Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need any special clothes or equipment?
You’ll need to wear something that’s not too tight, so that you can move and breathe comfortably. We practice breathing meditation, sitting, walking mindful movement and a body-scan, which is usually practised lying down. We will provide mats, cushions and blankets for everyone. If you prefer to use your own equipment, that’s fine by us. At all times you’ll be offered the choice of whatever position is best for you (so if you feel uncomfortable lying down, for example, you may want to sit in a chair for the body-scan).
Do I need to be physically fit to do the course?
No! All our practices are designed to suit all levels of physical ability and mobility. The aim is to notice the body and the breath in stillness and in movement, rather than to move in any particular way, or achieve anything. You can, for example, do the mindful movement exercises sitting on a chair, and will be given guidance on how best to adapt any activities to your own needs.
I have asthma and sometimes I get anxious about my breathing. Will I be able to meditate?
Although we often use the breath as a focus of attention in meditation, we encourage noticing the breath “as it is” rather than trying to achieve any particular type of breathing. Sometimes, we suggest a different focus (maybe the sensations in the soles of the feet) so that you can shift your attention from the breath when you feel that would be best for you. We will talk about this when we have our telephone call before you start the course, and take your advice on what might be helpful for you.
What shall I read to prepare myself for the course?
The course is experiential, we learn the practices together in the group, and practice them using guidance on CDs. You will be given a handout each week as a reminder of what we’ve covered in the session. There are many wonderful books on mindfulness and meditation. You could well benefit from reading them to support your onward journey when you complete the course, but you don’t need to read anything at all to prepare for the course. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give yourself is to come with an open mind, follow the guidance and just practise!
Will it help me to relax, or to sleep better?
People who have completed the course say that what they have learned has helped in various ways, sometimes finding new responses to symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, physical illness and pain. There are also some reports of increased energy, self-esteem and confidence, as well as improvements in relationships with others. We make no promises, as it depends on lots of factors, but turning up, doing the practice and keeping an open mind can bring about some interesting developments!
What sort of people will be on the course?
People like you! Participants on our courses are drawn from all walks of life, adults who have identified a need to learn a more mindful approach. Many people are looking for new ways of responding to difficulties such as anxiety, pain and illness, particular stressors such as work, family or relationships, or maybe a wish to become a more mindful professional, manager or parent. What brings you here is less important than your commitment to practice and learn. Our shared “humanness” and the differing perspectives and experience in the group usually prove to be a significant source of support and learning.
Is there any religious or spiritual aspect to the course?
Mindfulness practice originates from the Buddha’s teachings and is some 2,500 years old. Over the past thirty years or so, mindfulness has been brought into the West and applied widely to respond to the stresses and strains of modern life. Our courses are based upon ancient wisdom and modern science combined. There is no religious content to our courses.
My head is so full of thoughts, what if I can’t meditate?
Meditation is not necessarily about getting rid of thoughts. Thinking goes on all the time, sometimes it’s helpful (like when you are concentrating on writing a shopping list or a report) and sometimes it’s not (like when you’re trying to read a book and your mind keeps wandering off to worry). Our aim is to develop a different relationship to the “uninvited” thinking, to respond to it rather than react, and to avoid getting pulled into long trains of thought that affect our moods and behaviour. We’ll be teaching that as part of the course, and as wandering thoughts come in time and time again, we’ll get plenty of practice.
Does it matter if I don’t have time to practice between sessions?
You will be asked to practice, using guidance on CDs, for 30 minutes every day for the duration of the course, and will need to commit to finding the time and space to do this, or defer until a more suitable time. The course without regular practice is not likely to be helpful in any great measure. We will also invite you to carry out some mindful “tasks” as part of your daily routine, although these won’t be extra to what you normally do in a day. For example, we might ask you to choose a routine activity, such as making a cup of tea, and do that mindfully (we’ll teach you how to apply mindfulness to activities in session one).
I might have to miss some sessions, will that matter?
Each session is different, so it’s far better to plan to do the course when you can attend all the sessions, so that you can move through the materials with the rest of the group. We know that life isn’t always predictable, though, and if you have to miss a session through some emergency or illness, we’ll work around that as best we can.
If I miss a session, can I go to that session when you’re running another course?
Each group’s development is different, and can be affected by a new person joining, so we don’t invite participants to cross from one course to another. However, if you have had to drop out of a course before mid-way due to significant illness or bereavement, we will offer you a place on an alternative course in the future if there are places available.
Will I have to tell everybody about myself and why I’m there?
