Resilience Immersion Training: Mindfulness for First Responders

November 17-20, 2017 • EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA

Faculty: Richard Goerling, Steven Hickman, Psy.D. & Sarah Bowen, Ph.D.

Note: we are shortening the event to make it more affordable.
The registration will re-open in a few days.

Registration & Fees

Officer-Brigitte-Brousseau-image-by-Robert-SturmanThose who work in the service of society through law enforcement, emergency medical response, emergency telecommunications and other specialized public safety vocations share a deep commitment to the public welfare and humanity. The demands and pressures on these dedicated men and women are tremendous, the stakes inordinately high, and the human toll incalculable. The operational and administrative demands of these professions often lead responders with the noblest of intentions to stray from those deeply-held and valued intentions, to find themselves feeling lost, unappreciated, burned out, overwhelmed and vilified by the communities they serve.

The empirical evidence for the benefits of mindfulness and compassion training illuminates an opportunity for us to introduce skills-based training to first responders and their organizations. Mindfulness and compassion training offers to enhance resiliency & human performance in these dimensions: situational awareness, physical & emotional health, cognitive performance (sense making and decision making), leadership and balancing operational demands with life beyond the watch. Grounded at the intersection of science and contemplative wisdom, this retreat is designed to resource responders with skills in resiliency that have influence before trauma is experienced, during a critical incident, and in the wake of such experiences.

Police_Fire Call BoxThe intention of this retreat-style immersion training is to introduce first responders to the power and potential of mindfulness practice for transforming their work through reconnecting them to their deepest intentions that drew them to the field in the first place. A consistent theme of this training will be warrior ethos in public safety, with a focus on the role of awareness, compassion and wisdom. Working from the “inside out”, participants will learn how contemplative practices and mindful activities can train the mind to be calmer, more focused, more resilient and less prone to bias. While scientific rationale will be offered to form the basis for considering this mindful approach, the priority will be placed primarily on personal practice, experiential exercises, dialogue and reflection.

SF_Mindfulness10Mindfulness has been defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, leading proponent for mindfulness training in the West, as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” It is the naturally occurring human capacity for being fully present and bringing all of one’s resources to bear on a particular situation, challenge or interaction. Neuroscience is consistently demonstrating that this capacity can be purposefully cultivated through the regular and consistent practice of meditation and other related activities. These practices will form the heart of this training, with ample opportunities for reflecting and exploring on how this seemingly esoteric practice can have very real and practical daily benefits in the critical work done by first responders.

The platform of mindfulness practice will be used during the training to explore how it can support change and improvement in physical fitness, diet, behavioral change, and emotional functioning. A number of guest experts will address each of these areas during the training, all with an eye toward reconnecting participants with their deepest intentions for themselves as well as society. With a strong focus on practical application of a mindful approach to living, this retreat-style training will afford attendees the opportunity to restore perspective on their personal and professional lives, reset their goals and intentions, and formulate a plan for translating their gains into their daily lives. Participants will leave with critical skills in resiliency, grounded in awareness, compassion and wisdom, in addition to their own action plan for integrating mindfulness practice into their personal and professional lives.

Training Leaders

richardRichard Goerling has served in civilian law enforcement for over twenty years. He also served as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, both active and reserve for 27 years, retiring at the rank of Commander in 2015. He’s had a front row seat to operational stress in both arenas and has spent the last decade as a student, and now trainer, of resiliency. Over the last decade, he has spearheaded the introduction of mindfulness training into policing in the United States and internationally as part of a larger cultural transformation toward a compassionate, skillful and resilient warrior ethos. He serves as an affiliate faculty at Pacific University’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology and participates in mindfulness research at this institution. Richard regularly trains and presents on resiliency for first responders, bringing practical mindfulness skill building to enhance personal, organizational and community resiliency.

hickmanphoto (1)Steven Hickman, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and Associate Clinical Professor in the UC San Diego Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine & Public Health. He is the founder and Executive Director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness and the Director of Professional Training for the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. Dr. Hickman teaches mindfulness and mindfulness-based programs in San Diego and around the world and trains teachers of these programs as well. Steve has a particular interest in extending the benefits of these practices to “non-traditional” populations and is involved in projects to develop these capacities in Olympic-class athletes, active-duty military, corporate leaders and now, first-responders.

