What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a quality of alert, open awareness. In contrast to a multitasking mind, mindfulness is a state of mind that has the ability to pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment.

Mindfulness meditation is one of a variety of meditation practices that trains the mind through a conscious and deliberate focus on the breath, a bodily sensation, a sound or a word. Meditation steadies the mind so we can see with greater clarity how things actually are.

Benefits of meditation include increases in concentration, productivity, physical and psychological resilience and the ability to respond skillfully to stressful situations. Meditation is also effective in decreasing depression, physical pain, emotional reactivity, and the reliance on unhealthy coping behaviors.

Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness at Work is a series of courses and programs that range from one-hour introductions to in-depth multi-week long courses to topic-focused sessions to managers-only programs. Available for free to benefits-eligible faculty and staff, these courses and programs are designed to bring the benefits of mindfulness to people in all corners of the university.

Mindfulness at Work Programs:

NEW: Mindful Eating
How often do we go to the market and end up purchasing groceries we did not intend to purchase? Plan to eat healthfully but find that we did not? Look in our refrigerator for a snack to meet an emotional need? Completely miss the taste and nourishment of a special meal because distracting thoughts carried us away from the moment? These all-too-common experiences happen to us when we feel distanced from our bodies, our thoughts, and our emotions.

This free (and just-in-time for the holidays) session is available to all benefit eligible faculty and staff.  It will delve into how a consistent practice of mindfulness can help us close those gaps, and furthermore help us manage the unconscious, reactive habits that build up around food. As a result, we will learn to become more aware of when we are truly hungry, when we are not, and when we are sated. We will learn to better appreciate all aspects of our relationship with food, from purchasing to consuming, and from nourishing ourselves to connecting with others. These sessions have concluded.  Check back often for additional dates and times. 

NEW: Mindful Strategies for Cyber Security

Have you ever had the sinking feeling that you may have been hacked after clicking on a suspicious link in an email? Applying mindfulness can help protect you—and Harvard—from clicking impulsively on links in phishing emails. Come learn about the state of mind that’s most easily exploited by hackers and how mindfulness can help you defend against it. Through cyber safety tips and brief meditation practices, participants will learn simple techniques to help manage the distractions and intrusive threats that creep into their day to day work – and to regulate their state of mind to remain focused, creative and resilient for the long run. These sessions have concluded. Check back often for additional dates and times. 

New: Mindful Movement: Yoga for the Office

As every office worker knows, sitting for long periods can result in stiffness and discomfort. The gentle stretches and postures taught in this program are designed to increase flexibility at the joints – thereby improving one’s range of motion – and also aid in relaxing the hips and lower portions of the body to increase one’s ability to sit with ease. Because this practice blends movement in the body with the breath, it is an ideal extension of mindfulness practice.  No previous knowledge of yoga is necessary. This class does not require special clothing or equipment Location: 114 Mt. Auburn St., Audience: Beginners – all, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes, Cost: Free, Click here for a link to register for the course. 

New: Mindful Parenting

Bringing mindful attention to our skills as parents increases our capacity to form strong bonds with all the members of our family. This is because the practice of mindfulness cultivates the conditions of openness and receptivity in which communication and emotional connection naturally flourish. In this workshop, we will learn about becoming more mindful people as well as more mindful parents, able to navigate the inevitable waves of joy and frustration that accompany every parent’s experience with a greater sense of ease. Location: 114 Mt. Auburn St., Audience: Beginners – all, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes. Cost: Free, Click here for a link to register for the course. 

New: Mindfulness 2.0 – Deeping Practice

Individuals who have previously participated in the multi-week mindfulness course or many of the individual applied mindfulness courses, and who are now looking to expand their understanding of the principles and practices of mindfulness even further, are a perfect fit for this free four-week course, which emphasizes practice and delving into students’ questions. In Mindfulness 2.0 a greater weight is placed on integrating a range of mindful practices into the fabric of daily life, and to examining how those practices can work together to provide insight into how an individual relates to themselves and the world around them. Mindfulness 2.0 is specifically driven by student inquiry, so its content is always personalized to the specific interests and concerns of the group. Aside from sitting meditation, movement practices, and mindful communication, material that will be covered includes the compassion practice known as loving-kindness meditation and probing the common challenges to engaging in mindfulness that every practitioner faces, at one time or another. Mindfulness 2.0 is ideal for individuals who are looking to re-start their lapsed mindfulness practice, or who are looking for ways to take their regular practice to the next level. Class is limited to 25 participants. Location: 114 Mt. Auburn St., Audience: Experienced practitioners, Pre-Requisite: Some mindfulness training, Length: (4) one-hour sessions, Cost: Free, Click here for a link to register for the course.  

