Mindful Awareness for Stress Relief

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Mindful Awareness for Stress Relief

Kathleen Bishop, Ph.D.



March 7 – April 11

6:00 – 8:00 pm

5 Week Online Course Syllabus


Class 1: Introduction to mindfulness: Triangle of Awareness,

   Attitudinal Foundations, Body Scan


Class 2: Perception and creative responding

               Cultivating mindfulness on and off the cushion


Class 3: Physiology of Stress

               Awareness of stress reactivity – sensations, emotions, thoughts

               Responding vs. reacting to stress: the role of mindfulness


Class 4: Pleasure and power in being present

               Meditation in Motion: Yoga and Qi Gong


Class 5: Cultivating kindness and compassion for self and others



Optional ½ day retreat TBA


















Week One

--3 relaxing sighs, anytime, anywhere

--Body scan ( 30 min. audio file)

-- Read Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness

--Fill out Mindfulness of routine activities worksheet


Week Two:

--Alternate body scan with sitting meditation (15 min. audio file), one each day

--Fill out “Pleasant Events” calendar (workbook)


Week Three:

--Alternate sitting meditation/walking meditation

--Fill out “Unpleasant Events” calendar (workbook)

--Mindful awareness of “auto pilot” and what triggers that for you


Week Four:

--Alternate sitting meditation with either body scan or walking meditation

--Experiment by practicing without the guided meditation recordings


Week Five:

--Alternate sitting meditation with LovingKindness meditation.

--Become aware of moments of distress and bring mindfulness and self compassion.



Seven Attitudinal Factors of Mindfulness

The seven attitudinal factors of mindfulness “constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice” (Kabat-Zinn, 2004, p. 32) of MBSR and MBCT training and practice, and it is difficult to underestimate their importance.


1. Non-judging

“These judgments of mind tend to dominate our minds and make it hard for us ever to find any peace” (p. 33) and can be extremely unhelpful in the context of meditation and premature judgment and rejection of experience is extremely common . “Being with” whatever arises requires gentleness, kindness and often the encouragement of a group environment.

2. Patience

“To be patient is simply to be completely in each moment, accepting it in its fullness” (p. 35). To keep bringing the mind back again to the breath, back to sensation of body requires tremendous patience and perseverance. This is the working ground of a meditation practice.

3. Beginner’s mind

“Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are” (p. 35). Approaching each meditation as if it were your first time, building from “the ground up” from the body, contacting the breath, asking of yourself “what is really happening now” are hallmarks of beginner’s mind. This attitude can be particularly difficult if you have an established meditation practice.

4. Trust

Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition — loosening oneself from the tyranny of authority and inner harsh judgment — has the “taste of freedom”, a key hallmark of a genuine practice and essential for individual development.

5. Non-striving

“Almost everything we do, we do for a purpose, to get something or somewhere. But in meditation, this attitude can be a real obstacle” (p. 37). The tendency to “driven-ness” in our culture and society has enabled us to enjoy unprecedented standards of living, comfort and security. However, “driven-ness” has resulted in extraordinary levels of unsatisfactoriness,  stress and other associated problems, and we can inevitably bring this tendency into our meditation practice. Within this context, the attitude of “non-striving” is best understood as not straining or forcing for a result. Loosening up expectations of our meditation practice can be both challenging and liberating.

6. Acceptance

“You have to accept yourself as you are, before you can really change” (op.cit. p. 38). This attitude is about attending to one’s experience with clarity and kindness, an essential foundation of meditation practice. Whereas a formal kindness meditation is not taught within the course material, this quality is inferred to within all the course content.

7. Letting go

“Cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness” (p. 39). The tendency to want to hold on to what is pleasant in our experience and to reject what is unpleasant, is usually an automatic response sometime known as being on autopilot. To be asked to neither hold onto, nor to reject experience, is a challenging principle of MBSR.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004 edition)Full catastrophe living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation,



The Body Scan Meditation


© 2005 Jon Kabat-Zinn Excerpted from Coming to Our Senses, Hyperion Press, NY, NY



