Introduction to Mindfulness, week 1

Hello everyone,

I hope day one of our mindfulness course was good for all of you. Personally, I like having 10-20 people in a course, as this adds an amazing diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to a course. But a smaller group allows for more intimacy, which can also be very, very beneficial. I know that for each of you, this can feel like a very personal exploration. However, as discussed in class, it is also, by necessity, interpersonal.

I mentioned in class that I'll send out links to guided meditations you can do during the week. Here is a link to those meditations:

You can try the 9-minute meditation I recorded there, or one of the 5 or 10 minute breathing meditations linked below. Next week we'll talk about and practice loving-kindness meditation,

so save those for then.

Wishing you all the best in the days to come and I look forward to seeing you all next Tuesday.

Introduction to Mindfulness, week 2

Hi Everyone,


Thank you for your continued efforts and for welcoming Dan and Joey to the group (Dan, can you pass this on to Joey? - thanks!). As mentioned, I have a few additional resources for this week. 


We're trying to work up to 20 (or more) minutes of meditation time each day. That can seem like a lot sometimes, but viewing it as a gift to yourself to build the skill of mindfulness can make it easier. Whatever you do, the key is to build a habit that will last, so bring as much 'fun' to it as possible.


You can continue on with mindfulness of breathing practices from last week, or perhaps try about 5 minutes of mindfulness of breathing followed by one of these guided loving-kindness meditations:


If you're feeling very ambitious, you can try an unguided 20-minute meditation. Here is a youtube video with a bell every 5 minutes you can use (you can try the loving-kindness, using each 5 minutes for one of the people and then extending it out in your own time after the closing 3 bells; be sure to turn off the youtube 'autoplay' feature or the next video will start):

And a fun assignment, eating meditation (I recommend a raisin or perhaps an apple slice, something small):

The CBS segment we discussed can be viewed here:


And, while I try to include bits of the science and psychology in each session, it's not my strong suit. So if you'd like some quick science-y inspiration this week, try one of these talks:

Lastly, as these talks both reference the 40-minute, 8 week MBSR program and I have mentioned that in relation to the 10-minute (I thought it was 20), 4 week KORU program, you might be interested in reading the study done showing the effectiveness of the shorter program: .


With best wishes and looking forward to seeing you all next Tuesday,

Introduction to Mindfulness, week 3


Dear all,


First, it was again great to see some of those 'ah-ha' moments coming through in our conversation last week. These are extremely helpful in building and maintaining our confidence in our practice. This is essential for getting through the plateaus and difficult meditations and the all too easy option of cynicism and giving up. 


If your doubt has led to further investigation, I'm always interested to see and hear what is found. My own trust in certain teachers and science helps when the personal experience of meditation isn't what I'd hope it to be. 


One study that I read recently, for which I only have the abstract and concluding remarks, showed that a meditation retreat was superior to a vacation for not just alleviating stress, but for helping participants get control over stressful conditions - so creating long-term benefits:


So it  *does work*, though it can be difficult in our demanding lives to set and maintain a regular meditation schedule, especially after the initial phase of ambition and excitement wear off. 


If your practice is flagging, you might benefit from Vince and Emily Horn's series of videos here:


They expand upon the 3-stages discussed in the workbook (ambition, crisis, acceptance) in a way that could help.


By this time, we hope to see the mindfulness seeping into our daily lives more: remembering to breathe between bites of food or in the midst of a tense conversation or when tempted by an indulgence that might not be so good for us in the long run. Try out the eating meditation this week(video in link below) if you haven't already. Add some walking meditation or gentle yoga to your daily sit as well if you feel that practice getting dull. 


Eating practice:


And if things are going well, try just silence for 15-20 minutes or using a timed meditation video like this one: 


20 minutes (with bowl-ring every 5):  


Remember to really set the intention to stick with the full period of sitting and to return to the breath (or loving-kindness practice) as many times as possible in the practice. Quite often it is the most difficult practice that leads to the greatest gains even though these won't be felt right away. 


As always, the important work - the heavy lifting - is the sitting meditation where we just keep coming back to the breath again and again.


I look forward to seeing you all again on Tuesday for our final class.


With best wishes,



Introduction to Mindfulness, week 4

Hello all,


First, my many thanks again to all of you for being part of the course and for being open and forthright in your sharing: the work, the successes, the difficulties, the ‘ah-ha’ moments, small and large. As I think we all saw, that community discussion and bonding was a major part of the success of the course. Another aspect of the success has been feedback from previous courses – in fact, the positive feedback about group sharing in the past is part of the reason for our having the round of sharing every week. So if you could take 5-10 minutes to fill out this quick survey, I would be very grateful:


Plans are already underway for two more 4-week courses, one with Merlin CCC and one with Hot Yoga Helena. As I mentioned in class, a lot of time goes into planning and getting the word out, so any help with that you could provide would be deeply appreciated:


Here are some of the promised resources:


It’s tricky to gauge and recommend things without knowing a person pretty well. So the below recommendations come from my own personal experience as an academic/practitioner, someone who is skeptical and fairly secular in approach to the teachings.



The Mind Illuminated (Culadasa / John Yates, PhD) – A systematic guide to mindfulness from a neuroscientist turned meditation teacher

Full Catastrophe Living (Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD) – An excellent guide to stress, anxiety, the body, pain, and mindfulness practices.

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (Rick Hanson, PhD)


For less academic writing, check out the works of Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. There are so many different and wonderful voices, it’s just a matter of finding the writer who speaks to you and going forward from there.


Academic guides to Buddhism:

The Foundations of Buddhism (Rupert Gethin)

Next I would recommend Paul Williams’ Buddhist Thought. This in many ways picks up where Gethin’s work leaves off, taking us through the development of early Buddhism, some of the main schools and their ideas, and on into the Mahayana and the development of Tantra. And, going further, Paul Williams’, Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. A great visual guide to Buddhism can be found in Kevin Trainor’s Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide.


And once more, just in case, the survey:


I'll add you all to my mailing list in the days to come (you'll get an email confirming your wish to join, so please click 'yes' if you'd like to get updates).


Wishing you all the very best,




Justin Whitaker, Ph.D. (almost)
Owner/Teacher |