COVID-19 is disrupting lives and causing huge stress and hardship for many. The necessary measures to contain the extremely contagious virus are increasing isolation and exacerbating existing mental health issues for lots of people.
Mindfulness can be a helpful way to reduce anxiety and stress. There’s lots of evidence that it works. Though, like most things it takes practice. If you find you have more time on your hands as a result of the lockdown, perhaps this is a good time to practice?
There’s been a proliferation of free online mindfulness courses and one-off sessions to help people cope with the new restrictions. For newcomers to mindfulness it may be difficult to know which sessions to choose. I have compiled a few (below) from well-respected mindfulness institutions and teachers.
Choose, schedule and prepare
Once you have chosen a mindfulness course or session to try, I suggest you do the following to help you prepare:
- Commit the time. Whether it is a live or pre-recorded session note how long it is beforehand, plan it into your schedule and commit that time to it.
- Let others know. Let other people in your household know that they shouldn’t disturb you during the session. Perhaps stick a reminder note to the outside of your door.
- Remove distractions. Silence your phone and turn off audible notifications. Shut down your computer and other devices. If you are using your computer to access the session, close all other applications.
- Get comfortable. Find a chair or cushions on a soft mat, where you can sit in an upright and comfortable position. If possible, try out a position where your back can be self-supporting.
The Oxford Mindfulness Centre has started weekly meditation sessions on Wednesdays at 7pm for one hour. The sessions include a meditation and discussion afterwards. It is for beginners and more advanced meditators alike. The topics are shared in advance, and a podcast of the meditation is available afterwards.
The podcast of the sessions will be available afterwards at the bottom of the page.
The Mindfulness Network is a UK organisation that coordinates supervisors for teachers, organises retreats and teacher training. They have organised live online sessions with some of the UK’s leading mindfulness teachers at different days and times throughout April. The 40-minute sessions consist of:
- 15 – 20-minute practice
- 5 – 10-minute teaching
- A short final practice
Jon Kabat-Zinn leads these one-hour sessions all this week at 7pm. Jon Kabat-Zinn is an author, professor and teacher credited with mainstreaming mindfulness in the West. He created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, the first eight-week mindfulness programme proven to improve health. The podcasts will be available online after the programmes have aired.
Leading mindfulness experts, authors and teachers Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield have made a half-day retreat available online. The session is three-hours in total and is part of an online course they run. It includes teaching, sitting meditations and mindful walking. The meditations are around twenty minutes.
The half-day retreat may be impractical for you especially if you are living with others who need your attention. Also, if you have never done a retreat or an extended period of meditation you might find this a bit long. However, if you would like a longer period of calm and peace this may be for you. I’ve done it and loved it.