Bowen_headshotSarah Bowen, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology at Pacific University, and a licensed clinical psychologist. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Bowen’s research, clinical and training activities have focused on development, efficacy, and cultural adaptations of mindfulness-based programs. She has conducted clinical trials and trained individuals from diverse populations and settings, both in the U.S. and internationally, including work in prisons, medical and treatment centers, and academic institutions. She is committed to increasing the understanding of and access to mindfulness practice, especially for individuals with logistical, financial or social barriers to these approaches.


At the completion of this activity, participants should be able to:

  • Understand current research on gratitude, self-compassion & mindfulness
  • Understand the personal and societal impact of occupational exposure to chronic and acute trauma among first responders and trauma workers and build strategies toward individual, organizational and community resiliency
  • Develop a sustainable awareness practice that integrates into the rhythms of daily living at work and home
  • Embody an authentic warrior ethos, grounded in the discipline of awareness and practice of compassion
  • Cultivate self-awareness and subsequently the capacity for self-regulation under routine conditions and in crisis
  • Develop a personal resilience roadmap that addresses desired areas of personal, social and professional fitness
  • Create and sustain, through awareness and compassion practices, a greater capacity for leadership of self and others

Target Audience

landThis workshop is intended for first responders whose occupation routinely exposes them to chronic and acute trauma and human suffering. This includes but isn’t limited to police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, medics, federal law enforcement officers and members of the National Guard and Reserve.


Program activities include meditation, experiential exercises, short didactic talks, group discussion, and home practices.  The goal is to provide a foundational knowledge of the science of stress and performance, together with the cultivation of sustainable skills in resiliency of body, mind and heart that attendees can incorporate into the rhythms of their lives at work and home. The program is grounded in a confluence of the contemporary science of resiliency and contemplative practice of mindfulness.

Participant Guidelines

This training program is a journey—an adventure in self-discovery, self-kindness and self-regulation. Mindfulness and compassion have the paradoxical effect of both soothing and comforting as well as opening us to emotional distress that we may have been unconsciously holding inside, often for many years. Therefore, difficult emotions may surface during the program as we grow in our capacity to embrace and heal them. The teachers are committed to providing an environment of respect that includes safety, support, privacy, individual responsibility, and a common commitment to developing compassion for oneself and others.

It is recommended, but not required, that participants read the following two books before the training retreat:

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer

Needs Assessment

Over the past few years, mindfulness has become mainstream in the general population and is being increasingly integrated into professional practice (e.g.,mental health, medical care, education, business, law and criminal justice). As the demand grows, the demand for quality professional training in these practices and techniques is growing each year. Self-compassion is a “trending health term” (Reader’s Digest, 2012) and an area of burgeoning research that is following in the wake of mindfulness. However, misunderstandings about self-compassion abound, such as conceptual confusion with self-esteem, self-indulgence, and existing notions of self-care. Despite impressive scientific evidence for the connection between self-compassion and emotional wellbeing, explicit training in the skill of self-compassion is relatively rare. This immersion training brought to you by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness combines training in mindfulness and self-compassion in a supportive and safe environment designed to encourage experiential learning of both.

Register Online

Cultural and Linguistic Competency Statement

This activity is in compliance with California Assembly Bill 1195 which requires continuing medical education activities with patient care components to include curriculum in the subjects of cultural and linguistic competency. Cultural competency is defined as a set of integrated attitudes, knowledge, and skills that enables health care professionals or organizations to care effectively for patients from diverse cultures, groups, and communities. Linguistic competency is defined as the ability of a physician or surgeon to provide patients who do not speak English or who have limited ability to speak English, direct communication in the patient’s primary language. Cultural and linguistic competency was incorporated into the planning of this activity. Additional resources can be found on the UC San Diego CME website.


It is the policy of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine to ensure balance, independence, objectivity and scientific rigor. All persons involved in the selection, development and presentation of content are required to disclose any real or apparent conflicts of interest. All conflicts of interest will be resolved prior to an educational activity being delivered to learners through one of the following mechanisms: 1) altering the financial relationship with the commercial interest, 2) altering the individual’s control over CME content about the products or services of the commercial interest, and/or 3) validating the activity content through independent peer review. All persons are also required to disclose any discussions of off label/unapproved uses of drugs or devices. Persons who refuse or fail to disclose will be disqualified from participating in the CME activity.

