Online MBCL Foundation Course for mindfulness teachers and other professionals

Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living

A deepening programme following MBSR or MBCT

Online MBCL Foundation Course

for mindfulness teachers and other professionals

with founding teacher
Frits Koster

Organised by the Mindfulness Teachers Association Ireland (MTAI)

Friday 12 – Sunday 14 November 2021

MTAI Members €275 / Non Members €350

What is Compassion?

Compassion is the capacity to be sensitive to the suffering of ourselves and others and the willingness to relieve and prevent it (Paul Gilbert, 2014). It is a capacity inherent in all of us but for many reasons does not always come to flourishing. Fortunately, it can be trained, developed and deepened through practice. Compassion is characterised by kindness and receptivity as well as courage and responsibility. Many believe compassion should be directed towards others rather than ourselves but self-compassion is not selfish. Research increasingly shows that self-compassion is – like mindfulness – key to mental health and goes hand in hand with greater openness and empathy towards others.

What is Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL)?

MBCL is a mindfulness-based 8-week programme that supports the development and training of
(self-)compassion to enhance physical, emotional and relational health and well-being. It is suitable
as a follow-on course for other mindfulness-based programmes (MBSR, MBCT or equivalent).

Developed by Frits Koster and Erik van den Brink, MBCL is grounded in science and in the decades-long experience of its two founders. Erik van den Brink brings to MBCL his experience as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, expert on mindfulness in mental health settings and long-time meditator. Frits Koster integrates his work as a meditation teacher, a teacher and trainer in MBSR & MBCT, his expertise in Buddhist psychology and his work as a mindfulness teacher and trainer in mental health care.

MBCL incorporates scientific insights, exercises and teachings gleaned from other compassion training methods as well as contemplative practices. ‘It was originally developed in the ambulant mental health setting for clients who benefited from MBSR/MBCT and needed more support, particularly those with tendencies to be harsh with themselves, finding it difficult to receive kindness. MBCL is not aimed at specific diagnostic groups but – like MBSR – addressing unhealthy reactions and patterns contributing to suffering in general. So, clients vulnerable to depression, anxiety, burnout, chronic pain or fatigue, and various emotional and relational difficulties can all benefit. It soon turned out that the MBCL programme is also very helpful to professional care givers, being vulnerable to symptoms of burnout. In recent years, MBCL has rapidly expanded beyond the mental health sector and is found to be helpful for anyone, professionals and non-professionals, having to live in a frantic world and wishing to deepen mindfulness with ‘heartfulness’.


There is an increasing amount of research showing the beneficial effects of compassion-based interventions for our physical, emotional and relational health. Supportive evidence for MBCL has been published in various scientific publications (Bartels-Velthuis et al. 2016; Krieger et al. 2016; Schuling et al. 2017; Ondrejková et al. 2020). Two recent controlled trials showed significant health benefits in a clinical population with recurrent depression, who followed MBCL after MBCT (Schuling et al., 2020) and a non-clinical population who followed an online adaptation of MBCL (Krieger et al. 2019).

Why online?

The Covid-19 pandemic has enabled us to gain experience with working online. Despite some limitations, many have been surprised by the depth of teaching, practice and sharing that online programmes can offer. The pandemic has increased our awareness of our vulnerabilities and the need to take care of ourselves, each other, and the planet. It makes sense to expand the possibilities of online teaching, which are kinder for the environment and for many participants who would otherwise have to travel great distances.

What does the online MBCL Foundation Course offer?

This course, which is organised by the Mindfulness Teachers Association Ireland (MTAI), offers an online alternative to experiential introductions to MBCL in physical groups, such as a residential three-day foundation course or the standard eight-session MBCL course. This online course offers a format during which participants will experience all key features of the MBCL curriculum, including the main themes and practices.

Themes include: the evolutionary perspective and multi-layered brain; the three basic emotion regulation systems and the value of training our soothing system; expanding the stress theory with the psychological equivalents of fight, flight, freeze and their antidotes of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness of suffering; tend and befriend; cultivating a compassionate mind and an inner helper rather than an inner critic; overidentifying and disidentifying; Four Friends for Life: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
Practices include: the soothing breathing rhythm, compassionate imagery (safe place, compassionate companion, embodying compassion); relating compassionately to resistance, desire and inner patterns; loving kindness towards ourselves and others; compassionate breathing; a compassionate body scan; walking and moving with kindness; compassionate letter writing; practising sympathetic joy, gratitude, forgiveness and equanimity; informal practices in daily life.
During the online course, relevant scientific insights underpinning compassion training will be woven into the teaching.

