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Mindfulness is offered free of charge to students registered at Cambridge University.  

What is mindfulness?  

Mindfulness is a natural human quality. It is a way of paying attention, in the present moment, to yourself and others, with an attitude of wise acceptance.  

Mindfulness is...  

  • A well-researched and effective approach to improving well-being  

  • An entirely secular approach to meditation  

  • A natural human impulse to be aware, alert and centred  

  • An umbrella term for practices which develop these qualities  

Benefits include …  

  • Clearer and calmer body and mind (thinking and emotions)  

  • Resourceful responses to stress and anxiety  

  • Staying alert, aware and focused under pressure  

  • Feeling more confident and resilient  

  • Growing understanding of yourself and others  

Mindfulness involves …  

  • Learning a series of short secular meditations  

  • Developing a regular ‘practice’ (much like learning a language, musical instrument, or going to the gym)  

  • Attending a mindfulness course, such as the ones offered in our current timetable  

  • Time and willingness to practice between 15-30 minutes daily, or whatever you can manage 

Is mindfulness right for me? 

In a typical mindfulness session, you sit in a friendly circle, and engage in exercises, discussions and meditations. The meditations are secular mindfulness meditation, in which you sit quietly in the group, possibly choosing to close your eyes. You may wish to meditate lying down (so bring a scarf or shawl or mat if you wish). 

Consider whether you would find this kind of group challenging. For example, if you are suffering from mental illness or close recent bereavement, please contact us before you sign up, or check out this document: Is Mindfulness Right for Me, Just Now?  

Mindfulness for staff  

  • You are welcome to attend the online mini-mindfulness breaks  

  • All other provision is for students only  

  • The Staff Counselling service may offer some mindfulness sessions  

  • For non-university members, please see information below on "Learning mindfulness elsewhere"  

Mindfulness as you leave Cambridge 

You are welcome to keep your practice going by joining the Mindfulness After Cam group. The group is also open to members of staff or non-university members. 

Is mindfulness religious?  

The meditations taught in mindfulness classes have their roots in Eastern meditation traditions. However, they are entirely secular exercises, and you are not asked to accept anything except what you experience for yourself.  

Is meditation the same as relaxation?  

You may find mindfulness overlaps with other hobbies or disciplines which encourage awareness, such as some kinds of sports, creative work such as writing or music, bodywork practices (e.g. yoga or tai chi), contemplative prayer, emotional or psychological self-reflection. However, every different system holds its gems. It is likely that you will discover something new and different in the mindfulness approach.  

Does meditation involve “emptying my mind”?  

You may experience moments of clarity and calm, in which thoughts quieten down and dissolve. However, meditation always involves and includes your thinking capacity. Mindfulness is about learning to accept what happens inside you in a self-accepting way, not getting rid of it or suppressing it.  

Do I need to sit cross-legged?  

The course is taught seated on chairs. If you would like to try using a stool or cushion, you can ask advice from the teacher. In general, you can practice meditation seated in the chair or lying on your back on the floor. The principle is that you are aiming to “fall awake”, not fall asleep! So a relaxed but alert position is ideal.  

Will I experience strange symptoms when I meditate?  

Some people experience interesting things when they meditate. Many of these are completely normal, and often enjoyable. For example, you may feel unusual body senses such as tingling, or body-heat. Some people experience vivid imagery such as spontaneous colours and images. If you have questions about your experience, feel free to raise them during the class. If you want more privacy, just catch your teacher just before or after a class (or see below for email information).  

Can meditation cause damage?  

Meditation is about discovering what is already within you, and listening to it more deeply in a caring, non-judgemental way. If you have fears that your thoughts and emotions will overwhelm you when you meditate, it may not be the right time for you to learn mindfulness meditation. If in doubt, please talk it over with your college nurse or tutor before you start the course. If you are worried or concerned about your experience as you start to meditate regularly, please contact your meditation teacher (Elizabeth English, term time only). Or check out this document: Is Mindfulness Right for Me, Just Now? 

Why is it taught over several weeks?  

We split up the previous research-led eight-week course, to make it easier to attend.  

Research studies have shown that it is through practising mindfulness meditation regularly over a few weeks that you experience the benefits.  

How soon will I know if it's helping?  

People experience the benefits of mindfulness in different ways. You may find that you relax significantly within one class, or during one meditation. However, it may be hard to notice any effect at first, especially if you find the meditation is difficult to do. This does not mean it has no effect. Many people find themselves experiencing moments of calm and greater awareness at other times of day. The benefits are sometimes hard to pinpoint, but you may notice an overall increase in well-being over time.  

How many people are on the course?  

In the University classes, the groups have approximately 15-20 people in them, although class sizes vary (and in practice some are much smaller). Within the classes, you will work in pairs or small groups, which gives you the chance to interact with fellow class members in smaller numbers.  

Do I have to talk about my own experience?  

Other than introducing yourself at the start, there is no pressure to contribute. You will be asked to consider and reflect on your experience, but it is always your choice what you share out loud. Some people find it helpful to interact, others may prefer to reflect and observe, and learn best that way.  

What if I miss a session?  

If you have to miss a class, you will be able to read the course materials for that session. However, before you sign up we ask you to consider whether you can attend at least most of the course (missing one session maximum). Commitment to attending the classes is a key to benefitting from them.  

What sort of mindfulness course are you teaching?  

Our courses are based on the eight-week course researched here at Cambridge, with positive outcomes, in 2017. The course book is  Mindfulness: a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus, 2011). This course has its roots in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). It also incorporates elements from Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  

Other useful reading is found in the ‘Gentle Guides to Mindfulness Meditation’. The book is written by Elizabeth English (mindfulness teacher here at Cambridge University). See: Journeys to the Deep: A Gentle Guide to Mindfulness Meditation.  

Learning mindfulness elsewhere  

If you are not a student, and you wish to learn mindfulness, we suggest you look elsewhere and have collated some suggestions below.    

If you wish to learn mindfulness elsewhere, the important thing is for you to find a course and a teacher you feel comfortable with. Locally, you will find a number of mindfulness meditation teachers, as well as meditation taught in other settings. Many mindfulness groups are run by Buddhists, because mindfulness originates in their tradition. However, mindfulness stands alone as a secular practice. Some Buddhist teachers teach it in completely secular settings for people who are not interested in Buddhism. Other religious traditions also teach their own type of meditations.   

For example:  

  • The Cambridge Buddhist Centre runs a very comprehensive secular eight-week course  

  • 8-week mindfulness courses are run in Clare College by the University's Buddhist chaplain, Rachael Harris. These can be taken as standalone introductions to mindfulness and meditation, or as leading on to an ongoing group for developing these practices further, see For other local Buddhist meditation groups, all of which welcome non-Buddhists, see the list of groups under Meditation at 

  • A local Christian meditation group meets regularly