MBSR Curriculum

MBSR Curriculum Outline

Discover what you'll learn week by week.

Complimentary Orientation:  Is MBSR for you?

The 8-week program includes a required Orientation that introduces participants to the secular practice of mindfulness, describes the science behind mindfulness, and offers recent scientific findings to highlight how the program can support a wide-range of challenges, medical and psychological conditions, fostering well-being and resilience. Additionally, logistics and expectations are reviewed, and participants complete an intake form that is reviewed by the teacher. 

Session 1:  There is more right with you than wrong with you

This is a basic, foundational stance the program provides, encouraging all that is right within us, including the innate qualities of awareness, courage, and energy that mindfulness practice cultivates. The group learning context is established, as well as review of the working definition of mindfulness. Mindful eating, focused attention, and the body scan meditation practices are introduced, and the aliveness of the mind-body connection is explored. 

Session 2:  The role of perception

Through practice followed by interactive dialogue and learning activities, we invite examination of perceptions, assumptions, and how we see our lives and the world. Included is the exploration of creative responding, how we perceive, take in information, and what we do with it. The practice of the body scan and mindful movement continues. 

Session 3:  There is power and pleasure in being present

In this session, we integrate a range of mindfulness meditation practices including a mindful movement sequence of lying down yoga (with chair adaptations for those for whom lying down on the floor is not accessible) and sitting practice. Walking meditation may also be introduced. Daily practice with the recordings has been going on for two weeks, and there is time to ask questions, share learning and discoveries, and talk about how it is to make time for this new habit–including the challenges of doing that. Another theme for session 3 is exploring “pleasant experiences,” and how these are received in one’s thoughts, emotions, and sensations. 

Session 4:  Bringing awareness to the patterns of automatic, habitual stress reactivity

After three weeks of daily mindfulness practice, participants often report a greater awareness of all experiences: pleasant, unpleasant, and everything in between. Curiosity and openness are being cultivated through practice, which begins to show up not just in meditation–but also in ordinary moments of life. In this class, we identify the physiology and psychology of fight, flight, or freeze and investigate personal patterns in relation to stress. 

Session 5:  Mindfulness-mediated stress response

From participants’ direct experience with practice and becoming aware of reactivity in one’s life, mindfulness strategies are illuminated to respond in skillful ways that are more aligned with personal values and intentions. Exploration continues in how mindfulness can interrupt patterns around being stuck, and maladaptive coping, through continued focus on the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise, moment by moment. 

All-Day Session:  A day of practice    (All-day session may be after Session 5 or Session 6)

This day takes place generally between weeks five and six. With skillful guidance by teachers, participants are led through the mindfulness practices learned thus far in the course, along with a few new options. This day offers participants the opportunity to see their lives closely and freshly, through the lens of practice and the qualities that come along with it, including kindness, curiosity and interest, self-sovereignty, and choice. Without the usual demands and distractions, possibilities, insights, and new perceptions may arise. 

Session 6:  Mindfulness and communication

This session continues the learning from the all-day session, illuminating discoveries and also challenges. In addition, we turn towards interpersonal relating (in person, electronically, through social media), and explore how we might bring mindful presence, creative responding, and navigating strong emotions (one’s own and others) to the ongoing life practice of relating. We can relate this to resilience or stress hardiness–the ability to recalibrate when we realize we are stressed. We also come to know that this is normal. The expectation is not that we will always be calm, but that we know what to do and how to care for ourselves when we realize we are in the midst of reactivity. 

Session 7:  Mindfulness in everyday life

By session seven, consistent, daily mindfulness practice has revealed many surprises and discoveries: More focus, less judgment, faster recovery from stressful situations, the ability to speak up for oneself and to respond to one’s needs more effectively–to name a few. Along with the establishment of a regular, daily mindfulness practice, the class explores how to bring mindfulness “off the cushion” and into one’s life as an ongoing “habit,” of mind, body, and heart. 

Session 8:  The rest of your life...

In this final session, we come full circle, practicing several of the mindfulness meditations that have been learned, reviewing course highlights, and setting new intentions for keeping up the momentum from the prior weeks. In addition, together, we celebrate the challenges overcome and the learning accomplished. While acknowledging the program’s end, we also celebrate how each person will carry the practice forward in the unique and supportive ways they choose.