Going To The Places That Scare Us

Heather Mac2This winter has felt long to me, and very, very cold.  The turn inwards – the phase of ‘being’ – during the more reflective seasons of autumn and winter has felt so complete, and my experience of hibernation so habituated, that I was beginning to wonder if I would ever again know and feel the complementary sense of outward-turning – the phase of ‘doing’.  As the tender shoots of new growth are starting to emerge from the ground, a feeling of relief has gently washed over me, almost as if the sun is finally rising and casting its warm glow on my skin after a long, cold night.  New ideas are beginning to form and take shape; creativity, slumbering in me, is awakening once again.  As spring approaches, it’s time to reflect upon what it is that each of us wishes to grow this year in our fertile garden of possibilities.  Where will our intuitions take us?  What will we choose to do with our one, wild and precious life?  As I sit here and ponder this question for myself, I invite you to do the same.

Right now, I’m preparing to gather results of my PhD research, looking into how mindfulness and self-compassion may fit into the education system and how they might affect secondary school pupils’ experience of schooling.  For this research, I created the ‘Mindfulness Based Living Course for Young Adults (MBLC-YA) for the Mindfulness Association, and last year we trained our first cohort of teachers. What an experience it was to connect with those courageous people on that teaching retreat.  I say courageous because teaching self-compassion to teens in schools in the UK is very new.  We are essentially breaking new ground!

Our children and teens are struggling – perhaps more than ever before – because the challenges they face are unprecedented; it can be argued that the way we live our lives, increasingly permeated by social media, is proving progressively more difficult for young minds to cope with.  Currently mothering three teens, I’m able to observe how difficult it is for them to navigate their way in the world at this point in our evolution.

To be completely honest, teaching mindfulness and self-compassion to teens scares me.  I’m not sure that I would be entirely human if it didn’t!  When we learn mindfulness, we learn to ‘work our edge’ and be curious about that which we would normally automatically recoil from.  We want to stay nice and comfortable, don’t we, because it feels safe?  Yet I remember being profoundly moved by something that Pema Chӧdrӧn said in her book, ‘The Places that Scare Us’:

“May we continue to open our hearts and minds, in order to work ceaselessly for the benefit of all beings.
May we go to the places that scare us.
May we lead the life of a warrior.”

When I’m standing in front of a class, feeling my feet on the floor, noting the flow of my breath and looking around the room at all of those young faces, I know how easy it would be to see myself as ‘other’ than these pupils, yet I can also remember my own struggles as a teen.  Reconnecting with that inner teen brings me back into that ‘me too’ space.  I wonder what their lives are like and what struggles they face. I have a feeling that we share so many of the same struggles, because – quite simply – we are human.  I know that our journey together won’t always be easy and that my ego may feel threatened at times. Yet it feels important – so very, very important – to gently sow the seeds of mindfulness and self-compassion with a wish that those seeds may one day, at the appropriate time, take root and flourish.  After all, the world sorely needs more loving presence.  Will you join me at our next MBLC-YA teaching skills retreat at Samye Ling, from 17th to 22nd July 2018?  Together we can learn more about going to the places that scare us 😊.

With much love,

Heather (Bond) x

For more information on the MBLC-YA retreat: click here


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The Joyful Club

The Joyful Club: Mindfulness Association Membership Weekend
at Samye Ling 6-8 July 2018 and Membership Retreat 6-11 July 2018
joyful jumping
At our Compassion in Action Membership weekend in 2016 at Samye Ling, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche invited us to join his joyful club. Inspired by this, we are running our 2018 Membership weekend on 6 to 8 July 2018 on this theme. For those members who are looking for a 5 day retreat in 2018, we are providing this by adding three retreat days after the Membership weekend.
This a great opportunity for us all to come together again in joy and celebration, not least because we are part of a community committed to cultivating compassion for all (including ourselves)!
Over the weekend we will explore practices to cultivate joy. We will cultivate our ability to appreciate and be grateful for all the good things in our life and our strengths, rather than focussing on all the problems and the things that are wrong with us. Joy brings with it the energy to get things done that need to be done and the energy to fuel compassion for ourselves, those around us and the wider world.
Oh and don’t forget the laughter lines, so much more flattering than the frown lines!
The hope is that cultivating joy will enable us all to be a lot happier. We have many wonderful people and opportunities in our lives and the more we appreciate them, the happier we will get.
For those who wish to stay on for the retreat days, we will extend these themes and teachings into these three days. There will be one teaching session on each of the retreat day mornings, with the reminder of the day in guided and silent practice with sharing, enquiry and discussion in the evening. We will have periods of silence each day in the mornings until after lunch.
Lama Yeshe Rinpoche will be with us on the weekend to take questions on this topic and to share his expertise and experience of living a joyful life. Jane, Heather, Choden, Kristine and Fay will also be there to lead sessions of teaching and practice over the weekend and retreat.
The weekend and retreat are great for those who have done our Level 1 and Level 2 training to consolidate and gain confidence in their ongoing Mindfulness practice. It is also a great way for Mindfulness teacher members to meet their CPD retreat requirements in a cost effective way. For those who have completed our Level 3 training, we recommend our Level 4 retreat: click here 
Weekend Fee: £100 – begins 7pm Friday evening and ends Sunday at 3pm (members only) – to book your course place, please email info@mindfulnessassociation.net
Retreat Fee: £200 – begins 7pm Friday evening and ends Wednesday at 3pm (members only) – to book your course place, please email info@mindfulnessassociation.net
Not a member? To see details of membership: click here.
We have an introductory offer of £10 for the first 6 months of membership.
Please book your accommodation separately at Samye Ling: click here

