frequently asked questions
is the course for beginners or experts?
For everyone! We don’t expect anyone to know anything about mindfulness, everything is introduced and explained as we go along.
what do i have to do?
You’ll need to complete one online session per week lasting 90 minutes each. In addition, you’ll be encouraged to practice mindfulness in your daily life. You can complete the program in 7 weeks.
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.
i have too much to do! how do i find the time to practice?
In the beginning adding a daily mindfulness practice often feels like a chore. Yet another thing to do on your seemingly endless to-do list. So don’t try to fit it in, built it in. A practice needs commitment, discipline, and an intention to take some time just for ourselves. Often students will notice that a regular meditation practice actually saves time. It’s very simple: taking restorative breaks during the day makes us more effective at our daily tasks.
i fall asleep all the time. is that normal?
Could it be that you’re tired? When we start a mindfulness practice, we frequently notice how tired we are. Many of us in this modern world live in constant sleep debt. So when we get off the treadmill of life for a moment, when we stop trying so hard for a moment, we fall asleep. There are some tips we can use to help us to fall awake to the richness of this moment. When you are aware that you’re sleepy, try keeping your eyes open just a bit to allow a sliver of light in. Consider increasing the lighting in the room. If you are lying down, try your practice sitting up or a standing meditation. Or slide forward a bit in the chair to pull your back away from the backrest. Consider a brief break; walk around and stretch a bit before trying again. If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, maybe you won’t be able to practice until you had your first cup.
how can i practice when there's too much noise in my apartment? E.g. when my dog barks constantly or when my neighbor is too loud?
Rule of thumb: If you can easily change it, by all means do. There is no need to make it extra challenging for you. But if you can’t: Practice with it. Where do we get the idea that the setting has to be ideal fo us to practice? There will be many moments in life when you can’t get it the way you want. And how does your mind respond to it? A noisy environment can be very fruitful place to practice. We can here sound as noice or the same sound as sound. Same sound, very different experience. Which one provides a sense of freedom?
my mind is all over the place. it bounces around so much. how can i meditate?
Is there an expectation here? Or striving? Some days our minds bounce around more than others. That is the mind’s nature. Fall into receptivity and see how it is in each moment. If we want our practice to be a particular way or expect a particular outcome, such as calm mind, we will usually end up disappointed. Expectations keep us from actually seeing what is really here in this moment. Meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein calls it the ‘in-order-to mind.’ Paradoxically the mind will often calm down once we have truly accepted how restless or bouncy it is.
the moment i start practicing all i notice is my pain. why would i want to do that?
This is a common experience not only for chronic pain patients but for others as well. As the distractions fall away the colume is turned up on all internal experience. In mindfulness our approach to pain is different. The practice invites us to look more closely, to be more discerning. What else is there, other than the pain? Which parts of your body are not in pain? How much of your body is in pain? Can you allow the pain the be there – just for this moment? Is the pain really there every single moment? These quesitons can only be answered when we look with care and kindness at our experience aover and over again.
I have been so emotional since i started meditating. What's wrong with me?
This is very common. As we slow down in our mindfulness practice and turn towards our experience, strong emotions or even mood swings can occur. This will settle down over time.
I have very vivid dreams since i started meditating. is that normal?
Yes, this is similar to the previous question. This new, friendly attention to our experience can stir up emotions, and that can come out in vivid dreams. Stay with it and see how this unfolds.
I can't seem to connect with the breath. What's wrong?
This happens sometimes, don’t worry about it. You can either simply give it some more time or you can use another object for your attention, like sounds or the sensations in your hands. Try different ways and see what works.
i get very spacey when i meditate, almost like i'm drugged. what's that about?
This is another common experience for new meditators. As we are new to the practice we can flip-flop between being very tense to being spaced out. It might feel like a drug-induced or hypnagogic state, the transitional stage betweem wakefulness and sleep. Keep at your practice. As it develops, and as your nervous system steps down into a familiar pattern of parasympathetic activity, this likely feel like such a stupor.
you say this isn't about relaxation, but is that right? Isn't it just relaxation and the benefits that come with it?
Don’t confuse one possible result, a deep sense of peace and relaxation, with the purpose of the practice. The purpose of our practice is to be fully in our lives and to meet each moment with kindness and discernment. When we disengage from rumination and worry, we might find we become relaxed. We can also notice annoyance, confusion, joy, and a near infinite number of other states. And the benefits of mindfulness go beyond the benefits of relaxation alone. In an experiment comparing mindfulness and relacation, researchers randomly assigned participants to either a one-month mindfulness trianing, relaxation training, or a control group (Jain et al., 2007). Both the mindfulness group and the relaxation training group increased positive mood states compared to the control group. But the mindfulness group alone showed decreases in distractions and ruminative thoughts, suggesting that this is a unique mechanism for how mindfulness reduces distress.
Jain, S., Shapiro, S. L., Swanick, S., Roesch, S. C., Mills, P. J., Bell, I., & Schwartz, G. E. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of behavioral medicine, 33(1), 11-21.