And we thought it wouldn't work........
It doesn’t seem long ago in one sense but in another, it feels like a decade since we three (Claire Louise, Donna and me, Jacky) were cancelling and postponing courses as Covid shut our worlds down. Everything was grinding to a halt - life-wise and mindfulness-wise - and we were having rather intense discussions about what to do…
In Feb 2020, the very idea of teaching an 8-week mindfulness course online seemed – well - a bit mad. We weren't sure it was possible - or even safe. We were used to working with minds and bodies in a close teaching circle - 8, 10, 12 people sitting together. What would it be like looking at a screen of screens? How would we be able to support individuals and the group when we couldn’t read body language? How would group members develop trust and confidence with us and with each other in an online forum? And what about dyads and small group work? And what about delivering the exercises and …and …and …..
And then, like everyone else who had to adapt, we adapted. We learnt to use the technology – zoom, breakout rooms- shared screen, whiteboards ….We learnt to pay even greater attention to preparation, pre-course calls and safety considerations.
We learnt to see the glitches – shaky WIFI signals, participants earnestly contributing important stuff with their mute buttons on, interfering cats and dogs – as mindfulness practices in their own right. We learnt to see the initially confronting screen of faces as an opportunity to really sensitise ourselves to expressions and small gestures. We learnt to notice and relinquish the ‘need to know' what was happening in breakout rooms and to trust that whatever emerged would be useful.
Most of all we learnt that the curriculum is strong enough, well tested enough and powerful enough to be successfully delivered online. It’s possible to make meaningful personal connections on Zoom and it’s possible to build trusting relationships and confidence between people who have never met face to face. Our feedback and outcome measures have shown that our courses continue to support participants in finding new ways to be with stress and challenge and, in some cases, changing lives in a fundamental way.
We'll return to face to face teaching when we can because we prefer it that way, but for some groups - adoptive parents or medical and healthcare staff - online courses or a ‘hybrid’ model will be the obvious way forward as a pragmatic response to the complexity of their lives and the challenge of their locations. It’s a no-brainer to us now, given the overwhelming evidence of its value, to offer as many people as possible the opportunity to discover what mindfulness has to offer. So – MPCP will boldly go forward - breath by breath, step by step and gratefully - into this, still new, experience of teaching mindfulness online.