Compassion and optimism at the end of a challenging year

In their end of year message, Robert Marx and Clara Strauss (Co-leads of the Sussex Mindfulness Centre) reflect on the challenges we face, the importance of values, the achievements we’ve made and some optimism for the year ahead.

By most metrics, this has not been an easy year. Whether we look at the wars, the climate, the families unable to pay bills, the intense pressures on public services, and the rise of extremist political ideologies, there is plenty to be pessimistic about. And it can also be true that it is when things are bad that we have the most opportunity to help, to make changes, to see the indispensability of compassion. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye tells us:

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

Naomi Shihab Nye

Perhaps it is at these kind of crunch points that our true metal is sometimes smelted from the ore, that we are able to retain our dignity if we know we have acted in accordance with our values.

Despite all the various challenges this year, the team at Sussex Mindfulness Centre has done some work that we’re all really proud of. With the help of so many people who have commissioned, organised, advertised, delivered, or evaluated the work, we’ve provided mindfulness courses for refugee women and for people from LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian and People of Colour communities. We’ve provided courses to help NHS staff reduce their stress and improve wellbeing, and compassionate leadership training for NHS leaders. We have a wonderful newly redesigned website, research on the benefits of guided self-help mindfulness for depression that was widely reported in the national press, and we organised a successful conference on Mindful Culture. These events included many moments of connection and meaning.

Next year, the Sussex Mindfulness Centre has reasons to be optimistic and excited. We have an online talk by Matthieu Ricard on altruism. Chris Germer and Kristin Neff are running a workshop on burnout and self-compassion. We welcome Mark Williams as a keynote speaker to our conference exploring the Future of Mindfulness. And given these straitened times, we’re excited that we’ve recruited enough participants to run all our teacher training courses. And as there’s still some spaces left we’ve extended the application deadlines.

We are running a wide range of mindfulness courses for people with different levels of mindfulness experience. We’re expecting findings from some large research studies, including research on mindfulness courses for people struggling with ongoing depression, and research on online mindfulness courses for NHS staff.

Do join us!

In the meantime, we wish you a replenishing and connecting break over Christmas.

Clara and Robert