What to expect from the 8 weeks
Currently, there are a wide-range of mindfulness-based programs that have developed out of the basic structure and format of MBSR. I applaud these adaptations and experiments, as there are many doors into ‘mindfulness’. I teach the original MBSR course as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. 40 years ago. My teaching adheres to a high level of structure and standards, without such adherence, the veracity of MBSR would be diminished.
This introductory session will acquaint you with the practice of mindfulness as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Brown University. You will learn how this secular, scientific, evidence-based practice has become an accepted part of mainstream medicine, and discover how it can positively affect the quality of your everyday life. This session will be approximately one hour and 15 minutes.
Here you will receive an overview of the course and establish the learning context for the rest of your experience. You will learn the theory and evidence of mind-body medicine and how to apply it in your life. With a special emphasis on what it means to be fully engaged in the present moment, you'll be experientially introduced to mindful eating, mindful breathing, and the body-scan.
Perception is key in mindfulness—how you see things (or don't see them) will determine in a large part how you respond. This week's session and practices will ask you to examine your perceptions, assumptions, and the way you view the world. You will learn to use the body-scan practice to cultivate a greater degree of awareness of how you react to stressful situations. Changing the way you perceive and respond to difficulties and challenges will impact the short and long-term effects of stress on your mind and body.
In this session, you will experience several distinct yet interrelated mindfulness practices: mindful hatha yoga, sitting meditation, and walking meditation. This is an ideal time to share your insights about your experiences with formal practice and integrating mindfulness into your daily life. You will discover there is both pleasure and power in being present. You will attend to, and investigate how your experiences create such reactions as pleasure or discomfort in the mind and body.
By practicing mindfulness we cultivate curiosity and openness to the full range of our experience, and through this process we become more flexible in our ability to pay attention. This week, your practice will focus on the development of your ability to concentrate and systematically expand your field of awareness. You will learn about the physiological and psychological bases of stress reactivity, and experience mindful strategies for responding in positive, proactive ways to stressful situations.
At the halfway point in this course, you should now be familiar with the foundations of mindfulness and able to focus on applying it more rapidly and effectively to specific challenges and stressors in your life. This week you will begin to pay attention to the moments in your life where you might be stuck in repeating unhealthy patterns that you can disarm through mindful awareness. You will also learn how to apply mindfulness at critical moments when you experience a physical sensation, intense emotion, or an unwanted condition. We will pay special attention to exploring how unmonitored reactivity can affect your health.
This week, you will focus on transformational coping strategies to broaden your inner resources and enhance your resilience or “stress hardiness”. The theme of this class is fundamentals of interpersonal mindfulness. You will learn about applying awareness at times when communication becomes difficult. You'll gain direct experience of a variety of styles of communication for more effective and creative interpersonal skills.
'All Day' Retreat
This day-long guided silent retreat will take place between weeks six and seven. The intensive nature of this six-hour session is intended to review, reinforce and put into practice the tools you have learned in the course so far. This exploration is to better assist you in solidifying your practice far beyond the conclusion of the program.
Mindfulness is most effective when it is a lifetime commitment. This week, you will explore the many ways you can integrate mindfulness more fully into your life. While having a dedicated regular practice for mindfulness meditation is important and beneficial, it is just as important to bring a broader sense of awareness and presence to every moment in your life. You'll learn how to maintain the discipline and flexibility of daily practice as circumstances change over the course of your life.
In the final week of the program, you will have a review of everything you've learned over the course, with an emphasis on carrying the momentum forward into the coming months and years. You will learn about resources available to you to pursue mindfulness in new directions, as well as the support systems that exist to help you continue to integrate, learn, and grow. The final lesson creates a satisfying closure by honouring both the end of this program and the beginning of the rest of your life.