You’ll be asked to say your name at the beginning of each session, and will have the chance to take part in discussions about the meditation we are practising together, and what we are learning from it. You will never be asked to tell your story, or made to feel that you have to share any personal information with the group. Indeed, we tend to step out of the story of our lives, and use the sessions to explore the here and now, and the potential for new ways of responding to life’s ups and downs.
I’m not very confident and would like to bring a support worker, or ask someone else in my family to come with me?
We realise that coming to a group can be challenging, and will spend some time getting to know you on the phone so that we can offer some support to you when you arrive. We would not normally advise that you bring someone to support you, as this can change how you and the other members of the group experience the course. If two people from the same family apply, we would usually suggest that they join separate groups, for the same reasons.
Are there any written assignments? Is there any writing to do in sessions?
Writing is optional! We’ll invite you to make a brief note of how your practice goes during the week, and we’ll provide you with a sheet to make notes in your handouts. This is for your eyes only, and we’ll never ask you to show it to anyone or hand it in. If you do choose to make written notes about your practice, they can act as a useful reminder of anything you want to talk about in the group (or for future reference). You might have a very good memory, and be able to do this without writing anything down, and that’s fine too!
How many people will be in the group?
There will usually be no less than 8 and no more than 15 people in a group.
Will the room be accessible?
We try to find rooms with facilities that will make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. All our daytime courses, and almost all the evening courses (one is upstairs) are held in fully accessible venues with accessible amenities. If you are unsure about whether the room will be accessible to your needs, please contact us to discuss this and we will try to assist in any way we can.
Is mindfulness right for everyone?
Like any other course of learning, there are times when it may be easier or more difficult to take it all in, depending on what is happening in your life, and what challenges you are facing!
Whilst mindfulness is a helpful response to many difficulties, the course can be challenging. Applicants who have had bereavements, major traumas or transitions in the past 12 months are usually advised to wait a little longer, as part of the course encourages “turning towards” difficulty, and this may interfere in the healthy processing of loss or grief.
Experience has shown that meditation practice is difficult to sustain for people who are currently dependent on substances, including alcohol, although it can be a helpful approach to support those who have experienced dependency in the past.
We would also recommend that anyone currently experiencing acute depression may be best to wait until this has settled or is being successfully managed with medication. Those experiencing chronic depression may benefit from attending between episodes.
Although mindfulness is being researched as a response to specific mental illnesses and conditions, our training and experience does not cover all of these, so the courses we offer are more general and may not always be suitable. Due to these limitations, we would not usually offer places to anyone currently experiencing dissociative disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe self-harm, suicidal intent or actions.
I work in a professional setting, and would like to incorporate mindfulness into my work, is this the right course for me?
Research tells us that the embodiment of mindfulness in a teacher or facilitator is a crucial component of teaching it effectively to others. It follows, then, that in order to incorporate it into professional practice, it is necessary first to experience and practice it for yourself. Some past participants have gone on to deliver mindfulness training or use it as a basis for therapeutic work, but have begun by attending an MBSR 8 week course (sometimes preceded by an Introduction to Mindfulness Day) and taking a full and active part as a participant. (7 day Teacher Development Retreats, providing a foundation of learning how to teach mindfulness based approaches, usually ask for a minimum of one eight week course as a participant and a year’s practice, as access criteria). I’d be happy to advise anyone considering this route, and can offer support, training and teaching practice to a small number of mindfulness practitioners.
How do I get on to a course?
For all 8 week courses in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, you will need to complete and sign an application form and send this in, with a £50 deposit. I will then contact you by phone to discuss your application, and to talk through the course with you.
I’d like to come on the course, but really can’t afford it, are there any free places?
Our 8 week courses are usually attended by people who pay the full fee. Some are supported to attend by their employers. We can arrange for payment terms that will help you to spread the cost of your place, where this would be helpful. Occasionally, we can offer free or subsidised places on these courses. If you feel that your circumstances warrant our support, please contact us, and we’ll consider reducing or waiving the fee in cases of genuine hardship.
What about when the course finishes?
Once you have completed a course you will be offered the opportunity to attend monthly practice groups, and All Day Practice Retreats, so that you can continue to practice together with others and be supported in developing mindfulness in your daily life and work. There is a small charge for these practice groups and retreats.
If you have any questions not answered here, or would like to talk about the courses in more depth, I’d be happy to hear from you
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”Pema Chodron
If you have any questions about mindfulness
please give me a call or send me an email. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.