Q. Is mindfulness the same as meditation?

Meditation is often used as a way of entering a mindful state and many types of meditations can be helpful, including focusing on the breath, scanning the sensations in the body and using visualisation. But mindfulness is not exactly the same as meditation as it can be practiced using many other practical techniques, including yoga, walking or any other form of movement as well as through being aware in the moment as we go about our daily activities.

Q. Does mindfulness come from Buddhism?

Meditation and mindful breathing is practiced extensively in Buddhism and the attitudes of mindfulness are not dissimilar to the teachings and philosophy of Buddhism. There is no doubt that there are many similarities. However, meditation and contemplation can be seen in many philosophies and mindfulness as practiced today in influenced by both ancient and more recent thinking, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Q. Is mindfulness linked to religion?

Mindfulness is a secular practice that is not linked to any religion. However, people of all relgions and none can benefit from mindfulness and nothing in the practice contradicts or challenges the teachings of any religion.

Q. Does mindfulness take a lot of time?

It is possible to spend just 1 minute doing something mindfully and achieving some benefit from it. However, it is recommended to spend around 15 minutes per day practicing formal mindfulness when starting out and to gradually increase this to 30 minutes per day if possible. In addition, it is possible to practice mindfulness informally, as we are going about our daily routine and this provides an opportunity to extend the practice further.

Q. What happens in mindfulness coaching?

When the teacher and student first meet, they will normally agree objectives for the coaching and agree ways of working together. After that, there is normally 5 sessions of coaching which involves a mix of the teacher and student talking together about issues affecting the student or changes they want to make, plus mindfulness meditations and agreeing actions that the student will take in between coaching sessions.

Q. What happens in a mindfulness class?

There is usually a mix of practice, teaching, poetry or other readings and discussion. Students are usually of mixed ability and the class is therefore pitched at beginner/intermediate level. However, it is suitable for all as more experienced students can gain deeper insight from the teachings, even if they have heard them before, and can learn by supporting less experienced students.

Q. What happens in a mindfulness course?

A course is typically held over 8 weeks or in a compressed version over 4 weeks. As with group classes, there is a mix of practice, teaching, poetry or other readings and discussion. However, there is a more structured programme with each week progressing to higher levels of practice. There is also home practice to be done between classes on the course.

Q. What happens if I feel anxious during mindfulness?

It is perfectly normal to feel anxious when taking part in a new experience and particularly if this is with people you haven’t met before. You will find that this anxiety will usually settle quickly. The teacher will create a calm and relaxed environment which will help you to settle so that you can learn from the teachings and from your direct experience of mindfulness.

Q. I have restricted mobility – can I practice mindfulness?

Yes, most mindfulness practice is undertaken while sitting upright in supported chairs. Some meditations can involve walking, gentle movement or lying down but all students are told to move only within the limits of their physical ability and there is always an alternative option for students will restricted mobility. It is quite normal for students to be sitting, standing or lying in a range of different positions during practice, according to their needs.

Q. I have a particular medical condition – can I practice mindfulness?

There are very few conditions that would prevent you from practicing mindfulness as it is a gentle, non-invasive, self-directed practice. If you have a serious mental health condition or suffer from epilepsy or asthma, you should inform the teacher before participating. These conditions will not necessarily prevent you from taking part but, depending on the severity of your condition, it may be necessary to seek consent from your GP or other medical consultant as appropriate.