Use the Mindfulness Training Notification of Classes Email Group form to sign up to receive notifications of when classes will occur.
On this page:
- What is Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Training: What You Need to Know
- Sign Up for Mindfulness Training
- Mindfulness and Addiction Relapse Prevention
- Mindfulness and Depression Prevention
- Mindfulness for Childbirth Preparation
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that starts by developing an ability to focus on the breath and the sensations associated with breathing. It soon becomes noticeable that maintaining a steady awareness of the breath for any length of time is difficult to do. Often our attention will wander away from the breath and move to various thoughts, emotions or body sensations. So part of mindfulness practice is to simply cultivate patience and generosity towards this tendency of the mind.
With practice, the mind settles and develops a balanced awareness which allows us to notice the transitory nature of thoughts and emotions. We can investigate with friendly curiosity whatever is encountered during practice whether it is body sensations, thoughts or emotions with a sense of equanimity. This increases calmness through steady concentration, and insight, through reflection. We become less driven by our reactions to the contents of the various modes of mind, less caught up. By developing this ability for self-observation we improve our chances of responding to experience less impulsively and more effectively.
It s not easy to notice what is going on in the mind because it brings us into direct contact with our anxieties, our judgments, and our vulnerabilities. We come to see the often automatic nature of thinking which can take us into worrying about the future or reliving the past. But as we adopt this hospitable and compassionate present moment directed noticing we come to see what approaches are helpful and which cause problems. This does not imply passive resignation but on the contrary, the skill to act wisely and effectively when required.
Grounded more and more in mindfulness the mind is free to respond skillfully to any given situation. When we can rest calmly with our vast array of feelings and thoughts, we are able to live fully and openly, caring for ourselves, and caring for others.
Contemporary mindfulness training originated in 1979 with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and was further refined in the 1990’s with Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale. MBSR and MBCT have both undergone extensive research to assess the effectiveness with many life issues (e.g., stress, chronic pain, anxiety, and numerous other medical issues). MBCT is recommended in England by the national health services as a front line treatment for preventing depression. Multiple randomized controlled trials have shown that MBCT is as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing relapses of major depression.
MBSR and MBCT are the foundation of the Mindfulness Training offered by our instructors. An MBCT workbook serves as the guide for the daily home practices completed throughout the 8-week Mindfulness Training.
The practice of mindfulness meditation trains you to pay attention to the present moment, noting thoughts, feelings and body sensations with an attitude of interest and kindness. This non-reactive stance toward experience creates the possibility of being in life as it is and allows for working more wisely with the challenging aspects of human experience (e.g., emotional difficulties, relational difficulties, impulses, aversion, confusion, rumination, worry…). Learning to calm the mind and work with these challenges is central to acting with wisdom and compassion in the world.
Mindfulness Training: What You Need to Know
THE MINDFULNESS TRAINING PROGRAM
Chris Menard, PsyD, and Heidemarie Laurent, PhD direct and supervise the 8-week (20-hour) introductory Mindfulness Training (MT) program as well as the year-long Mindfulness Instructor Training (Psy-546) program for the University of Illinois Psychology Department. MBSR and MBCT are the foundation of the MT course offered by our instructors. The Mindful Way Workbook serves as the guide for participants throughout the 8-week training.
In this 20-hour training, participants meet together as a class (with an instructor) for eight weekly 2-hour classes and a 4-hour Saturday Practice Session (this is typically held between class #6 and #8. ). The main ‘work’ of the program is done between classes, using MP3s with guided audio meditations that support participants developing practice outside of class. Daily practice with audios ranges from 30 – 50 minutes. In each class, you have an opportunity to discuss the obstacles that inevitably arise as well as the many different experiences that arise while being guided on how to deal with these obstacles and experiences skillfully. Each class is organized around a theme that is further explored in each chapter of the workbook.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICING BETWEEN CLASSES
Regardless of each person’s motivations for learning mindfulness, one can only expect to see results if they put the time and effort into practice. Practice can sometimes seem boring. Sometimes we become frustrated with the busyness of our minds. Sometimes we feel too tired. Sometimes we think that we don’t know how to practice mindfulness. Facing these and other obstacles is essential when embarking on a journey to cultivate mindfulness.
This training approach depends entirely on your willingness to do home practice between class meetings. This home practice will typically include 30 – 40 minutes of daily formal mindfulness practice (e.g., the first two weeks of the course asks participants to lay down daily at a set time for about 35 minutes and listen to a Guided Mindfulness Body Scan Audio that leads them through the practice) and two to ten minutes of informal mindfulness practice (e.g., being attentive to the sensations of brushing teeth, washing dishes, showering, or some other routine daily activity) each day, 6 days a week, for 8 weeks. This includes some brief written exercises. We appreciate how it is often very difficult to carve out that amount of time for something new in lives that are already very busy and crowded. However, the commitment to spend time on home practice is an essential part of the class; if you do not feel able to make that commitment, it would be best not to start the classes and wait till you are able to set 8-weeks aside with some time each day for practice.
The classes and the home practice assignments can teach you how to be more fully aware and present in each moment of life. On one hand, this makes life more interesting, vivid and fulfilling. On the other hand, this means facing what is present, even when it is unpleasant and difficult. In practice, you will find that turning to face and acknowledge difficulties is the most effective way, in the long run, to reduce unhappiness, to increase one’s capacity to work skillfully with stressful situations and to prevent depression. Seeing unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or experiences clearly, as they arise, means that you will be in much better shape to “nip them in the bud,” before they progress to more intense or persistent low moods.
PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE
Because we will be working to change well-established habits of mind, you will be putting in a lot of time and effort. The effects of this effort may become apparent only later. In many ways, it is much like gardening – we have to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, ensure that they are adequately watered and nourished, and then wait patiently for results. Building a mindfulness practice can also be equated with an exercise regimen, in that only after regular daily work-outs are the health benefits realized.