Tentative Schedule

Registration: 1:00–5:00 pm
Dinner: 5:30–6:30 pm
First Session: 6:45–8:45 pm

Session Ends: 1:00 pm


Recommended Reading

All books are available on our Amazon Bookshelf.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness; By Jon Kabat Zinn

Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness; By Susan Smalley and Diana Winston

Frequently Asked Questions

I am flying in for the training. What are my options and what do you recommend?
See our LOCATIONS page for details about travel to the retreat centers and preferred airports. The UCSD Center for Mindfulness will set up a Ride Share Bulletin Board in coordinating shuttle rides for those arriving by air at local airports.

What time should I plan to arrive? When do we finish?
We will begin checking people into the retreat at 1 pm on the first day of the training. However, it may be possible for you to arrive before 1pm and have access to your room. We ask that you plan on arriving no later than 5pm so that we can begin with the full group in attendance at dinnertime. We plan to end the retreat by 1:00 pm on the last day so please plan your travel accordingly, using the time guidelines above. Sometimes situations arise in which people have to leave the retreat earlier than noon on the last day but we strongly urge you to avoid this if at all possible.

Is there wireless service/cellular phone use?
Please do not expect to get consistent, reliable wireless internet service while at the retreat center. It is most advisable to leave your computer at home because of the retreat nature of the training, however we recognize that sometimes computer use is a necessity. Most cellular phones will work in this location. Again, however given the nature of the training there will be limited opportunities to use them, so informing those who may need to contact you of these limitations ahead of time will be helpful.

Is it possible to stay extra nights at the facility or arrive a day or two early?
The retreat center is often booked both right before and right after our training, so arriving early or staying an extra night or two after the retreat is over is not likely to be a possibility. You can of course arrange to stay at lodging near the retreat center if you would like to extend your stay. Contact us directly at to make such arrangements.

What do I need to bring?
If it is at all possible, please bring a meditation cushion (zafu) and a yoga mat. We will have a few cushions but not enough to go around, so if you have one and can squeeze it into your luggage or bring it as a carry-on please consider doing so. It is always advisable to check the weather forecast prior to traveling, to help guide you in proper clothing choices.

The relatively remote location makes security a minor concern, but we do want people to know that with shared sleeping quarters and very limited availability of keys to lock rooms, we highly recommend leaving valuable items at home to reduce the possibility of anything being lost or stolen. Certainly some of us will have vehicles where such items can be secured if this is necessary.

What should I expect regarding the format of the training?
This training is taught in a retreat format, which means there is a great deal of mindfulness practice embedded in the training, and we want to reiterate that now so you are not surprised when you get here. The venue very much facilitates this format; we will will meet, eat and be housed in a relatively secluded area. There are no other large groups planned in the center that week so it should be relatively quiet and secluded. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but not by any means luxurious. and as you probably noted on the website, you will have a roommate. In most cases several of you will share a dorm-style bathroom nearby.

What should I read prior to arriving?
Check the “Schedule and Required Reading” page of the specific training you are registered to attend.

What if I require some special accommodations or have dietary restrictions?
While you are asked to note specific food restrictions on your registration application, if there are any additional food or medical concerns we should be aware of please let us know of these in advance so we may assist you.

Registration Fees

Note: We are shortening the event to make it more affordable. See the new dates below. The registration will re-open with new fees in a few days.

Please email if you have questions or want to be notified when the registration reopens.

November 17-20, 2017• EarthRise Retreat Center – Petaluma, CA
$100 “Early-Bird Discount” if you register and pay in full on or before September 17, 2017 Early-Bird Rate
On or Before
September 17, 2017
On or After
September 18, 2017
Registration $895 $995
UC San Diego Faculty / Staff $845 $945
Room and Board Single Occupancy $1125 $1125
Room and Board Double Occupancy $875 $875
  1. Registration fee does not include standard room and board charge.
Registration is temporarily closed. Please email us at for questions.

Partial Payments

Partial payments are acceptable; however a non-refundable minimum deposit of $100 USD is due upon registration.

Please be aware that the early-bird rate is available for all participants who register and pay their balance in full by the early-bird deadline (see registration information above). All early-bird rate participants who have a remaining balance on or after the early-bird deadline will have their fees automatically adjusted to the General Session Rate.

All remaining balances must be paid in full 30 days prior to the start of the training or your registration will be cancelled for non-payment and you will not be permitted to attend.

Cancellation Policy

A refund (minus your $100 non-refundable and non-transferable deposit) will be made for cancellations submitted in writing 30 days prior to the training. No refunds will be allowed after that date.

In the unlikely event that the course is cancelled, UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is responsible only for a full refund of the registration fee and not for transportation, hotel accommodations or any miscellaneous expenses.