MBCT Week 1

Many thanks to all of you for attending week one of the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course. Below please find a link to the audio files and some resources which I hope you find helpful. Also for those of you that weren’t able to attend this week please find a summary and I look forward to welcoming you next week :)

First of all lets start a reminder of what mindfulness is:

Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.

We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Home practice

It’s my job on this course to support you with your home based learning. Our weekly classes will hopefully be an introduction to the aspects of mindfulness you can explore in your own time and at your own pace.

This week for the home study it would be great if you could:

1) Get yourself a notebook to use as your mindfulness diary to record your experiences and learnings (this is for your personal use only and you will never be asked to share your experiences unless you’d like to).

2) Spend a few mouthfuls of one of your meals this week “mindfully eating”. For those of you that didn’t attend the class please find yourself a raisin and complete the raisin exercise below! You may find it interesting :). Please record your experience so that we can discuss.

3) Choose one routine activity in your daily life and make a deliberate effort to bring moment-to-moment awareness to that activity each time you do it, just as we did in the raisin exercise. Possibilities include waking up in the morning, brushing your teeth, showering, drying your body, getting dressed, driving, taking out the rubbish, shopping, etc. Simply focus in on experiencing what you are doing as you are actually doing it.

4) Listen to the Body Scan Exercise for at least 5 out of the next 6 days. You can do this either sitting or lying down. Again please write a few lines about your experience, particularly noticing where your mind wandered off to and how frequently you brought it back.



What we covered

This week we had a look at how frequently the mind drifts off into automatic pilot. When we ate the sultana or the malteser you may have noticed that your experience was completely different to when you stepped into the here and now and out of auto-pilot. Equally with the body scan we were able to notice how frequently the mind wandered away from the present moment and how using the breath we could return back to the focus of our attention.

Here are a few notes on automatic pilot:

An introduction to automatic pilot

In a car we can sometimes drive for miles “on automatic pilot,” without really being aware of what we are doing. In the same way, we may not be really “present,” moment-by-moment, for much of our lives: We can often be “miles away” without knowing it.

On automatic pilot, we are more likely to have our “buttons pressed”: Events around us and thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the mind (of which we may be only dimly aware) can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful, and may lead on to worsening mood.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to go down the same old “mental ruts” that may have caused problems in the past.

In increasing our awareness of autopilot,  we can respond to situations with choice rather than react automatically. We do that by practicing to become more aware of where our attention is, and deliberately changing the focus of attention, over and over again.

To begin with, we used attention to eating the raisin to explore how to step out of automatic pilot and notice what it feels like to have a “beginners’ mind”. We then used attention to different parts of the body as a focus to anchor our awareness in the moment and training ourselves to put attention and awareness in different places at will. This is the aim of the body scan exercise. By practicing it at home for this week’s homework you will start to increase this awareness of autopilot which is the first and most important step in any mindfulness practice.


The exercises

Here are the official audio files for the sessions we ran last night (not my voice!). I have also included a you tube link to a 15 minute body scan if you would think a shorter one is more realistic for you :)


15 minute body scan with Prof. Mark Williams:



Here are a couple of great you tube clips. The first is a great 10 minute TED talk by the awesome Andy Puddicombe (former buddhist monk and founder of headspace) on mindfulness. The second is Professor Mark Williams (founder of MBCT) reading “Hokusai Says” a poem that gets the heart of what mindfulness is all about!


A Mindful Poem

This was the response of an amazing 85-year-old woman from Kentucky, when asked how she would have lived her life differently…

If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.
— Nadine Stair


If you’d like to read a little more about mindfulness here are some of my favourite books on the subject:

Peace is every step by Thich Nhat Hanh


Practicing the power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle


MBCT for dummies by Dr Patrizia Collard

This one is written by my trainer and is a great supplement to the course :)


A great film!

If you’re interested in the latest research into mindfulness and how our state of mind can impact our health and wellbeing I can highly recommend the film below (you have to buy the whole film but the clip is worth a look).

And remember …

Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open
— Thomas Dewar

Thank you for coming along and I look forward to seeing you next week.

Kate :)