You have completed the 8-week Mindfulness program. Congratulations! Now the question becomes how to keep up your Mindfulness practice?
For the past eight weeks you have investigated into your experience of life learning about your bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts as well as experimenting with your mindfulness practice. Perhaps you have observed changes in yourself and noticed how a transformation has taken place in some of your course colleagues. Hopefully you have discovered how you can bring mindfulness into your everyday life and managed to establish your regular practice. It takes commitment to persevere through a two months long course. That’s an achievement to be honoured in itself.
As great the 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program is in helping you to develop your mindfulness practice as limiting is it in terms of supporting you after the course has finished. Once the program is over you are pretty much on your own. From my own experience I know that being part of a community of like-minded people (sangha) has been and continues to be invaluable in helping me to anchor and grow my meditation practice. I see the lack of formal post-course support as downside of the program and like pointing Mindfulness-graduates to available resources.
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. -Jon Kabat-Zinn
How to support your ongoing practice
In my experience many people have only started to discover their mindfulness practice on the course and would greatly benefit from ongoing support. Here are some ideas for how you can support your practice after finishing an 8-week programme:
1. Connect with people from the course
Get together with some course colleagues and continue to practice. You could arrange regular meetings, perhaps once a month, or meet informally and share your unfolding experiences with the practice. It will be important to set an intention for your meetings otherwise it can easily drift into a chat.
2. Keep in touch with your Mindfulness-facilitator
Some Mindfulness-facilitators run websites, blogs or make themselves available for occasional support. Make use of this opportunity to stay connected. Get yourself on their mailing list and let yourself be inspired by their emails. Staying in touch with what’s happening in the “world of mindfulness” can be an easy reminder perhaps pointing you to the next event.
You can find me on Lucid Living here:
3. Attend a Silent Retreat day
Look out for upcoming silent retreat days. Some Mindfulness-facilitators open their silent days up to previous course participants (we do that). This could be a great opportunity for you to reconnect with the vibe of the course after some time. You want to make sure facilitators are trained by a renown organisation such as for example CMPR at Bangor university or Oxford Centre for Mindfulness.
Alternatively, check the program of London Insight Meditation.
4. Attend a Silent Meditation retreat
If you resonated with the silent retreat day on the Mindfulness course book yourself on a 5- or 10-day retreat. Immersing yourself in silence for a week can be an incredibly powerful experience. If it is important to you to keep the retreat secular look out of particular Mindfulness-follow up retreats.
If you don’t mind the Buddhist background check out Gaia House in the UK. They offer great Insight Meditation retreats with outstanding and renowned teachers, many of whom have a very worldly approach by the way. Best to check out the teacher first to see if you connect with them.
5. Set up your own group or join existing Meditation groups
There are many people like you looking to connect and practice together. London Insight Meditation runs local groups that you can join for free but also you could try to set up your own group. Finding the right group of like-minded people is vital. If you feel put off by one group keep looking around until you have found the people you connect with.
Alternatively, you can join the online Dharma practice group Worldwide Insight who offer each Saturday and Sunday live teachings and guided meditation including a Q&A with renowned Insight Meditation teachers.
6. Online resources & apps
Melli O’Brian is one fantastic and dedicated teacher who generously provides many online resources on her MrsMindfulness website. She also set up a non for profit platform offering a wide range of talks with the world leading teachers and experts on the website Mindfulness Summit.
7. Recordings and books
Some people prefer guidance in their practice. There are plenty of guided meditations available online. It is advisable to check out the teacher/facilitator and their background. Some of my favourites are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Prof. Mark Williams, Martin Aylward, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield. You can find more here.
CMPR at Bangor university generously offers a great audio archive with prolific teachers.
8. Keep up your informal Mindfulness routine
Whether this is showering, brushing your teeth, washing up dishes, STOP-ing or walking mindfully to work keep up your informal Mindfulness practice. A little goes a long way!