Engaged Mindfulness – Compassion in Action

How can our mindfulness skills help to resource us for making positive change in the world?

There may be many things happening today in our world that feel deeply concerning and huge at the same time. These might include climate change, social and political injustice, poverty, animal welfare issues… topics with no easy answers, no quick fixes, no one-person solutions possible. So what good would it do for us to think about or get involved with these things and get overwhelmed/depressed/anxious/angry, when it can feel like I can’t make much difference anyway?
Fair enough question. But… in this deeply interconnected world, not looking and not acting is not a recipe for happiness either. So as we are practising mindfulness for the benefit of ourselves and others, and it’s worth looking at how we might apply the same principles we use in personal practice to relating to these bigger issues.

In the compassion training of the Mindfulness Association we work with the definition of compassion the Dalai Lama has given us:

“compassion is a sensitivity to suffering in self and others, with a strong commitment to try to relieve it.”

So if we want to grow our compassion and find a way to actively contribute to creating the world we’d like to live in, it might require a deliberate turning towards those difficult subjects – becoming more rather than less sensitive to them. But it’s important to first cultivate our inner resources so that we’re ready to ‘face the mess we’re in’, and the practice of gratefulness is a very powerful way to do this.

Engaged Mindfulness 1Not only does gratitude give rise to good feelings, but it deeply connects us to what we love and therefore want to protect. This love and interconnectedness might be the most powerful motivation to move out beyond our comfort zone – to deeply feel and even honour the pain for our world that we are part of. In the words of Frederick Beuchner, we’re called to ‘the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet’. And finding this  place requires a willingness, an openness and (re)connecting with both our love and concern for the world.

So with this increased sensitivity to the suffering in ourselves and others (ranging from our loved ones to other human beings who may live in a different part of the world or look different from us, have different values or beliefs, as well as animals or even ecosystems), we may again need resourcing to see what the ‘strong commitment to try to relieve it’ might look like. Connecting with empowering and inspiring perspectives of interconnection and bigger picture can grow the commitment to come into action, starting right where we are. No need to save the world alone, but ‘though I am only one person, I can be one person who makes a difference’.

Engaged Mindfulness 2This spiral of gratitude, honouring the pain for the world, seeing with new eyes and going forth, is one that we can move through again and again in small and big ways, as we practice engaging with the world. It’s a tried and tested pathway from the Work That Reconnects which was brought into the world by Buddhist scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy. The spiral can be a helpful container for meeting these big topics in a way that turns a ubiquitous worry into powerful compassionate action, an ‘outer practice’ which is a seamless extension from our practice of mindfulness and compassion on the cushion.

The term ‘engaged mindfulness’ is derived from ‘Engaged Buddhism’, which refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. This movement within Buddhism was started by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1963, at a time when his country was ravaged by the Vietnam War. Both the current Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa have voiced a need for Buddhists to be more involved in the social, political  and environmental realm.

There are many ways to practice engaged mindfulness.  The Mindfulness Association offers a weekend course on this topic in Samye Ling on 26-28 January. For more info, please click here.

-Kristine Mackenzie Janson

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The Wonder of It All…

About a year ago, my dear friend and colleague Fay Adams and I came together to film and create the first ever Mindfulness Association online course: The Wonder of The Everyday.

The inspiration behind the course was to find a way to encourage some mindful moments of savouring the wonder and joy that can be found in what many people might see as the mundane.

Or as the writer Henry Miller says, “[t]he moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” So how can we cultivate this same wonder and curious engagement with our own lives so that they might be experienced as the shining miracles that they are?

IMG_3760When I think back to filming the course a year ago, I can still remember taking a painfully early flight over to Manchester and then a train down to Fay’s house, which sits on the edge of the Cheshire plain in England.

