We provided 5 places at the OMC Summer School 2016 to MBCT teachers, who could demonstrate that they would use the Summer School experience to widen access and participation in MBCT. Marianna Piskovszky was one of the bursary holders.
Marianna is a fully qualified mindfulness teacher (CMRP, Bangor) and CBT group facilitator (Oxord Centre for Cognitive Therapy) with a long track record of working in community settings with people suffering from mood disorders and mental health issues, and others who are socially excluded and vulnerable.
“I found the many opportunities to connect professionally and socially with other teachers and practitioners from across the world invaluable.”
What did you get out of attending the 2016 Summer School?
The Summer School provided me with a timely and welcome opportunity to revisit in depth the Buddhist and secular origins and diverse applications of mindfulness and to reflect on and reconnect with my own values and intentions for my practice and work. It was a particular privilege to hear from the three pioneers of MBCT, together for the first time in 10 years.
The regular mindfulness practices that interspersed the lectures, discussions and activities, which were led with wisdom and compassion by some of the most experienced teachers in the field, gave me valuable time and space to nurture and connect with myself and to remember the importance of embodiment in my life, work and teaching, while I found the many opportunities to connect professionally and socially with other teachers and practitioners from across the world invaluable.
The content of the school was as fascinating as it was wide-ranging — across ancient and modern theology and philosophy, neuroscience and psychology, medicine and education.
One fond memory I have of the Summer School is of the walking compassion practice in which we were invited to participate during the day of silent practice, where we walked around the streets of central Oxford silently wishing passers-by well. I live in Oxford, but rarely notice that here, too, city life is fast paced and frantic. I noticed that I am often not fully conscious of the effects that this has on those whom I meet and walk past in the street.
At times during the week — not least as I looked at the cattle in Christchurch Meadow and felt as though I was seeing them for the first time — I felt a real sense of wonder.
How did the Summer School help you to widen access and participation in MBCT?
I have a strong ethos and track record of working with and reaching out to people and communities who are unlikely to access mainstream mental health services, as well as specialist groups with limited funding, such as housing projects, carers, BME and refugee women’s groups and women engaged with children centres. In particular, my passionate intention is to bring mindfulness-based approaches to people who would not otherwise be able to access or afford them.
Between 2010 to 2015 I taught MBCT courses for the mental health charity Oxfordshire Mind. The title “Mindfulness in the Community” reflected the fact that these courses were being taught in a non-clinical setting. The aim and intention was to provide accessible and affordable MBCT courses, giving a wide range of people from diverse cultural, financial and educational backgrounds an opportunity to access an eight-week MBCT course that was open to all, subject only to a £30 donation towards teaching materials and an hour-long individual assessment and orientation session with the facilitator.
At present, and in no small part because of my attendance at the summer school, I am part of a team of four mindfulness teachers who were awarded an Accessibility Grant by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre for our pioneering work teaching mindfulness to two groups of staff supporting Care Leavers (16 – 24 year olds) and other vulnerable young people in Oxfordshire.
The next phase of this project will be to teach mindfulness to the young people themselves, with the help of self-selected champions from among the staff.
The OMC Summer School was invaluable in strengthening my self-confidence and intention to continue with this work.
Have you been able to share what you have learned at the summer school within your institution or the wider Mindfulness community?
I have been able to share what I have learned as part of my team’s work through the Accessibility Fund; with managers and colleagues at Oxfordshire Mind and with fellow mindfulness teachers and practitioners in Oxford.
For information on our bursary scheme for the Summer School in 2017, click here.