Teaching Fellow, Dean Howes, discusses how to engage with and continue the well-being practice of mindfulness.
There are many well-being courses, activities and initiatives at the University of Warwick and in the local area. These include taught courses, such as the Mindfulness for Everyday Living course offered by CLL Warwick, clinical mindfulness courses, and various others that contain an element of mindfulness and/or meditation, such as Yoga, Tai Chi, etc.
From my experience of teaching mindfulness for many years, one of the key concerns that people have is that the learning and benefit gained from such experiences may fade away once the course has finished and ‘life’ takes back over again.
I often present sessions as ‘protected time’ in which thoughts of the past or future can be replaced with a focus simply upon the here and now. A time to co-journey with the other members of the group, to be supported and to support. Indeed, it is these aspects that have been found by research to be important for a person to engage with and continue a well-being practice such as mindfulness. Therefore, the ability to offer an opportunity for the continuation of mindfulness practice, whilst benefiting from the guidance of the tutor and support from the group, is at the heart of the Cultivating Mindfulness course.
Assuming that participants come with prior experience and understanding of mindfulness or meditation, Cultivating Mindfulness is an experiential course. It focuses upon the standard practices and activities of mindfulness and encourages reflection and discussion. Whilst the guided practices are led by the tutor, the group direct the sessions and a range of topics, activities and practices are explored. For example, one member of the group was a Tai Chi instructor and led us in an incredibly powerful Body Scan and Mindful Movement practice. Another member (a sound therapist) led us in an intriguing and stimulating practice using special instruments. Following the authentic mindfulness approach, we often explore emerging topics and activities with the aim of being fully present in them.
Cultivating Mindfulness runs for 10 weeks each term but, due to the experiential nature of the sessions, many participants continue term after term, year after year. Other participants come for just one term and still others dip into the sessions when it is appropriate for them. Overall, the course offers the opportunity to continue to practise mindfulness in a flexible, learner-led and supportive environment in which all participants (including myself as the tutor) co-journey together.
About the Blogger
Dean Howes is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick Centre for Lifelong Learning. He is currently undertaking his PhD with the centre, studying the role of pedagogy in the teaching and learning of mindfulness. As a leading member of the Mindfulness Research Network at the university, he is involved in promoting mindfulness and seeking funding opportunities for research in this area.
More information about Mindfulness courses at CLL Warwick can be found here.