- Leiden University
- 6 weeks
- Paid Certificate Available
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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