A month in Tahiti sharing Universal Education.
‘I was on a high all month’ writes Hilary Mc Michael on her account of facilitating Universal Education workshops for an entire month in Tahiti, ‘with the positive feedback and happy faces, the gratitude and warm welcome I had so much energy to share’.
Hilary, member of Education Universelle France (EUF), is an accredited facilitator for both Transformative Mindfulness Methods and 16 Guidelines, and has been involved for many years in the development of EUF.
Below we share her report:
"I spent one month in Tahiti, invited by the local Buddhist centre that wished to bring Universal Education to the island. It took 21 hours to fly from Paris via Los Angeles, so to be greeted with necklaces of fresh fragrant flowers felt tender and beautiful.
Prior to my arrival the organisers had done intensive advertising, with posters, flyers and this meant lots of people turned up to each event, especially after an article was published in the local newspaper and a radio interview aired.
The month-long UE stay started with an evening conference. I began with a general introduction to mindfulness and a short meditation on the breath to make it participatory. I explained the structure of Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom and led an exercise on how emotions colour reality.
I then gave everyone a 16 Guideline card and encouraged them to explore who is a model for that quality in their life. To conclude I presented Transformative Mindfulness Methods with a practice called relieving pain. Some people shared their experience. So by the end of the conference everyone was fully engaged in the Universal Educations methods, learning, practicing, sharing. They could see how these methods are practical and available to all.
Each one of the four week-ends was devoted to a two day course. The first weekend was a taster of each of the FDCW programmes each taking half a day: the UE learning methods, Creating Compassionate Cultures, Transformative Mindfulness Methods (TMM) and the 16 Guidelines (16G).
The other three weekends were for the Level 1 of TMM (done twice) and the 16 Guidelines. Attendance was really high as we opened the space to as many people as possible, so some workshops had between 27 and 42 participants!
People seemed to appreciated the Universal Education workshop style, a mix of formal sitting and walking meditation, experiential activities, art work, sharing in pairs or small groups and a little bit of theory. Many students went from one course to the next with excitement, either discovering mindfulness or deepening their meditation and understanding of our true nature. Different populations of the island all came, but only a minority of Polynesians.
The sense of community was strong after the courses. Even though the island is small and people do know each other, they recognised their common humanity, so many problems in common and the desire to find happiness.
Evening classes and talk at substance addiction institution
I gave three evening follow-up classes of 90 minutes to help people to be autonomous using UE tools. For instance for a TMM class, I did a Zen Question- Inquiry on change i.e. this flower changing signifies... ?, you are changing signifies... ? This investigation of change lead to Transforming Challenges based on transforming resistance on making changes in one’s life.
Another special event was a 90-minute training I gave to an institution to treat substance abuse and addiction. During the session I shared with the participant therapists, doctors and nurses, how a personal practice of mindfulness can help reduce stress and then be used with patients.
I encouraged them to try the methods out themselves, sharing the insights and seeing the difference in behaviour patterns with and without caring mindfulness. Among other exercises I also led a reflection so they could connect with their motivation for doing their work, and become aware of the risk of acting on automatic pilot that could lead towards burnout. Most of this group came to the other weekend workshops.
Embodying what you teach
What I learnt about being a UE instructor for an entire month in a new country is that it is of prime importance to embody what I teach. This implies clearing away any personal problems before the sessions, using whatever tools work for me.
Also to be creative and trust in my potential, not to panic when things do not go as planned but to bounce back with a new idea. To be aware of the group energy and take care of people. For example, by keeping a gentle eye on everyone as they do the practices, looking out for tears, agitation, worry.
Also I secretly do loving kindness meditation for the group while the participants are busy doing their inner work and during the sharing periods. So I am always involved and present, never filing my nails or reading texts!
I want to end paying homage to my teachers and colleagues for all the training and support I have received and to the organisers for the invitation, just on trust, no one really knew me!"