Before You Begin...
It's important to consider what it is that you hope will happen as a result of doing this program. For example, you may hope for some effective ways of dealing with stress or worry, ways to cope with illness or difficult life situations, better concentration, an increase in the ability to be present and fully engaged in life, or to accept yourself more fully and others just as they are. What is it that you hope will happen as a result of following this program?
The Getting Started Worksheet will help you answer this question and will create the foundation for your practice over the next eight weeks. Please complete the worksheet now (if you will be completing this by hand, print the PDF version of the Worksheet, but if you'd like to complete it on your computer, download the WORD version).
Take your time in doing this. This is especially important because it is difficult to begin a meditation practice on your own and you will greatly increase your odds of staying with this if you are clear about your goals and when and where you will do the practices.
If you'd like some company on this journey - Online Student Community
You are invited to join an online group which will provide you with the opportunity to share with others and to get questions answered by previous graduates of the course (and occasionally, me, Dave Potter). Joining is optional, and even if you do join, there's no requirement that you even make a single post to the group. If you like, you can just stay on the sidelines and see what others are saying about their experience with the course. If you would like to join the group, go to Palouse Mindfulness Online Student Community for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether or not you choose to join the Online Student Community, be sure to look at the FAQ page, where the most common questions and concerns about the course and the practices are addressed. One of the most common one is this one: Is it okay to take longer than eight weeks to do the course? The short answer is an unequivocal "yes". You can consider yourself ready to go to the next "week" after you have done six practices (and the videos and reading), and it's fine to stay for longer.
Creating a Manual
We suggest that you keep a 3-ring binder with materials from the course for reference and review. By the time the course is over, if you print the instructions for each week as well each of the documents listed under "Reading" for that week, you will have created your own MBSR manual. If this is something you'd like to do, see MBSR Manual for suggestions about content and organization, as well as documents for the binder cover and table of contents.
Videos and Reading
For each week of the course, under Videos, are a set of presentations related to that week's material by master teachers of mindfulness. Under Reading are articles, formatted for easy reading and ready to be printed for your manual. If you are so inclined, you may also want to keep a "Mindfulness Journal" to write your impressions in a more free-form manner than just the worksheets and practice sheets allow.
The length of the video selections vary, but the total for each week is about 45 minutes. It’s a good idea to choose a specific day of the week and specific time to watch the videos at one sitting (for example, Sunday at 8pm). You can do this in place of your formal and informal practice for that day, if you like. Also, at least skim the readings on that day, but plan to read them in their entirety by the end of the week. The readings and the videos in the "Supplementary materials" section are entirely optional.
Your Formal Practice will take about 30 minutes each day. Each week introduces a new practice for which you can find the audio through the menu just to the left of this text under "Practices" (on a smartphone, click on the menu icon just under "Palouse" on the top banner). Each week, you will print or download a Formal Practice sheet which you will use to log your formal practice. [NOTE: The main practices range between 32 and 37 minutes. A few which are shorter than 30 minutes.]
In addition, there is Informal Practice each day, which will help you integrate the learnings and practices into your daily life. Unlike the formal practice, you don't have to schedule the Informal Practice; it's simply having an intention to bring a special awareness into some of the activities that you already do on a daily basis. At the end of each day, you will log your informal practice, using that week's Informal Practice sheet as a guide. Although the Informal Practice may look less important than the formal practice, it is through the Informal Practice that you will see and realize the concrete and natural benefits of MBSR.
The daily practices plus the videos and readings average about one hour a day. The videos and readings can be done all at once at the beginning of a "week" or you can spread them out through the week. The total time to do complete the course is around 50 hours over a period of eight "weeks" (see Calculation of course hours). As mentioned above, feel free to take more than a week for any given "week".
Many people come to the course with some physical limitations and it's important that you know that you are free to modify any of the practices, especially the yoga sequences, to make them best work for you. Being aware of your own limits, and modifying the practices when necessary is, in itself, mindfulness in action.
Also, during the course of this program, whether you have physical limitations or not, it is possible, even likely, that difficult feelings or unpleasant memories may arise. Since this program is done without interaction with an instructor, it is important that you take care of your own emotional and mental health. If things come up which are too difficult to handle, you should take a break from the course and/or seek the help of a good counselor or therapist (see If You React Strongly). If you are under a counselor or doctor's care already, please let them know of your plan to go through this program, and keep them informed of your experience as you go along, so that they may monitor any unexpected reactions to the course or practices.
Ready to start?
Once you've completed the Getting Started Worksheet you're ready to go! When you're ready, just click on Week 1 in the left-hand menu you see above (on a smartphone, tap the menu icon at the top left of the page). In this menu are links to each of the eight weeks, and the Guided Practices.