New: Mindfulness Retreat for Experienced Practitioners

Individuals who have established a regular meditation practice recognize that having the opportunity to practice for a sustained period of time, in a location generally removed from distractions, and with other like-minded individuals, is essential to deepening one’s practice and understanding of mindfulness. Modeled after the programs offered at established retreat centers such as the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, our half-day retreats offer participants sustained periods of practice in a variety of meditation styles, such as the body scan; sitting and walking meditation; gentle yoga; and compassion-based practices. During the majority of the retreat, participants will be asked to practice in silence, and not interact with one another, so as to maintain each participant’s ability to focus on their own experience. The instructor, however, will offer guidance throughout, and will also reserve ample time at the end of the program to field questions. While it is recommended that only experienced practitioners attend these retreats, we will begin with a refresher on mindfulness in general, so that everyone begins on the same page. (Please note, however, that individuals who have developed practices which happen to have lapsed need not hesitate to register!) Participants do not need to wear special clothing but should dress comfortably. If participants have personal “equipment” which they like to use at home—e.g. meditation cushions or benches—they should be encouraged to bring it. While no “floor yoga” guidance will be provided, if participants would like to bring in a yoga mat to facilitate the practices which will be offered, this is perfectly fine. Location: 114 Mt. Auburn St., Audience: Experienced practitioners, Pre-Requisite: Some mindfulness training, Length: 3 hours, Cost: Free, Click here for a link to register for the course.

Introduction to Mindfulness: How the Science and Practice of Awareness Supports Well-Being and Performance
This free program introduces the basic principles and practices of mindfulness, a concentrated state of awareness that helps people see and respond to situations with clarity. Individuals who employ the techniques of mindfulness in their work are able to monitor moment-to-moment effectiveness, respond promptly and appropriately to difficulties as they arise, and remain open to new ideas and perspectives. Participants will be introduced to meditation practices that will teach them how to be more focused, creative and resilient in all aspects of their lives. Audience: Beginners – all, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 60 minutes. Cost: Free, Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Managing Daily Stresses: A Mindful Approach to Work
Everyone experiences stressful days at work, but how we respond to stress makes a significant difference in work performance, the quality of our interactions, and how we feel both physically and mentally. In this free program, participants are taught to recognize the early signs of stress as well as the sources of stress. In addition, they will learn how regular mindfulness practice can enable them to respond to stressful situations in a calm, clear, and thoughtful manner. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes. Cost: Free. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Mindful Communication: Speaking and Listening with Awareness
The conversations we engage in daily can become automatic, pressured, and careless. With the right mindset, however, even ordinary interactions can become rich territory for effectively expressing our deepest values. This free program demonstrates how conversation provides an opportunity to practice a special kind of attentiveness, transforming our encounters with colleagues into meaningful moments of genuine exchange. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Mindfulness and Anxiety
To feel occasional anxiety is a natural human experience, but for many anxiety can become a source of ongoing distress, capable of interfering with everyday life. Many of our efforts to avoid anxiety may involve distracting ourselves from it, or pushing it away, but this provides only temporary relief. Mindfulness, on the other hand, offers a pathway to meet the experience of anxiety, and in doing so, restore valued activity, rather than allowing ourselves to be dominated by fear and avoidance. This free workshop will introduce the use of mindfulness as a way to understand and respond to the experience of anxiety. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Mindfulness and Compassion
Compassion is sometime described as the state of “suffering together”; but what does it mean to suffer productively, without becoming overwhelmed or burnt out in the face of the needs of others…and ourselves? Mindfulness practice is focused on observing internal and external experience with a heightened sense of clarity, and is an essential element in preparing the heart and intellect to navigate the demands of compassion in sincere and effective ways. In this free workshop we will explore compassion as it is regarded in the mindfulness tradition, as a “quivering of the heart in the face of suffering,” and furthermore study how this prepares us to lend support to ourselves and those around us. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 90 minutes. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Exploring the Practice of Mindfulness
This free multi-week course offers close study in a variety of mindfulness-based topics, including basic practices like the body scan and sitting meditation, as well as walking meditation, gentle stretching, and mindful communication. The physiology of the stress response is examined, especially in relation to the ways mindfulness practice enables individuals to become aware of and mediate their reactions to stressful situations. By the time the course ends, participants will feel prepared to practically integrate a variety of mindfulness practices into their daily lives, thanks to both in-class instruction and resources for continuing study to which they will be directed.