While on the train, the sun began to rise, illuminating the fields, the trees and the tracks, transforming them into what felt like a mythical, mist filled land- just like from a story book, only it was real. So, I took out my phone, and moved to the other side of the train carriage to get a picture and bathe in the glow and warmth of the early morning, winter sun.

As I did this, others on the train started to take notice of the sunrise. In fact, my moving seats to bask in the light allowed and reminded others to take a closer look, and soon we were all watching the sunrise together. People started smiling, making eye contact and talking to one another, and the atmosphere in the carriage shifted from a cold dreary commute to a shared experience of wonder. It truly was magical.

This happened because we all decided to look up and notice the simplicity of a new dawn rising. Something that happens in the everyday.

More and more of these moments of clarity happened in those few days of filming: quietFullSizeRender (10) rests on Fay’s couch with books in hand; conversations filled with presence between Fay, her partner and I that not only connected us, but had us in fits of giggles; as well as walks through the countryside to come full circle and to watch the sun go down. The mood was definitely one of wonderment.

So it is that time of year again, and as I nostalgically look back, I am feeling inspired and reminded to slow down today and to take in all that is around me with the same curious fervour. I am also excited to invite you to join Fay, my other colleague Alan Hughes and I to journey once again into The Wonder of The Everyday, this coming January. Let it be your New Year Revolution to join in community with us (just like all those on that early morning train), to look up and take notice and to cultivate some mindfulness in our everyday, as we move about the world.


Course Outline

January 15th 2018- February 26th 2018

Live sessions on Monday evenings at 7pm – 8.30pm: 22nd of Jan and 5, 19, 26 Feb


  • 8 specially pre-recorded videos by Fay Adams
  • 6 ten- minute guided daily life audio practices
  • 4 group meetings online with Jane Negrych and Alan Hughes
  • Tutor available via email for support throughout
  • Weekly worksheets and handouts

Price £120 for non-members and £80 for MA members (concessions available).

You will receive a weekly email (beginning on 15th Jan) with links to the talk, the audio for the week and the online meeting to be held on the following Monday on Fuse. Worksheets will also be included as attachments.

For more information and to book: please email info@mindfulnessassociation.net

Take a look at Fay Adams speaking of The Wonder of The Everyday (and don’t forget to follow us on YouTube)

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Calling All Mindfulness Teachers…

Are you looking to develop and deepen your skills at mindful inquiry, while creating the conditions for holding and facilitating safe sharing within groups?

Check out our CPD course that is taking place on March 23-25th/ 2018 at Samye Ling Tibetan Centre.

This course meets the requirements of the UK Network of Mindfulness- Based Teacher Training Organizations.

CPD Weekend – Inquiry Skills and Group Dynamics for Mindfulness Teachers

10626544_10152687567030449_1156977106725654252_nJoin us for a weekend dedicated to developing skills in two areas – inquiry and group holding (Domains 5 and 6 of the MBITAC).

We’ll be taking a practical, experiential, and at times, theoretical approach to deepening these skills, working in pairs and within small groups to cultivate confidence and dexterity in group facilitation and natural curiosity and ease in inquiry.

We intend to look together at how we can create a sense of safety in our groups. Flight/fight/freeze responses can take hold and play out in groups settings, limiting where the group can go. Establishing a basic felt-sense of safety together is a prerequisite for participants’ receptivity to learning and practicing mindfulness. This also enables authentic communication which brings forth the powerful experience of common humanity.

We also hope to spend some time looking at how we ‘view’ our groups, experimenting with the idea that if we work with our view, we may find that fresh responses and a new openness can arise within us in the moment when we’re facilitating. In this way we’ll see that a lot of what happens is just what groups do and we’ll begin to see the group more as a dynamic field, rather than simply as a collection of separate individuals.

We’ll be surfacing the difficulties that we all fear in relation to holding a group and inquiry and will explore what works well and what does not in relation to specific situations that can arise. We’ll be asking you to bring with you examples of situations you’ve experienced and we’ll work with these as a group, using role-play to bring a sense of fun to the process.

As a foundation for all of the above we’ll be spending time working with grounding and mindful movement, reminding ourselves that who we are and how we are is fundamental to how we facilitate.

When you book for this weekend you’ll be sent the following two questions to help us prepare and co-create the weekend with you:

  • Do you have an example of a challenging situation that you’ve experienced or that you are afraid of experiencing when teaching mindfulness in a group?
  • What in particular will you like to have learned by the end of this CPD weekend

For more information and to book, please email info@mindfulnessassociation.net

Location: Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, Eskdalemuir (nr Lockerbie) Please click here to book your accommodation and meals

Tutor: Fay Adams and Annick Nevejan
Dates: 23-25 March 2018
Times: The weekend begins at 7pm (evening meal at 6pm) on the Friday evening, between 8am and 8pm on Saturday and between 8am and 3.30pm on Sunday.
Cost: £150.00 for the weekend

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We’ve got Apps!

