Mindfulness Training

The U of I Psychology Department offers Mindfulness Training (MT) Classes throughout the year. Classes are open to the general public including the U of I community.

Classes are currently only offered online via Zoom. 

The practice of mindfulness meditation trains you to pay attention to the present moment, noting thoughts, feelings and body sensations with an attitude of interest and kindness. This non-reactive stance toward experience creates the possibility of being in life as it is and allows for working more wisely with the challenging aspects of human experience (e.g., emotional difficulties, relational difficulties, impulses, aversion, confusion, rumination, worry…). Learning to calm the mind and work with these challenges is central to acting with wisdom and compassion in the world. Be sure to read through the What You Need to Know sections below the list of current classes.

Class #1 Mindfulness Training for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (8-weeks)

  • Thursdays 2 – 3pm October 21 to Dec 16 (No class on Thanksgiving).
  • The first class Oct 21 is 15-minutes longer (2 – 3:15pm)
  • Instructor: Karen Retzer
  • Cost: $100
  • Participants should purchase Finding Peace in a Frantic World and read the preface and chapters 1 – 4 to prepare for class #1
  • Location: online via Zoom
  • To register for class click here. Registration opens 9/15
  • Be sure to read the rest of this web page below to learn more about what to expect in a mindfulness training class.

Class #2 Mindfulness Training for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (9-weeks)

  • Offered for free through the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana Champaign
  • Wednesdays 9 – 10:15am from October 20 to December 22 (No class on Nov 24).
  • This class is 75-minutes each week. In addition to the Finding Peace in a Frantic World meditations, the class will include partner meditations based on the work of Gregory Kramer.
  • Instructors: Dave Sharpe & Allyson Blackburn
  • Link to UUCUC class description and registration here

Class#3: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Training for preventing depression (8-weeks)

  • This class is intended for individuals who wish to learn how to bring mindfulness skills to the process of preventing future episodes of clinical depression.
  • Tuesdays 5:30 – 7:30pm from October 12 to Nov 30, 2021
  • Participants should purchase The Mindful Way Workbook and read the forward and chapters 1 – 4 to prepare for class #1
  • Location: online via Zoom
  • Cost: $200 (a discount is available for graduate students)
  • Instructors: Dani Kang and Marissa Sbrilli
  • Saturday Retreat 11/20 9am – 1pm
  • To register for class click here
  • Be sure to read the rest of this web page below to learn more about what to expect in a mindfulness training class.

Fees/Policies

  • No refunds will be given after the first class.
  • If a participant needs to withdraw from the class for any reason, they are welcome to repeat the entire class series within the next two years.
  • If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Christopher Menard cmenard@illinois.edu

To receive an email alert for future classes, click here.

Note: The Saturday Retreat is an invitation to step out of the doing-mode of mind and into the being-mode of mind for an extended period. Participants are asked to engage in a functional silence for most of this class to facilitate a deepening of their practice, while instructors verbally guide the sitting, walking, stretching, and interpersonal mindfulness exercises.

Contemporary mindfulness training originated in 1979 with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and was further developed in the 1990s by psychologists (Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale) with Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  MBSR and MBCT have both undergone extensive research demonstrating increases in well-being, reductions in rumination, reductions in stress, reductions in anxiety and depression and improvements with medical conditions. MBCT is recommended in England by the national health services as a front line treatment for preventing depression. Multiple randomized controlled trials have shown that MBCT is as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing relapses of major depression.

Mindfulness Training: What You Need to Know

MBSR and MBCT are the foundation of the Mindfulness Training (MT) offered by U of I instructors. MT classes consist of weekly in-person or online Zoom classes and participants are expected to practice with MP3 audios between the classes to build their mindfulness muscles. In addition, students are encouraged to read between the classes to support conceptual understanding. In each class, participants learn to cultivate calm and they learn how to work with resistance and common obstacles to practice.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICING BETWEEN CLASSES

Regardless of each person’s motivations for learning mindfulness, one can only expect to see results if they put the time and effort into practice. Practice can sometimes seem boring. Sometimes we become frustrated with the busyness of our minds. Sometimes we feel too tired. Sometimes we think that we don’t know how to practice mindfulness. Facing these and other obstacles is essential when embarking on a journey to cultivate mindfulness.

We appreciate how it is often very difficult to carve out time for something new in lives that are already very busy and crowded. However, the commitment to spend time on home practice is an essential part of the class; if you do not feel able to make that commitment, it would be best not to start the classes and wait until you are able to set aside time for practice.

FACING DIFFICULTIES

The classes and the home practice assignments can teach you how to be more fully aware and present in each moment of life. On one hand, this makes life more interesting, vivid and fulfilling. On the other hand, this means facing what is present, even when it is unpleasant and difficult. In practice, you will find that turning to face and acknowledge difficulties is the most effective way, in the long run, to reduce unhappiness, to increase one’s capacity to work skillfully with stressful situations and to prevent depression. Seeing unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or experiences clearly, as they arise, means that you will be in much better shape to “nip them in the bud,” before they progress to more intense or persistent low moods.

PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE

Because we will be working to change well-established habits of mind, you will be putting in a lot of time and effort. The effects of this effort may become apparent only later. In many ways, it is much like gardening – we have to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, ensure that they are adequately watered and nourished, and then wait patiently for results. Building a mindfulness practice can also be equated with an exercise regimen, in that only after regular daily work-outs are the health benefits realized.

We ask you to approach the classes and home practice with a spirit of patience and persistence, committing yourself to put time and effort into the practice, while accepting, with patience, that the fruits of your efforts may not show straight away.

Over the weeks of the MT program, the practices help you:

  • To become more present in your physical body as opposed to being lost in thought, stuck in rumination about some past event, daydreaming/fantasizing about some imagined future, or actively avoiding aspects of life.
  • To become familiar with the workings of your mind.
  • To notice the times when you are at risk of getting caught in old habits of mind that re-activate downward mood spirals.
  • To explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being.
  • To put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
  • To notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head.
  • To be kind to yourself instead of wishing things (and you) were different all the time.
  • To be kind to yourself as opposed to being lost in striving and driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
  • To accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself.

While Mindfulness Training is not counseling or psychotherapy, old or latent psychological wounds, emotions, beliefs, and mental health issues can sometimes arise while practicing mindfulness. If help is needed with these issues, contact Dr. Christopher Menard or another mental health professional for support.

Mindfulness Training is not a substitute for medication or other treatments for physical/mental health concerns. While MT is not intended as a treatment for current clinical depression, anxiety, and other acute health concerns, research has shown that mindfulness training can prevent recurrent depression, builds resilience, and helps individuals cope with the psychological challenges of work, relationships, stress, and illness.

Mindfulness Training focuses on developing the skills of mindfulness such as learning to step out of the doing mode of mind and into the being mode of mind, learning to understand and accept the wandering mind, as well as learning to develop the capacity to kindly bring attention to and observe body sensations, thoughts, and emotions so that we can foster well-being for ourselves and our relationships.

Christopher Menard, PsyD and clinical-community psychology department doctoral students teach the Mindfulness Training (MT) classes.   In addition, Dr. Menard offers a Mindfulness Instructor Training for local teachers (Mindful Teacher Foundation), therapists, clergy, and university faculty/staff/grad students interested in bringing mindfulness into the classroom and other professional settings.