Although each practitioner will run courses differently, it’s likely that will be similarities between courses run over eight weeks. And that’s the first thing to appreciate, that mindfulness courses are usually run over multiple weeks, most commonly 8 weeks, with one formal session per week of two or two and a half hours.
Whereas some courses may be shorter or longer, the 8 week x 2.5 hour session model comes from the first courses designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn to run in what became the stress clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, starting in 1979. This model has become the most studied, and the de-facto standard for running mindfulness courses.
Whereas I have run much shorter courses and introductions to mindfulness, my standard course follows this tried and tested model, in two hour sessions.
So, you turn up for your first two hour mindfulness class, what next?
Each session combines three things:
- a topic related to how our mind works
- a mindfulness practice meditation (sometimes two)
- and some conversation.
For example, the topic for week one is ‘operating on autopilot’, related to how our brilliant brain automates tasks that we repeat. If you a drive car, notice how you don’t have to ‘think’ about driving any more; but can you recall all of the individual processes and skills you had to master while you were learning to drive? Your brain learned to automate the tasks involved in driving a car, so that your thinking mind can be free to do other things.
We would talk about how this is both helpful, and sometimes unhelpful (do you have any habits you would rather you didn’t?)… and what we might do about those unhelpful autopilots. This is coupled with the mindfulness meditation practice of a body scan.
Here are the topics from week two…
- Week 2 – Living in our heads
- Week 3 – Gathering the scattered mind
- Week 4 – Recognising avoidance
- Week 5 – The odd thing about ‘allowing’
- Week 6 – A thinking exposé
- Week 7 – A time to dance?
- Week 8 – The present in the future
There is also the option of a practice week, which is ideally a full day, but often a half-day. This really helps to integrate the mindfulness practice – the ultimate goal of which is to live our lives more mindfully (see Why practice mindfulness? for more notes on this).
So, there it is. A taste of what happens on a mindfulness course.