Musings of an MSc Student… by Anna Kane
The beautiful river at the foot of Samye Ling
I have taken to a daily practice of mindfulness in my late thirties. I suspect that it will take me the rest of my life to get somewhere closer to mastering the art of mindfulness. Will my Studies in Mindfulness Masters degree help me get there? For sure. But I won’t close my text books at the end of the course, frame my certificate and proudly announce I am a Master of Mindfulness. Oh no!
This journey is longer than that. This journey is harder than that. This journey has only just begun. The beautiful thing about this journey to becoming a master of mindfulness, is that along the way, I will have lived my life to the full. Trite? Cheesy? Maybe… The real thing is that I will have been mindful of many more moments than without my practice. The research tells us that I will also be a more resilient, happier individual.
I attended a Cranfield Uni one day conference on Mindfulness in the Workplace (I am a Chartered Occupational Psychologist, trust me, every workplace could benefit from more mindfulness). At the pre-conference drinks, I met one of the keynote speakers. He was a curious character. Someone who could deploy mindfulness in the most extreme and challenging of scenarios I have ever heard told. And yet he confessed he loved the thrill of winding people up to the point of provocation. My thoughts were drawn to the compassion element of mindfulness and how important it is. I mentioned my Studies in Mindfulness MSc at Aberdeen Uni to him, and he swiftly saw this as a potential soft spot he could poke at in the hope of a reaction. His approach went something along the lines of ‘but mindfulness is so simple, why do we need to over complicate it by studying it in extremes?’ I didn’t take the bait. My response was ‘You’re right. It is so simple. Yet it’s so difficult!’. He couldn’t disagree.
So why am I studying mindfulness? Well, the Aberdeen course focuses on helping you develop your own practice in Mindfulness, Compassion and Wisdom & Insight first, and then looks at applying that practice in your own work context and setting. Perfect! I would have found it difficult to have undertaken a course in mindfulness that didn’t focus on my practice first and foremost. The theory is a wonderful and engaging thing, but useless without a deep, established and significant practice. In order to develop our personal practices, we (there are about 45 of us!) attend two weekend retreats in terms one and two, and a week retreat in term three. All held in the beautiful landscapes of Scotland; Samye Ling and Holy Island respectively. This in itself was a compelling enough reason to join the course – even if I do live in Brighton!
I am currently in the midst of writing my first assignment, having attended the two weekend retreats of the first term. My focus is to look at my own experiences and the theory of some of the practices of mindfulness, and how by combining those with journalling, individuals can enhance their personal development in the work place. Think Emotional Intelligence! Think Kolb and his learning cycle. Think competency frameworks! Think of sitting on your backside at work and just being. No striving, no goals. No expectations. No assumptions. No need to think of success or failure. When we achieve this, we achieve change. It’s a fascinating paradox. By letting go of our goals and striving, we allow change to occur. By being OK with ourselves, we allow ourselves to grow, to develop, to move on.
Wisdom, compassion and clarity. Rob Nairn, who founded the MSc at Aberdeen, talks about how human beings have the potential for developing a phenomenal level of wisdom, compassion and clarity. By taking my place on the course I might tap into some of my potential, and more importantly, help others tap into their potential, both in their personal and work lives.
Photos courtesy of fellow student Hayley Waldron. Thank you Hayley!