Interest in meditation, mindfulness, and contemplation has grown exponentially in recent years. Rather than being seen as mystical practices from ancient Buddhism or esoteric philosophy, they are increasingly seen as technologies rooted in evidence from psychology and neuroscience. Mindfulness has become the basis for numerous therapeutic interventions, both as a treatment in healthcare and as a means of enhancing well-being and happiness. For millions around the world, mindfulness has become a life-style choice, enhancing and enriching everyday experience. Mindfulness is big business.
But, what actually is mindfulness? Is it really good for you? Can anyone learn it? How can you recognize charlatans? Would you want to live in a mindful society, and would it smell like sandalwood? What does it feel like to be mindful? Are you mindful already, and how would you know?
Evolving from the popular Honours Academy course at Leiden University, this innovative course combines conventional scholarly inquiry from multiple disciplines (ranging from psychology, through philosophy, to politics) with experiential learning (including specially designed ‘meditation labs,’ in which you’ll get chance to practice and analyze mindfulness on yourself). In the end, the course aims to provide a responsible, comprehensive, and inclusive education about (and in) mindfulness as a contemporary phenomenon.
During the production of this course, we have been supported by Willem Kuyken, Director of the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, and Stephen Batchelor, co-founder of Bodhi College. And we gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by Mark Williams, co-developer of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Rebecca Crane, Director of the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at the University of Bangor.
Welcome to the course
-People come to the study of Mindfulness for all kinds of reasons; I’m curious to know what brings you here. Perhaps you’re someone who already has a Mindfulness practice and you’re keen to know more about it? Perhaps you’re someone who has heard a lot about this mysterious thing called ‘Mindfulness,’ but you’re suspicious or skeptical about it, so you want to see what all the fuss is about? Is it really something real? Just a fad or fashion? Does it really cure all our ills? Perhaps you’re a student of psychology, or philosophy, or politics, or you’re an entrepreneur or a therapist? Whoever you are, and whyever you’re here, you’re very welcome. I look forward to learning about and from you as we embark on this adventure together.
Introduction to Mindfulness
-In this fist module, we’re going to explore the foundational question of what Mindfulness actually is! This module has been designed to approach this question by considering a series of preconceptions about Mindfulness in contemporary societies. Hence, here we meet the characters who will help and guide us through the rest of the course: the scientist, the monk, the ninja, the zombie, and the hippie. I hope you find these to be worthwhile companions on our journey. In the end, we’ll discover that these preconceptions are not without merit, but that they are only partial pictures of the whole. We’ll also engage in our first Meditation Labs so that we can begin to weigh these preconceptions against our own experiences.
Psychology of/& Mindfulness
-One of the most significant developments in the field of Mindfulness in recent years has been the development of ‘construct Mindfulness’ as a therapeutic tool and as a scientific technology. Both of these rest upon (and produce) bodies of scientific evidence about the effects and correlates of Mindfulness practice, both in terms of therapy and neurophysiology. In this second module, then, we’re going to explore some of implications and elaborations of these approaches. We’ll see what happens to the idea of Mindfulness when we make it into something that can be measured, and then we’ll investigate some of the most popular (and effective) Mindfulness-based Interventions, such as MBSR and MBCT. In the end, we’ll also ask whether this operationalized approach to Mindfulness actually hides deeper philosophical, religious, and existential questions, to which we’ll turn in the next module.
Philosophy of/& Mindfulness
-One of the great debates in the field of Mindfulness revolves around the question of the nature of its relationship with Buddhism. In this module, we consider some of the ways in which this relationship can be understood, including by paying attention to the fact that Buddhism is a diverse and multivocal tradition. Going even further, we explore the possibility that traditions of thought other than Buddhism might provide valuable insights into Mindfulness, ranging from Daoism through Stoicism to contemporary American philosophy.
Politics of/& Mindfulness
-It is commonly assumed that Mindfulness is a solitary pursuit, and yet there is also often talk of a ‘Mindfulness Revolution,’ as though Mindfulness is also a social movement. In this module we’ll explore some of the ways in which the practice of Mindfulness might impact on ethical, social, and political issues today. We’ll ask questions about whether a Mindful society would really be a utopia, or whether it would be a nightmare. We’ll investigate the significance of Mindfulness in the military and in education, and finally we’ll attempt to engage with the meaning and significance of the commercialization of Mindfulness in capitalist societies.
Mindfulness into the Future
-In this last module, we’ll spend some time reflecting on the path we have travelled to get to this point. We’ll consider some of the main challenges that we might have encountered, and also give some thought to what might come next for those of us who want to keep a Mindfulness practice in their lives.
-Having come to the end of the regular programme, you might already be considering what you can do to continue the process of de-mystifying mindfulness for the world today. Perhaps you've identified a practice that really challenges you, or an idea that inspires you into action? Perhaps you're wondering whether your experiences and insights might also be valuable to other people; you're thinking of ways to test them or share them or both? This 'Honours Module' provides you with the opportunity to build on the knowledge we've accumulated and constructed over the previous weeks by creating original, new projects of your own. Successful completion of this project will mean that you will earn 'honours' on your certificate - the highest quality stamp available. More than that, your projects might make genuine and important contributions to our mission: building knowledge for a more mindful world.