Prerequisites for participation

  • Participants are familiar with basic mindfulness practice, preferably by having followed an eight-week mindfulness training (MBSR, MBCT or equivalent). The online programme is not suitable for participants without mindfulness meditation experience.
  • Participants have a personal and professional interest in the applications of mindfulness and (self-) compassion. They can be mindfulness teachers, psychologists, doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, counselors or working in another domain.
  • Participants are responsible for their own physical and mental health and willing to deepen their self-inquiry by engaging in experiential exercises, to share experiences and engage in mindful dialogue with the teacher and each other; all in an unforced and respectful way.
  • The programme will be offered in English language.
  • Participants must be familiar with using the online ZOOM video platform and willing to engage in mindful inquiry into their experiences by online sharing in larger and smaller groups. This includes interpersonal work in two’s or three’s in breakout rooms. Participants are responsible for ensuring a good internet connection and a suitable PC, laptop or other device with adequate video and sound systems. Use of a smart phone is not recommended.
  • Participants are required to purchase one of the following books in advance:
    • A Practical Guide to Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – Living with Heart by Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster, with Victoria Norton (Routledge, 2018), a self-help guide and workbook to be used by participants of a standard MBCL course; OR
    • Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – A New Training Programme to Deepen Mindfulness with Heartfulness by Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster (Routledge, 2015), a textbook for professionals which includes a middle part taking the reader through the course experientially.
    • Both books come with downloadable audios and worksheets.


Learning Objectives

  • Participants will have experienced the main exercises of the MBCL programme as a first step to understand their meaning for their personal and professional lives.
  • Participants will have a basic understanding of the content, the main themes and relevant scientific background of the MBCL programme.
  • Participants will have a basis to further cultivate and deepen (self-) compassion practice for personal and professional benefit and – if they wish so and meet the requirements – to continue with an MBCL Teacher Training.

Preparation for MBCL Teacher Training

This online MBCL Foundation Course satisfies one of the requirements for participating in the MBCL Teacher Training Programme

MBCL Teacher Training (TT) seminars are increasingly offered, either in 2 modules of 3-3,5 days or in one residential retreat of 6-7 days. Click here for dates, description and prerequisites of the MBCL Teacher Training in different countries.
To become an MBCL teacher one should be a certified mindfulness (MBSR or MBCT) teacher. However, professionals who are not certified mindfulness teachers can benefit from the seminars to deepen mindfulness-based and compassion-focused interventions and enhance their therapeutic skills in individual or group work.

Dates and time investment:

  • Friday 12 – Sunday 14 November 2021. Times (GMT-times):
    • Friday from 9 am – 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm – 6 pm.
    • Saturday from 9 am – 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm – 6 pm.
    • Sunday from 9 am – 12.30 pm and 2 pm – 4.30 pm.
  • The course will include 20 online teaching hours; frequent (short) breaks will be offered to prevent ‘Zoom fatigue’.
Frits Koster

Frits Koster is a meditation teacher and a certified teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). He has also trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse. He has taught mindfulness in mental health settings, including clinics and hospitals, for many years. He has been practicing Theravada Buddhism for more than 40 years and lived as a Buddhist monk in Thailand for six years in the 1980s. He has been leading Vipassana retreats and courses since the 1980s. He is a member of the faculty of the Institute for Mindfulness-Based for Mindfulness (IvM) in the Netherlands as well as various mindfulness training institutes across Europe.

He was trained by founding teachers in Compassion Focused Therapy, Mindful Self-Compassion and Interpersonal Mindfulness (IMP). He is the author of several books, including Liberating Insight and The Web of Buddhist Wisdom. Thailand: Silkwormbooks. With Erik van den Brink he developed the MBCL programme and co-authored several publications. Website:


  • A practical guide to Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – Living with Heart by Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster, with Victoria Norton (Routledge, 2018).
  • Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – A new training programme to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness by Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster (Routledge, 2015).

Practical information:

  • Participants will receive a certificate of attendance.
  • A Zoom link will be sent a few days before the start of the workshop.
  • Equipment
    Participants must ensure that they have good internet connection and a PC, laptop or other device with adequate video and sound systems. Smart phones are unsuitable for this type of online teaching. Technical instruction for ZOOM or the use of the equipment will not be available. However, ZOOM provides excellent online tutorials.
Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – A new training programme to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness by Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster

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