Spread the News! We’ve got Apps!

It is with great excitement that we bring you the brand new Mindfulness Association apps that have been developed with the hope of bringing mindfulness one step closer to you!

Not only do the apps provide all of the guided practices for our Level 1: Being Present Mindfulness course (the starting off point for all of our mindfulness and teacher training pathways), and a link to resources on our Mindfulness Association website, but it is also aligned with our Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC), acting as a wonderful resource for our trained MBLC teachers and any of their participants who take the course. Participants and practitioners will be able to access the practices anywhere they go from their phone.

The Mindfulness Based Living app is free and can be found on Google Play Store for Android users and the App Store for those using IOS devices. Simply type in the words: Mindfulness Based Living and your choice of practices will be at your fingertips!

For those who have trained as teachers for our MBLC- YA course (our MBLC course for young adults aged 11-18), we also have an MBLC-YA version of our app. You can find this under the name MBLC-YA.

Again, make sure to spread the word! Pass this email on to whoever you might think would like to bring mindfulness more fully into their lives!


Are you interested in taking the Level 1 Mindfulness: Being Present course?

One of the features of our Mindfulness Based Living apps is a selection of all of the practices taken from our Level 1: Being Present Mindfulness course.

This course provides an in depth experience of the MBLC course and is a wonderful follow-on course for those who have taken any 8 week program.

However, it is also suitable for anyone who is interested in learning more about mindfulness and developing a practice. We have trained thousands of people and have courses running all throughout the UK and parts of Europe.

Want to know more?

Make sure to find one near you and sign up!

click here

rsb92458-932b6d55-e043-41b2-bb0a-8d1fce411b63-v2Our Teacher Training Pathways…

Have you been considering exploring the option of becoming an MBLC or MBLC-YA teacher?

We have a rigorous, yet accessible, training pathway that follows the requirements set out by the UK Network of Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations.

Sign up and help bring mindfulness out into the world!

For more information on our teacher training pathways:

click here

Profound Grounding

A glimpse into the practices that will be explored on the Mindfulness Association’s Engaged Mindfulness course led by Kristine Mackenzie and Fay Adams in Samye Ling, starting in January 2018

Those who have completed the Mindfulness Practitioner training will be familiar with the concept of grounding. The first stage of grounding is about dropping into the body, which is held by the earth. For many years it never occurred to me that this experience could be deepened, that it wasn’t just something you touch into as a foundation for working with the mindfulness support. Then I tried a practice called Earth Descent (led by Reggie Ray) and I was stunned by an experience of grounding that could only be described as grounding multiplied by a hundred! I realised we can drop our awareness down into the earth itself. This might sound like a strange concept – surely it’s impossible to drop into the earth! However we work with our imagination here. We imagine that our awareness keeps dropping down further and further down. Whereas in basic grounding you feel like a mountain, now you feel like a mountain with a huge foundation merging into the deep, wide and vast expanse of planet earth. This feels to me like a very primordial experience, there’s a sense of reconnecting with an ancient affinity or even unity, with the earth, my home. It can almost feel like I become earth, strange as this may sound.


It can help if we remember a fundamental truth which indigenous societies knew well, but which much of humanity in the contemporary world seems to have forgotten. Human beings are born – are children – of the earth; the archetype of Mother Earth is found in original cultures on every continent.

There is a Native American saying which says: ‘’The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth’’. A different orientation is required to go from thinking we have dominion over the earth, to feeling our belonging as one small manifestation of the vastness of life on earth! How different does this feel in the body?

Sacred Earth Awareness

It’s only relatively recent that human beings live without an awareness of the inter-dependence with the earth as a sacred reality. The level of disconnection from the beauty, intelligence and formidableness of nature is acute in the modern world. How else would human beings be able to be so destructive of the earth? We see the earth as something we can dredge, use and manipulate, rather than relating to her with wonder, awe and devotion and working in submission to her laws of balance. So, these practices are a way of beginning to heal the earth by healing our experiential disconnectedness from her. We are reminded that we are more than individuals in bubbles; we are tiny, tiny life forms amongst the teaming, diverse grandeur of life on earth. If we deeply feel that we are the earth, then we will not exploit our planet and instead we will naturally want to tend, serve and love Mother Earth as an expression of our humanity.

Practicing Earth Descent has, for me, been a way to naturally find this earth connection. It has felt like experientially finding my umbilical cord back to the earth, like coming home to a home I didn’t know I was missing. My heart and body feel more embedded in the interdependence of life supported by our majestic planet. The unexpected response to this is spontaneous love.

-Fay Adams

For more information on our upcoming (January 2018) Engaged Mindfulness course with Kristine Mackenzie and Fay Adams: please click here

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