I dropped this course after just 1 wk when it became clear that the instructor is trying to bias his students against science with striking images, outlandish images, which studies have been shown to elicit a biased response, while the meditation instructors seek to make the students more susceptible to magical thinking by having them imagine outlandish things, such as breathing through their toes or through a blow hole in the top of their head during meditation. Do not take this course, unless you want to be manipulated. I recommend the very good course, Buddhism and Modern Psychology, if you are seeking a scientific approach, from a western standpoint.
I spent 17 years in the virtual learning industry as an online teacher and course developer, an IT Professional, and Professional Learning Project Manager, and I can tell you this course is the real deal. The course is very well built, Chris Goto-Jones is a fantastic lecturer, and his content is both engaging and relevant. There was even a module on politics and social implications of Mindfulness that I thought was likely additional fluff, that turned out to be both relevant and engaging.
Finally, if you are looking at this course for a way to bring mindfulness to your life, as a way to make a change in your life, the experiential learning part of the course is very good. The mindfulness activities are in alignment with all of the external reading I have done on the topic. I will likely be returning to this content even though I have not completed the course.
This is one of those rare courses which beautifully combines the academic and practical aspects of mindfulness. I not only gained a deeper understanding of how Mindfulness can impact different aspects of our lives and how it can be operationalized, but I also got to dive in and practice to see for myself what it actually feels like. This way, I got not just the third-person objective knowledge about mindfulness, but also the first-person subjective experience, in a perfect blend. I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in mindfulness, either academically or to practice.
Karencompleted this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
Excellent course. It was a bit more academic work than I had anticipated, but I have realized as I went along that I put a lot of pressure on myself to excell. I am a science/math person and never like essays, or having to do critical written responses to lectures, etc. However it caused me to stretch and expand my abilities.
I really found the practical meditation exercises to be useful in my day to day life. I am hopeful that I will continue on with them to help with my daily stress, and to improve my mental and physical health.
I will also suggest this course to some of my patients who might also benefit.
I've been meditating, and reading about meditation/mindfulness for many years, yet I still found the course very valuable. Because it was very thorough, I learned about quite a few issues related to mindfulness that I hadn't heard about or considered before .
It's a great course for those who, like me, have explored mindfulness on their own, without studying it formally, as it provides a structure, and a general idea of the field and current research.
The professor is knowledgeable, good at explaining, and doesn't talk down to his audience.
Although I have practiced mindfulness for a couple of years now I didn't really have a full understanding of the background to Mindfulness. This course provided a very complete, concise overview of the background philosophies that inform mindfulness practice. The labs also scaffold to develop your mindfulness experiences by providing different meditation practices to complete. Add in to read of others in the class from around the world practising - I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Many thanks.
Very interesting course. A wonderful blend of social sciences and history, and personal practice. This course gives great information about different approaches to mindfulness in history as well as present day. It also challenges the student to examen their own views on these maters. The individual practice section is well supported by audio tracks made available, and a the forum discussions. Yes, it does raise questions, but only those that are worth asking yourself.
I found this course to be a perfect blend of academic knowledge and personal practice. If you have an interest in mindfulness this course will do two things for you, 1) give you some thought-provoking context in which to consider mindfulness, and 2) allow you to practice mindfulness and think about your reactions to that practice. I found the 5 week course to be insightful, interesting, and well-worth the effort. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Carmencompleted this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This course has two parts, the theoretical one, composed by videos, and the practical one, where you get the chance to meditate to provided audio recordings.
In the first weeks the meditation are short, between 10-20 minutes, on later weeks you are looking at 40-50 minute meditation sessions, hence the hours per week and the “medium” difficulty because it can be hard to fit that on your schedule.
Excellent course. Great balance of theory and practice, providing a perspective on mindfulness in a professional and neutral way. It has been a transformational experience for me, I can only recommend it for anyone curious and interested in enriching their own personal development journey.
Helmutcompleted this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
Excellent course! I learned where meditation comes from and thanks to a lot of practical exercises I found out quite quickly how mediation can help me in my daily life. Due to this course it became a habit and I mediate now every day in the morning and sometimes also on the way to work.
Luciacompleted this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This course gave a broader understanding of the influence everything we do has on everything else. I like the structure od the course and, mainly, all the people that are part of the teaching team together with the group of people we don't see but make this possible. Thank you
Amazing course which keeps you on track as it teaches you to be mindful in every activity which you take up a little bit of deviation warns you and reminds you that being mindful is so rewarding as it keeps you stress free. .
Before I started this course I had some vague notions about mindfulness and meditation, after taking this 5 week intensive practice I now feel able to meditate and bringing myself rather quickly in a position of mindfulness.
I call this course intensive: it takes at least 4 hours/week and during week 4 an additional full day if you want to take the most out of it.
This weekly pace is required to stay within your cohort of participants and it's the only thing I have mixed feelings about.
This was my 5th Coursera course and the most life changing experience. I plan on continuing my study of 'Mindfulness' through other courses online and in person. I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in meditation and mindfulness. There was a lot of content to grasp in just a few weeks, but it was manageable.