General Questions About Mindfulness
Frequently Asked Question about our online courses
Frequently Asked Question about our events & workshops
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness, which is a special way of paying attention, is often described as the cultivation of present moment awareness with acceptance instead of judgment. Also referred to as “mindful awareness,” it’s about noticing what we’re doing while we’re doing it, what we’re thinking when we’re thinking it, and how we’re feeling while we’re feeling it. With practice and intention, we deepen our innate capacities of awareness and compassion. We come to notice things and learn to hold them (and ourselves) with a kindness, curiosity and openness that’s not available to us when we’re unaware.
How can mindfulness and meditation help with stress?
Life can be stressful sometimes. Although we can’t remove all the stressors from our lives, we can change our relationship to stress. That’s where mindfulness and meditation come in. Mindfulness is about learning to co-exist peacefully with what is present in our lives and meditation is a great way to practice. When we learn to allow what is already there to be there (rather than fight, deny, or control it), we automatically reduce our stress because we’re no longer struggling against our thoughts or feelings about what’s happening. Research shows that a regular meditation practice builds stress resiliency and increases pro-social emotions, such as empathy. Mindfulness meditation changes the brain’s response to emotion by reducing activity in the areas that register negative emotions and increasing activity in the areas that register positive ones. It also counters the fight or flight response, which helps us relax and gives us quicker access to our pre-frontal cortex, which enables us to make conscious choices.
What are other benefits of practicing mindfulness?
Mindfulness also increases awareness, self-regulation, and emotional well-being. Without benefit of mindfulness, we often act on our automatic thoughts, which can be inaccurate or untrue. When we begin to learn how our mind works by observing it, we learn how quickly thoughts change and how little control we have over the brain’s ongoing mental activity. Over time, this creates space – in our minds and in our lives – for us to make thoughtful, conscious choices, and to make a habit out of responding, rather than reacting. Because mindfulness education involves contemplative training in awareness and compassion, it also helps us develop skills that support individual and relational well-being, such as acceptance, equanimity, kindness, generosity, gratitude, and perspective-taking.
Is a formal sitting meditation practice the only way to cultivate mindfulness?
No, but it helps. Sitting meditation is an exercise for our mind. The more we practice, the more we build and fine-tune a healthy relationship to our lives. Through a regular daily practice, we can train our brains, literally rewire them, in ways that support well-being in a number of dimensions. Some people find it helpful to sit with a group (see resource list below). Yoga is also a form of mindfulness meditation. The series of yoga postures in a traditional yoga class are designed to build awareness of the mind-body connection, including breath awareness, and develop a variety of other skills and practices that support well-being. Like meditation, yoga is a practice that you could develop at home or find a group to practice with.
How can I start a mindfulness meditation practice?
First set an intention then follow through. You do not need any special equipment. Many people find that first thing in the morning is the best time for them. You do not have to sit formally for long periods of time at the start. Begin with a few minutes and build up to 30 minutes a day in increments of 5 minutes. Research suggests that even 20 minutes a day is beneficial. Next, set an expectation that you will be distracted. Sometimes, these distractions will be around us, whereas other times they will be inside us (a thought or series of thoughts, a emotion, a physical sensation). From the perspective of mindfulness, this is all OK. Each distraction is not failure, but a success. Our breath is something we can return to, like an anchor, each time we are distracted. If it’s 10 times or 1,000 times the first time you try to meditate, just know that this is the practice. And remember that each time you bring yourself back to your breath, you’re training your brain. The act of returning to your awareness is the practice. The most important thing to remember about meditation is that we are not trying to have a particular kind of experience. The idea is to let yourself have your experience, whatever it is. So be mindful of your expectations. Notice them but don’t let them get in your way.
Is the course for beginners?
How long does it take?
What do I have to do?
You’ll need to complete 8 online sessions lasting 30 minutes each. In addition you’ll be encouraged to read suggested books and practice mindfulness in your daily life.
How will I benefit?
How will I know when it's working?
When you finish the course, the benefits of practicing mindfulness will be apparent to you and even to people who know you. Please check out the Testimonials.
Is it religious?
No, this course does not contain anything of a religious nature. You will not be asked to accept anything except what you experience for yourself. Maybe spiritual.
Is it for everyone?
Yes, you don’t even need to feel stressed to benefit from the course. However, if you’re suffering from a severe illness, we recommend you consult with your doctor before taking this course.
How do I continue practicing mindfulness after the course has finished?
Everyone is different, some people practise mindfulness on their daily commute, some do a body scan at the weekend or some like to take a leisurely mindfulness walk when they get the opportunity. Whoever you are, you’ll find the best fit for you. We’ll help, by giving you a free printed guide to everyday mindfulness after you complete the course.
What if I start the course and it isn’t for me?
You can start the course for free and decide whether you wish to pay to proceed onto the first week of the course. If during your first week of the course you feel that it’s not for you, you just send us a message and we will stop sending you the course material and exercises.
What is a regular day like at a retreat?
The days will start early with a meditation before breakfast. After the meal we will gather for meditation instructions followed by a silent morning of sitting and walking meditation, alternating. After lunch you will have free time to rest or hike. More instruction and sitting and walking practice will follow, as well as an opportunity to meet with a teacher in a group. The evening will be a lecture on mindfulness and some more practice until bed.
I'm not sure I can handle the silence. Not talking for a weekend?
You will be surprised by how the supportive environment with other students and ongoing teacher guidance will enable you to sit for much longer periods. Most people discover that the silence turns out to be one of the best parts of the weekend. Imagine a time truly for yourself, without having to perform, look a certain way, or interact with others. It’s a true respite from society’s norms. In silence we can go deeper into self-understanding and touch into our inner peace and joy. There will be some group discussions where you can talk, as well as some guided interactive exercises. Of course if you need something, you are welcome to check in with a teacher or manager. We are confident that anyone can complete a weekend retreat. It may be challenging, but it is doable and deeply rewarding.
Are there breaks during the retreat?
Of course there will be opportunity to rest and take a break, and you can always do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
How will I benefit?
You’ll learn and practice mindfulness, which leads to a greater appreciation and engagement with life.
How will I know when it's working?
When you finish the course, the benefits of practicing mindfulness will be apparent to you and even to people who know you.
Am I really ready for a retreat?
A weekend retreat is a wonderful way to deepen your existing meditation practice. You will be given a lot of support, guidance, and instruction to guide you through the weekend. The experiences show that a longer retreat is a powerful experience that anyone can do with the right support.