UvA Summer School 2021: A love story

When I proposed UvA summer school office potential collaboration in creating a programme on mindfulness and compassion, I really thought it will be a one time only event… it turned out that it was a whole love story!

I still remember my first encounter with Mirjam and her team, entering their office in rush trying to fit the meeting in the middle of my numerous tasks on my never ending to do list. My plan was to pitch them the concept of a weekend-long lecture/workshops on the topic of mindfulness and compassion. Nice and easy way to disseminate scientific knowledge to the interdisciplinary young academic public. I felt confident and happy with my plan, till the moment when I heard that they are usually working with a 3 weeks format, which put me in a state of shock.

3 weeks?! the whole 21 days of intensive teaching? 6 credits usually taught during few months condensed into this format? During that time I did not had even 3 minutes for a relaxing coffee time; which by the way was not very mindful nor compassionate for myself, I must admit; finding time for 3 weeks intensive experience not mentioning the whole preparation time was impossible to imagine.

I talked to my colleges: they all thoughts it was crazy. I did my pro/cons list in my head: the balance for NO was obvious. I set down… the logical part of myself was saying in loops something along the lines: “don’t you even dare considering it!”. Still, I could not ignore tingling, moving and bubbles popping positive kind of feeling in my body. My heart was filled with joy and my body was exited.

I went to my supervisor and I said to her: Susan, I don’t know why, I know that it sounds insane, but I want to run this 3 week summer school. She responded calmly, if you feel like doing it, go for it! So I did.

From that moment on it was a beginning of a beautiful adventure!

The combination of multidisciplinary knowledge coming from the best experts in the field, different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences coming from the students from around the world; together with the safe space created to reflect, discuss and most importantly experience ourselves in the interaction with others, what we have in common and what makes us uniquely different, made it a bliss. We witnessed together stories of burn out and anxiety in people tired of being perfect; stories of self-discoveries of strengths; coming out for participants born in countries where freedom of being who you are has a different meaning; and stories of beauty of being human.

As Mandy Len Catron [1] perfectly put it in one of her The New York Times article “it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known”. I must say that I feel privileged to know each one of you who were in this programme so far, and those who helped me to build it and continue to innovate it in the most creative way!  Because grace to you all I could also know better myself. This is why also I am looking forward with the same excitement as several years ago to every person with who I will cross my path in the future programmes.  Reis & Aron [2] defined love as a desire to enter, maintain or expend a close, connected and ongoing relationship with another person and another entity. Therefore, the only title I can put to this programme is a real Love story. If you too want to be a part of it, check it out! https://bit.ly/3pDPHkV 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html

[2] Reis & Aron (2008). Love: What Is It, Why Does It Matter, and How Does It Operate? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(1), 80-86.

What, How, If, and When…of Emotion Regulation

It’s been a challenging, strange and among all a very full of emotions year. As we all struggling with our emotions sometimes it feels appropriate, especially now when this year get toward the end, to stop for the moment and take time to explore our current emotion regulation toolbox. Thus, it was a real pleasure for me to chat about Emotional Regulation and Mindfulness with Tsamara in her Podcast: Meditate with Tsamara (@tsamarafahrana).

Together we explored what emotion regulation is, how to differentiate between the moment when we might want to apply emotion regulation strategy or nor, the impact of certain emotion regulation strategies on the brain, and its relationship to mindfulness. I hope you enjoy this episode and I invite you to continue the exploration by reflecting on your 3 favorite strategies for both, positive and negative affect.

Check out this and many more episodes of Tsamara’s podcast:

Join us for Mindfulness and Compassion Winter online course at the University of Amsterdam

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

In these busier, interconnected, and uncertain times people’s lives take different trajectories toward “new normality”.  To adapt to the changes, we see in ourselves and others we need some new tools. Therefore, I would love to invite you to immerse yourself digitally in our mindfulness and compassion online winter programme (4EC) that I will have pleasure to run together with University of Amsterdam.

Let us introduce you to the theories and concepts of contemplative science, and guide you through the exploration of personal practice.

I look forward to seeing you from wherever you are! More more information please check the website!

Stand-up … for science: Spanish FameLab 2020 final!

So here I was…standing on a stage in front of the public with my heart beating and shaky hands, talking about emotion regulations… hoping that somehow, I will manage to decrease my own amygdala arousal …

And you know what, I did! But not because I am an emotion regulation expert nor so much because the “labelling affect” emotion regulation strategy that I was describing in my monologue worked perfectly well for me. Instead, I felt supported and hold by the whole FameLab team! Co-regulating together our emotions!

So, I feel super grateful for the incredible team from FECYT-Ciencia and British Council (Cesar, Dani, Fatima, Belen) that made all this possible as well as to all contestants that made this adventure worth it (Jorge, Alicia, Javi, Pablo, Victor, Ramon, Inez, Laura, Alejandro, Dani, y Araceeeeeli)! If you speak Spanish check out our performance here! 

