Mindfulness: A different way to learn it? A different way to teach it?
By Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix
Most patients/clients/students of Mindfulness could never have imagined taking their course online, claiming: How could the experience of sitting together in that safe space ever really be possible when online? They surely couldn’t bond with classmates? It would feel disembodied, possibly unsafe, not confidential enough – just — wrong!!
Welcome to the virtual world where we practice “Beginner’s Mind,” “Patience,” “Trust,” and “Suspending Judging” with the online process. Yes, it can be done virtually.
For decades we had delivered Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management courses via telemedicine into groups at various health facilities and we published data suggesting it was effective – close to the benefits of those receiving the course onsite with the facilitator.
But — into the clients’ homes?
So now, as we work with learners taking the same course as clients, online, via Zoom through the University of Toronto, but this time, with eight to 12 of them joining from their own homes, we have found:
- Bonding between the participants – yes it happens
- Strategies working to keep things confidential (contracts and earphones where necessary) – seem to be working
- Ways to chat to the facilitator after class, virtually, or via Zoom another time – works
- Modified guidelines to keep people engaged in the session – works
- Small group work is easy, using virtual breakout rooms
- Creative work being scanned and shared – brilliant – better than ever
- No need to commute and park – great!
- Time zones can be crossed – wow!
- Really good attendance – though they are paying fees for this.
It is working.
Taking it further into even newer ways: Synchronous and asynchronous
The NNC team’s next steps involve exploring combining the teaching in the MBCPM course/ trainings, into:
- Interacting in real time, online, with the facilitator and rest of group
- Additional recorded content, giving the learner more flexibility of time to study
- In their own time, as usual, reading up in the book and workbook
- Filling out reflection sheets
- Doing those meditations not covered in the interactive sessions in their own time but meeting with a small group and tutor virtually, afterward, to debrief
Will this work?
Getting the work done
With university students, it apparently works well for those who are motivated and self-disciplined to get the work done in the timeframes requested. It doesn’t work so well for those with less motivation and difficulty scheduling their time.
So, we will see if this works for the, usually, older learners in our trainings at University of Toronto and, if it does, perhaps it will for clients and patients.