Seven courses run each term at Cambridge University, in Michaelmas and Lent Terms. The courses are held each week of term, starting in the first full week of term. The classes last 90 minutes each and continue every week until the end of term.
You will have reading and home practice between classes, and we ask you to commit to the whole course before signing up. This pre-course preparation document will help you to know what the course entails (including borrowing or purchasing the course book) – and to discover whether the course is right for you just now.
Places are reserved on courses in Michaelmas and Lent terms this year (2016-17) for students who are participating in the Mindful Student Study. Remaining places are open to any student enrolled at Cambridge University.
In Easter Term, one-off mindfulness classes support students with the pressures of exams and deadlines. See the description beneath the Easter Term timetable.
Mindfulness includes learning a secular meditation, in which you sit quietly in the group, possibly choosing to close your eyes. There are no prerequisites, but if you would find this challenging – e.g. if you are suffering from mental illness or close recent bereavement – please contact us before you sign up.
How to keep your mindfulness practice going …
If you have already learned mindfulness on an eight week course at the University (or equivalent, elsewhere), you are welcome to keep your practice going by joining the student Mindfulness Society. Join the mailing list by filling in this form or find them on Facebook at 'CU Mindfulness Society'.
Frequently asked questions - on learning mindfulness
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a natural human quality. It is a way of paying attention, in the present moment, to yourself and others, with an attitude of wise acceptance.
Why is it taught on an 8-week course?
Research studies have shown that it is through practising mindfulness meditation regularly over a eight week period that you experience the benefits. After eight weeks of training there is a significant increase in the ability to sustain attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking.
Is mindfulness religious?
The particular meditations taught in mindfulness classes have their roots in Eastern meditation traditions. However, they are entirely secular exercises, and you are not asked to accept anything except what you experience for yourself.
How soon will I know if it's helping?
People experience the benefits of mindfulness in different ways. You may find that you relax significantly within one class, or during one meditation. However, it may be hard to notice any effect at first, especially if you find the meditation “is difficult to do”. This does not mean it has no effect! Many people find themselves experiencing moments of calm and greater awareness at other times of day. A little like going to the gym, or learning a language, the benefits are sometimes hard to pinpoint, but you can notice an overall increase in well-being over time.
How many people are on the course?
In the University classes, the groups have 30 people in them. However, we also work in smaller groups within the class to give you the chance to interact with fellow class members in smaller numbers.
Do I have to talk about my own experience?
Other than introducing yourself at the start, there is no pressure to contribute. You will be asked to consider and reflect on your experience, but it is always your choice what you share out loud. Some people find it helpful to interact, others may prefer to reflect and observe, and learn best that way.
What if I miss a session?
If you have to miss a class, you will be able to read the course book for that session, and you will receive the handouts over email. However, before you sign up we ask you to consider whether you can attend every class, as commitment to attending the classes is a key to benefiting from them. If you miss a class, we ask you to let the mindfulness teacher know.
What sort of mindfulness course are you teaching?
The eight-week course we are teaching is based on the course developed at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, and currently taught to students in Oxford colleges. It is based on the course book, Mindfulness: a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus, 2011). This course has its roots in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), but also incorporates elements from Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). For a helpful summary of these two approaches, see: What’s the difference between Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?
Learning mindfulness elsewhere
If you wish to learn mindfulness elsewhere, the important thing is for you to find a course and a teacher you feel comfortable with. You can check whether a teacher has attended the Mindfulness Training now recommended for all mindfulness teachers. Locally, you will find a number of mindfulness meditation teachers, as well as meditation taught in other settings. Many mindfulness groups are run by Buddhists, because mindfulness originates in the Buddhist tradition. However, mindfulness stands alone as a secular practice, and some Buddhist teachers teach it in completely secular settings for people who are not interested in Buddhism.
Other religious traditions also teach their own type of meditations. For example:
- For a secular eight week course, the Cambridge Buddhist Centre runs a very comprehensive course, without any Buddhist references.
- At Clare College, short mindfulness courses are run by the University's Buddhist chaplain, Rachael Harris, and this can be continued in follow-on classes with a local Buddhist meditation group, including the continuation of this group.
- A local Christian meditation group meets at 5.30pm on Fridays at St Edwards Church, or 12.30pm on Mondays at 8 Brookside; alternatively, Christian Meditation UK offers an online facility to search for groups across the country.