TIMOTHEA GODDARDI conducted a conversation online  with Timothea Goddard recently, whose work with Open ground in Sydney I have admired.  It is inspiring to see professionals  develop and maintain personal and professional practices, that can have such a significant impact on others. Timothea is a Somatic Psychotherapist, Educator and Workplace Trainer. She is an accredited Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher with the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA.

Tell us a bit about your practice and the services you offer?

Like you, I initially trained in somatic psychotherapy, but also later in self psychology (a model with great emphasis on taking account of our needs as we develop and providing understanding and empathy for the client’s way of being in the world). Recently I have been training with Bruno Cayoun in Mindfulness integrated CBT.(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) MiCBT is a short-term method, very effective for anxiety, some depressive conditions, stress and pain and other more complex problems as well. I offer  therapy tailored to the client and work short term as well as long term when the desire is there to explore and grow in this way. Many problems are due to not being able to process emotions (for good reasons). This emotional avoidance becomes a habit of mind, of body, of relating, and of work. People need a strong relationship of warmth, and care to be able to feel safe to begin unraveling and understanding these patterns.For some, mindfulness meditation (called Mindfulness based stress reduction ~ MBSR) is a demanding but empowering way of learning to experience what has been avoided in a way. With Openground Mindfulness Programs, a company I founded in 2004, I offer MBSR and a range of related programs. With the Mindfulness Institute of Australasia I am involved in offering a pathway of professional training in Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBSR and MBCT) with Dr Maura Kenny and Eva Papadopoulo and others.

How did you become interested in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

In 2004 I knew about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work and the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy book by Williams, Teasdale and Segal had just come out. I got a group of colleagues together to explore it further. We trained ourselves over about three months, and some of us began to teach an eight week mindfulness training. Openground was born, and I was overjoyed with finding this marvelous way of engaging people in life. Jon Kabat-Zinn says: “People are geniuses, if we let them be.” And this is what unfolds in the 8 week MBSR program every time. It is a joy to be part of it.

What made you decide to become an educator in this area?

My main reason was that I loved MBSR and wanted it to spread far and wide. I was  dismayed at the prevalence of mindfulness interventions being offered by people with limited experience of the practice themselves.  Many people now had access to a  tradition of practice that invites an understanding of one’s interior world. The dangers of meditation becoming more popular lie in the dilution of the tradition, so that it loses it’s integrity and power. The intervention will only be as good as the teacher who delivers it, and their grasp and embodiment of the practice in their own lives and teaching practice.

In 2007 I started offering training in MBSR. In 2010 I met Dr Maura Kenny  who had similar ideas about training. Out of this, earlier this year, we formed the Mindfulness Training Institute of Australasia. We are committed to maintaining strong connections with the contemplative traditions out of which MBIs have developed, and with the contemporary scientific exploration of mindfulness.We hope that the mindfulness programs offered will be ethical and evidence-based. We hope that the training will offer a grounding in the relational, cognitive, emotional and body-based personal and professional development work necessary for good teaching.

Who do you consider benefits from developing this type of mindfulness practice?

This is a huge question.  Mindfulness is a radical undertaking with life and oneself and the meanings that one has constructed about the world and reality.

 Meditation does not add anything to life; it recovers what has been lost. It is a kind of fundamental astonishment or perplexity – a growing awareness of what our existence is saying to and asking us. … Stephen Batchelor (excerpt from The Faith to Doubt – Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty).

It can also be an effective method for training the mind and body to react differently to life. Studies at Harvard and elsewhere have shown after eight weeks of training there is increase in brain grey matter concentration in areas associated with sustained attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking. (1) Such training also increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex – a predictor of happiness and well-being. It boosts your immune response, helping to defend against illness. (2) Mindfulness training gives you insight into your emotions and it increases your level of attention and concentration. (3) People who have trained in mindfulness have been shown to make more rational decisions. (4) Mindfulness training has also been shown to raise one’s level of emotional intelligence and improve relationships.

What has been one of the greatest challenges for you with this work?

The work of teaching MBSR, the teaching of others how to teach, of making the connections that have made Openground possible – is joyful and energizing. The challenges with mindfulness come with an ongoing personal practice for me. So a practice is just one insult after another as it is leads to awareness. I do feel transformed by it, but also continuously humbled by what is out-of-awareness in my life and relationships. But we can only know this as it all unfolds. The challenge of mindfulness practice as it is all about love actually, about the practice of friendliness, kindness and compassion. It is in this way we must train ourselves, by liberation of the self through love. The Buddha, in Samyutta Nikaya. This is a big challenge!

What programs are you planning on running in the near future?

  1. Sabina Rabold and I are in the process of writing an Interpersonal Mindfulness eight week course.
  2. Eva Papadoloulo and I are writing a Mindfulness Based Compassion course, based on her work with Mindful Self Compassion and also Paul Gilbert’s work and the work of Bob Stahl.
  3.  A parenting program called Circle of Security which is a great way of starting to be more aware of your kids’ behavior as an expression of needs.

On a personal note, tell us something that you’re passionate about or love to do in your spare time?

I do have lots of spare time! (I must be very efficient.) I love going down to the beach every morning with my partner, and trusty hound, Spud. We swim in the ocean every day and it is so wonderful to have this immersion in nature – the sea and the sky and the trees. A replenishing time. I love cycling. I don’t drive that often any more, and love the feeling of being a kid that riding a bike brings. I love lying on the couch, gazing at the sky and trees. This is necessary for me everyday. I also have a sleep everyday.  I am blessed by having work that doesn’t feel like work to me. http://www.openground.com.au/about-openground.html

About Marg

Melbourne relationship counsellor, and psychotherapist Marg Ryan, is a leading specialist in working with couples and singles with emotional problems. She is specifically experienced in helping with self esteem problems that show up with symptoms like depression, anxiety, conflict, addiction and problems within relationships.  She has a private counselling and psychotherapy practice in South Caulfield in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne.

  1.“Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 Lazar, SW, Holzel, BK, et al. 2. “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation” Davison, RJ, Kabat-Zinn, J., et al, Psychosom Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;65(4):564-70. 3. Grossman et al: “MBSR and Health Benefits: A Meta-analysis, Journal of Psychosomatic Research ,Gossman et al: 57 (2004) 35-43. 4. Kirk U, Downar J, and Montague PR (2011) Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the ultimatum game. Front. Neurosci. 5:49. 5.“Mindfulness: Foundations of Corporate Citizenship,” in J. Andrioff and M. McIntosh (eds.): Perspectives on Corporate Citizenship (Sheffield: Greenleaf Publishing, 2001): 26–38. 3 6. “Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience.” Jha, Amishi P., et al, Emotion, Vol 10(1), Feb 2010, 54-64. 7. “Mindfulness Based Relationship Enhancement”, Carson, JW., Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494, 2004