Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction courses are for small groups of up to 15 people and include additional materials to support home practice. Elinor has followed the Teacher Training Pathway at Bangor University. Her MBSR courses are delivered according to the original, evidence-based course devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the US and developed into the MBCT course by Mark Williams et al.
For organisations interested in mindfulness training for employees who would prefer a shorter programme, Elinor teaches the Finding Peace in a Frantic World course developed at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
Mindfulness is learned in a practical way, through experience. During the course we learn to direct our attention, with awareness, to whatever is actually happening: breathing, body sensations, sounds or simple activities like walking and eating. We learn about thought processes and the interrelationship between mind and body states. We explore how we can best take care of ourselves at times of stress and look at communication and interpersonal skills.
Mindfulness is cultivated through practices such as the body scan, mindful movement and sitting, and by bringing it into daily life, learning to be fully present as we undertake routine activities. To be mindful we don’t have to stop what we’re doing, just be awake to what we’re doing.
Is it difficult to learn?
It takes practice. At first it may feel as if the mind wanders endlessly, but with gentle, patient, perserverance it’s possible to direct and maintain the attention. As we develop this skill we can break unhelpful mental habits, see our thought processes more clearly and develop more rational, helpful and compassionate responses towards ourselves and others. We can also rediscover the pleasure of experiencing life as it happens.
Learning alongside others within the established structure of the 8-week course can be an ideal way to start.
How long are the classes?
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction has 8 x 2-2.5 hour classes and an all-day practice on the Saturday in the sixth week of the course. Classes consist of practices, small group work and whole group discussions.
Before the course there is a 1.5 hour orientation session, to learn more about the content, meet other members of the group and take the opportunity to make sure that it is the right time to take the course.
Who is the course for?
The course is suitable for most people and is taken for many reasons. The orientation session is a chance to ask questions and enables us to assess together that it is the right time for you to make the commitment and get the best from the course. There are some circumstances in which it may be wiser to wait and take a course at a later date.
If you are interested in a course for professional reasons, the 8-week course is a good place to start. Both Oxford and Bangor emphasize that to train to teach mindfulness is it essential that you have developed a personal practice. With that in mind it is important that you come to the course as yourself and for yourself, not for your clients.
What is the time commitment?
As well as the 8 weekly sessions there is 40-60 minutes a day of home practice. You will be given worksheets and CDs to support this. With busy lives it can be challenging to find this time and the practice itself may not be easy at times, but most people who participate in the course feel it is worth doing.
Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about the practice in terms of “weaving your parachute”. You wouldn’t start weaving a parachute just as you were about to jump out of an aeroplane. So it is with mindfulness practice. Establishing a practice as part of your routine, as central as eating, sleeping, brushing your teeth, enables you to develop the greater presence, responsiveness and resilience that mindfulness offers.