The body scan has proven to be an extremely powerful and healing form of meditation. It forms the core of the lying down practices that people train in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It involves systematically sweeping through the body with the mind, bringing an affectionate, openhearted, interested attention to its various regions, customarily starting from the toes of the left foot and then moving through the entirety of the foot – to sole, the heel, the top of the foot – then up the left leg, including, in turn; the ankle, the shin and the calf, the knee and the kneecap, the thigh in its entirety, on the surface and deep, the groin and the left hip, then over to the toes of the right foot, the other regions of the foot, then up the right leg in the same manner as the left. From there, the focus moves into, successively, and slowly, the entirety of the pelvic region, including the hips again, the buttocks and the genitals, the lower back, the abdomen, and then the upper torso – the upper back, the chest and the ribs, the breasts, the heart and lungs and great vessels housed within the rib cage, the shoulder blades floating on the rib cage in back, all the way up to the collarbones and shoulders. From the shoulders, we move to the arms, often doing them together, starting from the tips of the fingers and thumbs and moving successively through the fingers, the palms, and backs of the hands, the wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, armpits, and shoulders again. Then we move in to the

neck and throat, and finally, the face and head…


When we practice the body scan, we are systematically and intentionally moving our attention though

the body, attending to the various sensations in the different regions. That we can attend to these

body sensations at all is quite remarkable. That we can do it at will, either impulsively or in a more

disciplined systematic way, is even more so. Without moving a muscle, we can put our mind

anywhere in the body we choose and feel and be aware of whatever sensations are present in that



Experientially, we might describe what we are doing during a body scan as tuning in or opening to those sensations, allowing ourselves to become aware of what is already unfolding, much of which we usually tune out because it is so obvious, so mundane, so familiar that we hardly know it is there, I mean here. And of course, by the same token we could say that most of the time in our lives we hardly know we are there, I mean here, experiencing the body, in the body, of the body . . . the words actually fail the essence of the experience. When we speak about it, as we’ve already observed, language itself forces us to speak of a separate I who “has” a body. We wind up sounding hopelessly dualistic…


The body scan is not for everybody, and it is not always the meditation of choice even for those

who love it. But it is extremely useful and good to know about and practice from time to time,

whatever your circumstances or condition. If you think of your body as a musical instrument, the

body scan is a way of tuning it. If you think of it as a universe, the body scan is a way to come to

know it. If you think of your body as a house, the body scan is away to throw open all the windows and doors and let the fresh air of awareness sweep it clean…


You can also scan your body much more quickly, depending on your time constraints and the situation you find yourself in. You can do a one in-breath or one out-breath body scan, or a one-, two-, five-, ten-, or twenty-minute body scan. The level of precision and detail will of course vary depending on how quickly you move through the body, but each speed has its virtues, and ultimately, it is about being in touch with the whole of your being and your body in any and every way you can, outside of time altogether…

© 2005 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses, Hyperion Press, NY, N


Physical sensations you might notice with the body scan




  • tingling
  • burning
  • pounding
  • throbbing
  • trembling
  • shooting
  • stinging 
  • cutting
  • prickly 
  • pulling 
  • burning 
  • vibrating
  • numb
  • sinking
  • light/heavy
  • tight/loose
  • airy/dense
  • clammy/dry
  • dull/sharp
  • cool/warm 
  • tense/relaxed
  • stiff/flexible 
  • soft/rough
  • shaky 
  • itchy
  • pulsing
  • achy





Emotional reactions you might notice



  • impatience/wanting to stop
  • boredom
  • enjoyment/wanting to continue
  • release
  • joy
  • sadness
  • fear
  • grief
  • pride
  • disgust 
  • surprise
  • anger 
  • frustration 
  • anticipation 
  • shame





Thoughts that may occur



  • Reviewing the past
  • Imagining the future
  • Thinking about others
  • Planning
  • Evaluating/analyzing 
  • Circular thinking
  • Wishing/hoping/
  • Labeling/cataloging
  • Judging your experience














Informal Mindfulness Exercises


1) Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine


Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, or having a shower. When you do it, totally focus on what you are doing: the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound and so on. Notice what’s happening with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, and as it hits your body as it gurgles down the hole. Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down our legs. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower screen, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upwards. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo.


When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to the shower. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.




2) Mindfulness of Domestic Chores


Pick a chore that you normally try to rush through or distract yourself from; or one for which you just ‘grit your teeth’ and try to ‘get through it’. For example: walking the dog, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, making the kids’ lunches. Aim to do this chore as a mindfulness practice. E.g., when washing dishes: notice the color and shape of the plates, the white foam of the suds, the sound of the water, the textures, the scent of the detergent, the slipperiness of soapy dishes. Notice the grip of your hand on the pots and pans, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder. If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you are doing.


Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.










Informal Practice Log (Simple Awareness) – Week 1


Each day this week, see if you can bring mindful awareness to some otherwise routine activity.  For instance, washing the dishes, waiting in line, sitting in a boring meeting, walking from the car to your office.  Remembering the raisin exercise, you could also use this as an opportunity to bring mindful awareness to eating, noting textures, smell, taste, touch, etc.  Before you go to bed each night, see if you can recall at least one example of “simple awareness”


What was the experience? 

