De-Mystifying Mindfulness

About this course: 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.

Who is this class for: This course does not require previous knowledge of the subject. It has been designed both for practitioners of Mindfulness who are seeking to deepen or broaden their knowledge and understanding, as well as for students of the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, or Humanities who are keen to understand the significance and meaning of Mindfulness for their fields. In addition, Mindfulness coaches, teachers, and therapists may find that this course helps them to consolidate and bolster their professional knowledge base. For those interested in becoming a Mindfulness-based therapist, this course does not constitute a formal qualification to teach, but completion of the certificate does qualify you to start the formal teaching trajectory (ie. it meets the requirement to have completed an 8-week MBSR or MBCT course). In keeping with the nature of the material and the purpose of the course, this course is free, and will remain free for participants. If you are interested in receiving a formal certificate, there will be a fee to cover costs.

Created by:  Universiteit Leiden

Commitment5 Weeks, 7 modules incl Honours project, approx 3 hours per week, suggested 30-45 minutes per day for experiential practices.
How To PassPass all graded assignments to complete the course.
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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.
1 video6 readings
  1. Video: Course introduction
  2. Reading: Meet the instructor & the team
  3. Reading: Welcome to Leiden University
  4. Reading: How to pass this course & obtain your certificate
  5. Discussion Prompt: Organise personal support
  6. Reading: Study tips for studying online
  7. Reading: Being successful in an international virtual learning environment
  8. Discussion Prompt: Form studygroups with other learners
  9. Reading: How to behave in an academic way
  10. Discussion Prompt: Introduce yourself
Graded: How mindful are you?
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.
11 videos2 readings1 practice quiz
  1. Video: This thing called 'mindfulness'
  2. Discussion Prompt: What is Mindfulness for you?
  3. Video: Preconception - enlightenment
  4. Video: Preconception - martial magic
  5. Video: Preconception - mindlessness
  6. Practice Quiz: Check your knowledge
  7. Video: Summary
  8. Video: Meditation lab l part 1
  9. Video: Meditation Lab l part 2
  10. Reading: Med Lab 1: Exercises
  11. Discussion Prompt: What did that practice feel like?
  12. Video: Kuyken: why mindfulness?
  13. Video: Kuyken: representation of mindfulness
  14. Video: Batchelor: coming to mindfulness
  15. Video: Batchelor: what draws others to mindfulness?
  16. Reading: What is this thing called Mindfulness?
Graded: Considering preconceptions
Graded: Journal after Meditation Lab 1
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.
16 videos2 readings1 practice quiz
  1. Video: Introduction
  2. Discussion Prompt: Have you encountered MBIs?
  3. Video: Operationalizing mindfulness
  4. Video: Measuring mindfulness
  5. Video: The problem of dis-ease
  6. Discussion Prompt: Do you have ease of being?
  7. Video: Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  8. Video: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  9. Video: Common principles in mindfulness interventions
  10. Practice Quiz: How stressed are you?
  11. Discussion Prompt: Are you stressed?
  12. Video: Summary
  13. Video: Meditation lab II
  14. Reading: Med Lab 2: Exercises
  15. Discussion Prompt: How did that practice feel for you?
  16. Discussion Prompt: Poetic reflection
  17. Discussion Prompt: Mindful space
  18. Video: Kuyken: encountering difficulty
  19. Video: Kuyken: assessing teaching
  20. Video: Kuyken: science and Buddhism
  21. Video: Kuyken: who should teach?
  22. Video: Kuyken: 8 weeks later?
  23. Video: Batchelor: mindfulness teachers
  24. Video: Batchelor: mindfulness qualifications
  25. Reading: Psychology of/& Mindfulness
Graded: Check your knowledge
Graded: Journal after Meditation Lab 2
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.
16 videos2 readings
  1. Video: Introduction - why philosophy?
  2. Discussion Prompt: Real mindfulness?
  3. Video: Buddhism and sati
  4. Video: Vipassana and samatha
  5. Video: Zen
  6. Discussion Prompt: Are you a Buddhist?
  7. Video: Daoism
  8. Video: Stoicism
  9. Video: Modernity and mindfulness
  10. Discussion Prompt: Philosophical framework
  11. Video: Summary
  12. Video: Meditation lab III
  13. Reading: Med Lab 3: Exercises
  14. Discussion Prompt: How did that practice feel for you?
  15. Discussion Prompt: Poetic reflection
  16. Discussion Prompt: Mindful walk
  17. Discussion Prompt: Mindful space
  18. Video: Kuyken: Buddhism and other traditions
  19. Video: Batchelor: was Buddha a therapist?
  20. Video: Batchelor: secular dharma
  21. Video: Batchelor: Pali canon
  22. Video: Batchelor: is dharma always Buddhism?
  23. Video: Batchelor: dharma needn't be Buddhist
  24. Video: Batchelor: towards modern dharma
  25. Reading: Philosophy of/& Mindfulness
Graded: Different traditions
Graded: Journal after Meditation Lab 3
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.
10 videos2 readings
  1. Video: MANIFESTO! - Don't just do something, sit there!
  2. Video: Mindful utopias and distopias
  3. Discussion Prompt: The mindful apocalypse
  4. Video: Martial mindfulness
  5. Video: Mindfulness in education
  6. Video: The mindfulness industry
  7. Discussion Prompt: Extreme Mindfulness
  8. Video: Summary
  9. Video: Meditation lab IV
  10. Reading: Med Lab 4: Exercises
  11. Discussion Prompt: How did that practice feel for you?
  12. Discussion Prompt: Mindful space
  13. Video: Kuyken: mindfulness in society
  14. Video: Batchelor: mindfulness in society
  15. Video: Batchelor: commercialism and mindfulness
  16. Reading: Politics of/& Mindfulness
Graded: Commercial mindfulness
Graded: Journal after Meditation Lab 4
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.
4 videos2 readings1 practice quiz
  1. Video: Should I be mindful all the time?
  2. Discussion Prompt: Do you feel mindful?
  3. Video: Meditation Lab V
  4. Reading: Med Lab 5: Exercises
  5. Discussion Prompt: How did that practice feel for you?
  6. Discussion Prompt: What next?
  7. Practice Quiz: How mindful are you now?
  8. Video: Dana and Donation Box
  9. Reading: Donationbox
  10. Video: Kuyken: parting advice
Graded: Letter to Self
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.
1 video1 reading
  1. Video: Honourable Mindfulness
  2. Reading: Project sample
  3. Discussion Prompt: What area of Mindfulness excites you?
  4. Discussion Prompt: How will you launch your project?
  5. Discussion Prompt: How will you report on your project?
Graded: Project
How It Works
Each course is like an interactive textbook, featuring pre-recorded videos, quizzes and projects.
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Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in February 1575, as a gift from William of Orange to the citizens of Leiden after they had withstood a long siege by the Spanish. Our motto is: Praesidium Libertatis — Bastion of Liberty.
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