While individuals who have taken mindfulness classes in the past are most likely to be interested in committing to a multi-week course, this course is open to anyone who is interested, regardless of previous knowledge of mindfulness. The basic concepts of mindfulness practice are always included, as these concepts are valuable both for newcomers and also as a refresher for seasoned practitioners. All participants must be able to commit to attending all the sessions. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 7 hours, 6 weeks (1st & 6th sessions, 90 minutes; 2nd-5th sessions, 60 minutes). Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

10% Happier
This free multi-session course will provide participants with the opportunity to learn about mindfulness and build their own personal practices using a combination of live and app-based supports.

The app is 10% Happier, a best-in-class program hosted by best-selling author, ABC news personality, and self-described “fidgety skeptic” Dan Harris, alongside Joseph Goldstein, one of the most renowned meditation teachers in the world. Live instruction is provided by teachers from Harvard Pilgrim’s Mind the Moment mindfulness program, which has been training individuals to incorporate mindfulness into their personal and professional lives for over 10 years.

The course is built around three, one-hour, in-person sessions featuring a Mind the Moment instructor. Between these in-person sessions, participants will complete the fourteen-part 10% Happier series on their mobile devices. A mindfulness coach will also be available to participants by text or by phone, to answer additional questions that may arise between the in-person sessions.

This course will have special appeal for individuals or groups who prefer a more self-directed approach to learning, and who may require more flexibility in terms of the amount of time they are able to commit. Additionally, those who have studied mindfulness in the past but whose practices have lapsed--or who are simply looking for a new take on the material—will find this a course to be an attractive option. Includes unlimited access to the 10% Happier app for a four-month period. All participants must be able to commit to attending all the sessions. Audience: All, Pre-Requisite: None, Length: 3 hours, 3 weeks, Participation Maximum: 25. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

This is a unique training opportunity designed to teach techniques of mindfulness to managers (grade 56 and above) for use in their daily work. This free eight-week, classroom-based program provides mobile tools, guided meditations, small group support and weekly reminders to participants as they learn to practice meditation and other techniques to enhance focus, collaboration, and effectiveness. Pre- and post- attentional assessments, app-generated metrics and personalized reports will demonstrate participants’ progress and the impact of the program as a whole.

Participants will attend weekly classroom sessions. In addition, participants should plan for 10 minutes a day of meditation practice. Participants will be assigned weekly theme-based applications of mindfulness activities to use in the workplace as real-life situations emerge naturally throughout the day. At the first and final sessions, individual attention and more will be measured using validated instruments, which will generate a confidential personalized report. All participants must be able to commit to attending all the sessions. Audience: Managers grade 56 and above, Pre-Requisite: Any one of the Mindfulness programs offered, or a current practitioner of Mindfulness, Length: 13 hours, 8 weeks (1st & 8th, 2 hours; 2nd-5th, 90 minutes) Participation Maximum: 25. Click here for dates, times, location and a link to register for the course.

Mindfulness in the Harvard Community

Mindfulness and Meditation Resources Available at the University:

  • Harvard’s Center for Wellness and Health Promotion offers classes and workshops on meditation, yoga and more.
  • The Serenity Room offers drop-in meditation sessions open to members of the Harvard community
  • Guided Meditation Line, 4-CALM. This Harvard telephone line (617-384-2256) provides three- and four-minute guided meditations for you to access anytime, anywhere.