other personal development courses?
The core practices taught during this course are the fruits of thousands of hours of design, testing, and review by Dr. Chris Germer (in association with Harvard Medical School) and Dr. Kristin Neff (University of Texas at Austin). In a 2012 randomized controlled trial of the MSC program, we saw that participants had significant gains in levels of self-compassion, mindfulness, and wellbeing by the end of the course. At 6-month and 1-year followups, we saw that those gains had been maintained.
Do I need to have meditation experience in order to participate?
No. We will start at the beginning and include specific instructions for each meditation and exercise.
If I’m an experienced meditator or have taken MBSR before, will this course be boring for me?
We often hear from our experienced meditator participants that MSC is the “missing piece” of their meditation in that it allows them to be more tender with what they discover in the light of sharpened awareness. So here, we will specifically cultivate self-compassion skills, and meditation is just one of many tools we use to do that. For this reason, even experienced meditators will encounter new material during the course.
Is this a religious course?
No. This is a secular course, and we will not ask you to surrender any of your religious or spiritual beliefs as a participant of MSC.
Is there any movement during this course?
We do offer two formal mindful movement practices during the course, and we will take regular movement breaks during class. All movement that we do will be accommodated to all ability levels.
What should I wear, and what should I bring?
Because we’re cultivating a spirit of self-compassion throughout the course, you’ll be invited to get as comfortable as possible when we meet. We will mostly be sitting, but there will be opportunities choose to lie down, stretch, sit on a cushion or chair, stand up, and move around freely. For this reason, we encourage loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. It can also be helpful to bring a shawl or sweater in case the room cools down. If you have a favorite bolster, pillow, yoga mat, or meditation stool, feel free to bring that as well. Also, please bring a journal, a pen, and a water bottle to each class.
I’ve experienced recent trauma. Should I come?
Part of the way we practice self-compassion skills during the MSC program is by asking participants to bring to mind mildly painful situations (2 or 3 on the pain scale—enough to evoke a mild sensation in the body). If you are suffering from recent trauma, touching on more pain could be overwhelming, rather than helpful. In such cases, it may be wise to wait until a later time to take the course.
If you have concerns or would like to speak more about your situation, please contact the teacher directly.
Is it OK for my partner to attend with me?
Absolutely. We find that it can be useful for couples to have a shared vocabulary around their self-compassion practices, as these practices and ideas will enter into everyday life and conversation. However, we may ask that during group exercises in class, you work separately in order to keep the intensity level manageable while practicing new skills.
Can my child or teenager attend?
As of Sept. 2015, the MSC program is being adapted to teenagers by Dr. Karen Bluth and Lorraine Hobbs in a program called “Making Friends With Yourself” (MFY). However, the course we’re teaching in KC is designed for adults, so we ask that all participants be 18 or older.
What if I miss a session?
Since MSC skills are carefully sequenced to build upon themselves, we ask that you make every effort to attend each session. However, we understand that unexpected circumstances do occur and that it may be impossible for you to attend one or two sessions. We cover quite a bit of ground during each session, however, so we don’t recommended that you miss more than two sessions.