We ask you to approach the classes and home practice with a spirit of patience and persistence, committing yourself to put time and effort into the practice, while accepting, with patience, that the fruits of your efforts may not show straight away.
Over the eight weeks of the program, the practices help you:
- To become more present in your physical body as opposed to being lost in thought, stuck in rumination about some past event, daydreaming/fantasizing about some imagined future, or actively avoiding aspects of life.
- To become familiar with the workings of your mind.
- To notice the times when you are at risk of getting caught in old habits of mind that re-activate downward mood spirals.
- To explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being.
- To put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
- To notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head.
- To be kind to yourself instead of wishing things (and you) were different all the time.
- To be kind to yourself as opposed to being lost in striving and driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
- To accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself.
The 8-week MT class will begin again in January of 2021 and in March of 2021.
Send questions to: CMenard@illinois.edu
If the options above don’t work for you or if the classes are full, you can sign up to receive emails for future class dates/times by clicking on this link to enter your email address. In addition, while you wait for a class, do consider purchasing Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams to begin reading about and practicing with the mindfulness audios provided in this book.
Note: The 4-Hour Practice Session is an invitation to step out of the doing-mode of mind and into the being-mode of mind for an extended period. Chairs and cushions will be available. The Practice Session is typically offered for 4 to 8 hours at the Quaker Meetinghouse on the weekend between class #6 and #7 or between class #7 & #8. Participants are asked to engage in a functional silence for most of this class to facilitate a deepening of their practice, while instructors verbally guide the sitting, walking, and stretching mindfulness exercises. Tea and snacks are provided.
Graduates of the 8-week training are invited to attend Booster classes and Weekend Practice Sessions. Emails will be sent to the graduate email group when these classes are offered.
Email Chris with questions: email@example.com
Fees for 8-week introductory training:
- Fee is $225 for the 8-week series of classes.
- UIUC graduate students receive a 50% discount
- No refunds will be given after the first class.
- If a participant needs to withdraw from the class for any reason, they are welcome to repeat the entire class series within the next two years.
- If you have any questions, please contact Chris Menard firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Menard and Dr. Laurent train and supervise Psychology Department PhD students to teach the MT class. In addition, Dr. Menard offers a Mindfulness Instructor Training for C-U community members looking to bring mindfulness to business, educational, and therapy settings.
Directors of Mindfulness Training:
Christopher Menard, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-directs the Psychology Department’s Mindfulness Services and Mindfulness Instructor Training with Heidemarie Laurent, PhD. Dr. Menard has been teaching Mindfulness Training classes at the U of I since 2011. He has attended mindfulness instructor training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with Jon Kabat-Zinn & Saki Santorelli. He has also attended instructor training in MBCT with Zindel Segal, advanced MBSR/MBCT instructor training with Susan Woods, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) with Sarah Bowen, and Interpersonal Mindfulness instructor training with Phyllis Hicks and Florence Meleo-Meyer. Dr. Menard has also attended Vipassana and Insight Dialogue training. Dr. Menard was a board member of the local Mindfulness Teacher Foundation (MTF) from 2013 – 2017, helped develop the training curriculum for the Mindful Teacher Mindful Kids program and supervises MTF instructors. He also teaches Mindfulness Instructor Training courses for the U of I. He has led Mindfulness Training classes since 2011 for UIUC Staff/Faculty/Graduate Students, Champaign-Urbana k – 12 school teachers, University High Laboratory High School students, and for Prairie Center/Rosecrance addiction recovery clients.
Heidemarie Laurent, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department. Dr. Laurent’s research focuses on (1) defining what we mean by stress “regulation” by relating multiple biological (i.e., neural, neuroendocrine, autonomic) and behavioral stress response facets to psychological symptoms and well-being; (2) identifying developmental paths shaping stress regulation, including prenatal and postnatal influences of parental depression; and (3) determining how practices such as mindfulness can improve stress regulation, and whom such practices are most likely to benefit. Her work combines stress physiology monitoring, neuroimaging, and/or behavioral observation as people respond to naturalistic stressors that arise within close interpersonal relationships, toward the ultimate goal of interrupting intergenerational cycles of stress dysregulation and depression.
In addition to the U of I PSYC-546 doctoral student mindfulness practicum class, a 15-week mindfulness instructor course is also offered to the C-U community. https://mindfulness.illinois.edu/mindfulness-instructor-training/
Local Meditation Groups:
Mindfulness and Addiction Relapse Prevention
While our current Mindfulness and Addiction Relapse Prevention classes occur at Rosecrance Addiction Outpatient and Inpatient settings, we may offer classes at the PSC in the future. If you are interested, email Dr. Menard at CMenard@illinois.edu and he will add you to a wait-list.
Mindfulness and Depression Prevention
When we have sufficient interest from individuals that have suffered from multiple episodes of depression, we do offer the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Depression Prevention groups to support individuals in preventing future relapse of major depressive episodes. If you are an individual with a history of depression and you are interested in developing a mindfulness practice to prevent future episodes, email Dr. Menard at CMenard@illinois.edu to be added to a wait-list.
Mindfulness for Childbirth and Parenting
Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) is a unique childbirth education program that teaches expectant parents the life skills of mindfulness for meeting the stress, pain, and fear that are often a normal part of the journey through pregnancy and childbirth. Learning mindfulness skills can benefit both parents and baby by supporting a healthy pregnancy and building the capacity to birth and parent with greater awareness, wisdom, compassion, and joy.
Go to the following web site for information on this class offered by the University of Illinois Psychology Department Mindfulness Instructors in partnership with Carle Hospital midwives: http://mindfulbirthcu.com/