In the end of the day, I learned about sexual behavior of insects, light pollution, democracy, diversity in genetics, gambling, luck, explosive cellular death, gut-brain axis, GPSs, nostrils’ cells, and what is the relationship between hypophysis and the Games of Thrones.

But a part of learning new scientific facts in a fun way I also discovered more about Spanish culture, their sense of humor, and their wholeheartedness, which for me is a perfect framework to diseminate science!

5 mindful tips to deal with the current crisis

Wherever you are right now we are all facing the same crisis that leaves us with a feeling of danger and uncertainty.

In consequence, fear and anxiety keeps as company nearly every day…

In this video I would like to propose you few practical tips to help us dealing with this situation. You can check it out by clicking here!

I also want to remind you that each one of us have their own and unique resources that makes us feel safe and connected. Maybe you like to sing and you are regularly meeting your friends online and sing together, or you have a chat group with your family and friends to share updates and encouragements, or you have some free time and you volunteer to help others digitally in your field of expertise; you name it! Find your own resources that make you feel connected and meaningful, which is a best antidote to fear and loneliness.

Stay safe!

Covid-19 confinement from the evolutionary perspective


health workers wearing face mask

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

So, why the confinement is so difficult for us, a part of not having enough toilet paper…

With my collegues from the FameLab2020 we decided to support #stayhome inciative and propose you some short and hopefully entertaining scientific monologues.

In my monologue, I shortly explain why this confinement results so difficult for us from evolutionary and our nervous system perspective. You can watch it by clicking here !

For the Spanish speaking public you can follow all our monologues by clicking here!

I wish you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. Be well!


What if we could communicate science in a fun way?

When few years ago I invited my student to do a short 3 min pitch on their selected topic, I realized that I do not really know how to do a good pitch. Indeed, as scientists we are very good at communicating our results to other scientists, especially in our field. However, in order to create the bridges between science and society we need to transfer our knowledge in a completely different way. We need to communicate with some fun and simplicity without decreasing the scientific precision – a skill that we are usually not taught during our career.  I started browsing online to give my students the best possible tips, and I found the FameLab – an international scientific monologues competition which the main purpose is to improve our communication skills, talking about our research with a public audience, and to join a global network of science communicators in different fields. Additionally, they are giving very helpful and clear instruction on how to create your own scientific pitch.

My students did great pitch presentations and we indeed had a lot of fun, comparing to previous years with power point presentations. And I kind of forgot about the whole FameLab concept until this year when I had a conversation with my colleagues on science communication. I told them about this cool thing (i.e., FameLab) and my experience with the students, and when I entered their website I saw that the application deadline for 2020 competition is in 1 day! As my New Year intention was to have some fun, I decided to apply, and guess what … I was selected to Spanish national semi-finals among 11 other amazing people! So please keep your fingers crossed because standing in front of 400 people without being able to hide behind a laptop or a power point to help to cover up sudden memory loss is completely new to me!


Making Friends with Yourself

When is the good time to start taking care of yourself? When I get this degree, my dreamed job, or when I get older and will have some more free time? And how about starting right now?  Adolescence is a time of change, growth and often, struggle.  Teens might be confronted with various intense situations  such as heartbreak, anxiety, peer pressure, bullying.

Making Friends with Yourself is scientifically validated protocol to help teens build resources in managing difficult emotions and learning practices through fun activities based on mindfulness and self-compassion.

Together with AVAST (Valencian Association for Support of High Intelectual Capacities) and Global C (Center of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy) we run this 8-weeks course designed to help adolescents navigating through emotional ups and downs of this life stage with greater ease.

The 2nd edition of the Peaceful Mind Summer School at UvA is now ended…

Today is the first day of the rest of our life after this summer school adventure…and I already miss you all! We had so much fun exploring the science of contemplative practices, practicing yoga and meditation during the silent day, and discovering the beauty of the city of Amsterdam. Thanks to incredible guest lecturers,  the best UvA summer school organization team, and especially to all of you that joined us from around the world bringing a beauty and diversity of knowledge and experience! I will keep you close to my heart.  Have a safe trip back home!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How about being kind to yourself?

Let’s be honest, being kind to ourselves is not usually our first priority. We need to take care of our loved ones, our friends, our pets, or plants, and then we can finally sit and have a nice cup of tea or coffee…but guess what…there is only 24 hours in our daily schedule! So maybe its time to think where am I on my priority list? Maybe its time to put yourself in the agenda? Asking how do I feel? (mindfulness), and what do I need right now? (compassion). It doesn’t take so long but it makes all the difference.

Recently, together with my friend Gloria Remacha and thanks to the kindness of Ignasi Fayos Perez from IPSIVA I had a pleasure to run an 8-week Mindful-Self Compassion course for adults. We were reflecting on the importance of being kind to ourselves and learning new tools to respond with an open heart to moments of difficulties. It was a lot of fun!