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What to expect in doing a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course

26 March 2019 | , Timothea Goddard | Mindfulness Courses ,

Six things to expect from an MBSR course - and they may surprise you.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is different from many other contemporary mindfulness offerings in four ways:

  • it is evidence-based
  • it’s not a quick fix
  • you will actually practice the training exercises that make you more mindful (i.e. meditation)
  • it can transform things deeply.


So, what to expect?

1. Expect to feel uncomfortable (initially)

Mindfulness practice invites us to pay attention to what is going on. So what you will meet in practice is your own mind and body. This is the very site of your stress and distress – the anxiety, flatness, sense of unworthiness, worry about finances, or the difficult teenager. So initially, you may feel more of the discomfort you have been trying to avoid through busy-ness, drinking, positive thinking, or zoning out generally. This is a bugger, but it will soon pass.

2. Expect to give things up

It is improbable that you can just add an effective dose of mindfulness practice to an already busy life. During the eight weeks of your course, you might need to deliberately choose to let go of some things that currently take up your time (phone addiction, the news, TV, Netflix or social media) so you can get some practice under your belt.

3. Expect to feel more relaxed and spacious

The daily practice does affect the nervous system, and getting to know your own mind and body is deeply relieving. People report better sleep, less anxiety and agitation, and a general sense of having more time and space to participate in their life in spontaneous and enjoyable ways.


4. Expect a change of mind

We spend so much time living in and from our mental maps – our stories – both personal and cultural. Mindfulness meditation practice opens up the possibility of reflecting on these stories and seeing which of them holds water and which no longer make sense in your current context. You will have an opportunity to update these old maps and perhaps see yourself and the world with fresh eyes.

5. Expect to deal with stuff

Through paying more attention, you may begin to notice how you use food, alcohol, exercise and devices to avoid moments of stasis, dullness, boredom, sadness and grief, pain, anxiety and irritation – rather than dealing effectively and directly with those states. This knowledge is empowering. Avoiding things and states takes a lot of energy and generates stress and procrastination. Becoming more robust, so that things can be faced and investigated, will feel liberating and refreshing.

6. Expect to feel connected

The practice seems to open us up to a more empathic, open-hearted inquiry into the experience of ourselves, as well as the 'other' – whoever that may be in our lives. It seems to help us to see others differently; not as an instrument to be used, but as a person to be honoured. There often develops an emerging sense that we are all in the same boat – all stressed, all wanting to find a way to thrive and participate in life. This sense of connection feels good for smart mammals like us, as it breaks down that subtle sense of isolation and alienation that so many people live with.