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De-Mystifying Mindfulness

Leiden University via Coursera


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.

"The course enabled me to explore the mindfulness construct at its deeper lever from philosophical, psychological and political lenses. The mindfulness labs were very useful in practicing the skills of being mindful." 23 nov 2018

"i took this course after a period of time when I was trying to practice mindfulness and meditation, but with doubtful success. The course answered many questions to me, and I needed that to keep me motivated. It really helped me understand the origins and, more importantly, benefits of mindfulness practice and made me persist in my attempts. I'm really glad I took the course, I find it interesting, well taught and very useful for all those seeking deeper explanation in why trying mindfulness." 9 Oct 2018

"I have taken other courses in other online platforms. However, this has been one of the best courses I have found online." 3 Oct 2018

"I really like the invitation to us, the learners, to rethink our preconceptions and beliefs, and then make our own judgement about mindfulness. The overall tone was very friendly and open, resources very useful." 12 Dec 2017


  • 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 first 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 Lab so that we can begin to weigh these preconceptions against our own experiences. Begin working on the week's Meditation Lab exercises at the beginning of each week. Be prepared to set aside time each day for the exercises in the Meditation Labs. The exercises can range from just a few minutes to nearly an hour, as indicated on each of the guided meditation recordings.
  • 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. There is the additional content that learners requested and the community graciously financed. We’ll also 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.
  • Honours Project
    • 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.

Taught by

Chris Goto-Jones

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4.8 rating, based on 86 reviews

Start your review of De-Mystifying Mindfulness

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great Course by Prof Dr. Chris Goto Jones of Leiden University. I started this course with a lot of reservations. I was thinking that might be it’s a waste of time. Earlier, I completed almost a dozen of online courses on different subjects and some of...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this course. It began by reviewing the stereotypes of mindfulness and then covering the earliest traditions through to modern times. Each module had a practice group of meditations, and this was, in my opinion, where the course excelled. Following the practices each day, improved my life for the better. There is a subjective evaluation at the beginning of the course and one at the end to measure several indicators in your life. The instructors and contributors are genuinely generous people. I strongly recommend this course for anyone wanting to improve their lives and the lives of those around them, as well as gaining an insight into the true nature of mindfulness.
  • Karen Cunningham

    Karen Cunningham completed 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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Salini Devi.S : The course ,Demystifying mindfulness really opened the doors to a world of diverse knowledge. As a beginner in mindfulness learning ,after completing the course, I am pursuing for Honors to deepen my learning. A great...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course ,Demystifying mindfulness really opened the doors to a world of diverse knowledge. As a beginner in mindfulness learning ,after completing the course, I am pursuing for Honors to deepen my learning. A great teacher inspires his students....
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this 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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Wonderful course!

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course helped me a lot in becoming mindful.
    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course provides the right balance between theory and practice: theory sessions are divided in mini-sessions of approximately ten minutes each, so they could be accessible to everyone. Practice mp3s, and there's a good variety of them, are easily downloadable. The platform is very intuitive, the only missing thing is some kind of notifications when someone reviews your work: however, if that's a deliberate choice, I wouldn't mind since we are surrounded by sound and notifications. I really appreciated the way the teacher talks, I found it very fitting to a course like this.
  • Carmen Cruz

    Carmen Cruz completed 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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Quite a deep dive into various aspects of mindfulness, from preconceptions, history, adaptations over time, philosophy, various strands of belief and current trends, as well as practical tips and exercises that explore a wide range of meditation practice style. A expert lecturer with a lot to say, the content could be quite "dense" for the casual participant - so in order to get the most from this course and do well on the assignments one has to set aside time and pay attention (or in other words; be mindful :-)
  • Profile image for Tyler Snoek
    Tyler Snoek

    Tyler Snoek completed this course.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Teaching mindfulness is a tricky task. It could either get preachy or get too clinical. De-mystifying Mindfulness course was very engaging. It appealed to my not so spiritual, religious mind and yet did not make it sound too technical. Success of mindfulness is based on individuals experience and the course focused just on that. All my apprehensions were addressed in the course and was well spaced and paced. I strongly recommend the course to all the beginners of Mindfulness.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is an excellent course. The structure was very good and the course material very interesting. It was great to see so many different facets of mindfulness, learn about the different traditions that use mindfulness and just putting the subject of mindfulness into words.. The guided mediations are good, too. I learned a lot and enjoyed the course very much.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I was deeply challenged by this course.
    Professor's lectures are Highest quality. Well thought out, clearly spoken, professionally filmed and transcribed. Guest lecturers are interesting and add a lot. The flow of information was as expected. Be aware that time estimates are for lectures and papers/discussion boards but do not include time practicing different mindfulness mediations each day/week.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great course but challenging. There is much new theory presented which can be overwhelming BUT you are not required to learn know or remember all of this. It is enough to have a general understanding.
    There is a very good pratical side to this course and each student will invest to the extent they feel comfortable. HINT the more you put in, the more you will achieve.

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