What were you aware of WHILE doing this mindfully?

How did your body feel, in detail, during this experience?

What moods, feelings and thoughts accompanied this event?

What thoughts are in your mind NOW as you write this?

Day 1









Day 2









Day 3









Day 4









Day 5










Informal Practice Log (Pleasant Events Calendar) – Week 2


What was the experience?

Were you aware of the pleasant feelings while they were happening?

How did your body feel, in detail, during this experience?

What moods, feelings, and thoughts accompanied this event?

What thoughts are in your mind now as you write this?

Day 1









Day 2









Day 3









Day 4









Day 5










Informal Practice Log (Unpleasant Events Calendar) – Week 3


What was the experience?

Were you aware of the unpleasant feelings while they were happening?

How did your body feel, in detail, during this experience?

What moods, feelings, and thoughts accompanied this event

What thoughts and  emotions do you notice as you write this down

Day 1









Day 2









Day 3









Day 4









Day 5












Mindful Yoga

© 1990 Jon Kabat-Zinn

Excerpted from Full Catastrophe Living, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

[ see VIDEOS on website mindfulnessmeditationatjerseyshore.com)



            As you have probably gathered by now, bringing mindfulness to any activity transforms it into a kind of meditation. Mindfulness dramatically amplifies the probability that any activity in which you are engaged will result in an expansion of your perspective and of your understanding of who you are. Much of the practice is simply a remembering, a reminding yourself to be fully awake, not lost in waking sleep or enshrouded in the veils of your thinking mind… Mindful hatha yoga is the third major formal meditation technique that we practice in the stress clinic, along with the body scan and sitting meditation…

            Yoga is a Sanskrit word that literally means “yoke.” The practice of yoga is the practice of yoking together or unifying body and mind, which really means penetrating into the experience of them not being separate in the first place. You can also think of it as experiencing the unity or connectedness between the individual and the universe as a whole…

            We have already seen that posture is very important in the sitting meditation and that positioning your body in certain ways can have immediate effects on your mental and emotional state. Being aware of your body language and what it reveals about your attitudes and feelings can help you to change your attitudes and feelings just by changing your physical posture… When you practice the yoga, you should be on the lookout for the many ways, some quite subtle, in which your perspective on your body, your thoughts, and your whole sense of self can change when you adopt different postures on purpose and stay in them for a time, paying full attention from moment to moment. Practicing in this way enriches the inner work enormously and takes it far beyond the physical benefits that come naturally with the stretching and strengthening…

            This is a far cry from most exercise and aerobic classes and even many yoga classes, which only focus on what the body is doing. These approaches tend to emphasize progress. They like to push, push, push. Not much attention is paid to the art of non-doing and non-striving in exercise classes, nor to the present moment for that matter, nor to the mind…

            Work at or within your body’s limits at all times, with the intention of observing and exploring the boundary between what your body can do and where it says, “Stop for now.” Never stretch beyond this limit to the point of pain. Some discomfort is inevitable when you are working at your limits, but you will need to learn how to enter this healthy “stretching zone” slowly and mindfully so that you are nourishing your body, not damaging it as you explore your limits. In the stress clinic, the ground rule is that every individual has to consciously take responsibility for reading his or her own body’s signals while doing the yoga. This means listening carefully to what your body is telling you and honoring its messages, erring on the side of being conservative. No one can listen to your body for you.










Jon Kabat Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living






Meditations for Cultivating Wholesome States

(for others)



Loving Kindness (Metta)


May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be safe from harm.

May you be healthy and strong as you can be.

May you care for yourself easily and well.




May you be free of suffering.

I care about your suffering

May you be free of suffering

And if there is suffering, please know that I care.


Sympathetic Joy


May your happiness continue

May your happiness grow.




May you accept your experiences as they are.

May you be undisturbed by the comings and goings of all things.


(Repeat these phrases for someone you care for and for others you know or don’t know personally)






Meditations for Cultivating Wholesome States

(for yourself)



Loving Kindness (Metta)


May I be peaceful and happy.

May I be safe from harm.

May I be healthy and strong as I can be.

May I care for yourself easily and well.




May I be free of suffering.

May I care for myself in my suffering

May I be free of suffering

When I am suffering,

May I care for myself.


Sympathetic Joy


May my happiness continue

May my happiness grow.




May I accept my experiences as they are.

May I be undisturbed by the comings and goings of all things.


(Adapt these phrases to make them your own)











Kathleen BishopPh.D

Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction (MBSR)


Includes CD of guided meditation, online support, course hand-outs.


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