Tree reflection
teaching mudra

8-week introductory courses in mindfulness and meditation

What are mindfulness and meditation and how do they work? 

Our minds, thinking and feeling, are the filter through which we experience life. If they are working smoothly they have the clarity and flexibility to cope well with life’s difficulties and to find joy. When our minds get tangled up in struggles we suffer. 

In practising mindfulness we look after our minds as organisms, in the same way as exercise and diet help to keep the body healthy. By becoming more aware of our mental and emotional processes in the present moment, we are more able to choose which of them to rely on and which to leave aside, as best we can. In meditation we take our minds to the gym, exercising our ability to relax and quieten. Just as with exercise, we don’t have to be at all 'good at’ meditation to benefit from it: it's not about ‘controlling one's thoughts’ or ‘emptying one's mind’, just about learning to turn the attention more to what is actually present, rather than the stories we tell ourselves about it. It is also like looking at our minds in a laboratory: it gives us good conditions for seeing more clearly what actually goes on.

The mindfulness approach and many meditation practices originated with the Buddha 2,500 years ago, and have been practised and developed ever since. At the same time, a large body of research now supports the benefits of practising mindfulness: it changes the structure and functioning of the brain, increasing well-being and happiness and reducing stress, anxiety and depression. It is not a cure for mental illness, but can be a helpful support alongside therapy or counselling. 

If you’d like to get more of a feel of what mindfulness is about and what it can do, you can listen to Richard Hunt’s eulogy for Jim Henson  or ‘This is water’ .

The 8-week introductory course

As well as a range of meditations, the course presents different practical ways of thinking about the mind, and includes a one-to-one session to help you think through your experience. It is not a therapy group and you only need to contribute to the discussion if you’re comfortable doing so. There is a little homework: encouragement to meditate for a short time each day, and a question about some aspect of your experience to notice during the week. 

The course can be taken as a stand-alone, or can lead on to an ongoing weekly group in Clare, in the Samatha Buddhist tradition - see the rest of this website. But there is no explicitly Buddhist orientation in the introductory course. 

Next courses for students and post-docs: 

Tuesdays 5:15pm till roughly 6:30 or 6:45pm from 10 October - 28 November in person in Clare College

Other courses to be confirmed.

To sign up for the Tuesday course:

Please email Rachael Harris,, by midnight on Saturday 7 Ocbober, telling her a bit about why you’re interested and if you have any mental health issues you think she should know about. It’s also helpful if you can tell her about any previous experience you’ve had with mindfulness and meditation.

Please also email Rachael if you have any questions.