FAQ: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Special thanks to the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic for originating the questions and answers listed below.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the quality of attention we bring to the events in our lives. It is the process of bringing our awareness to what we are doing at the time we are doing it. It is purposely being engaged in our actions, feelings, physical sensations, and thoughts.

Is this a religious program?

No. The practice of mindfulness has its origins in ancient Eastern traditions. However, mindfulness is currently widely practiced outside the structure of any religion. The ability to develop calm and focused attention as well as cultivate deeper and broader present moment awareness (mindfulness) have great value in and of themselves.

Is there scientific evidence for this program?

This program is being conducted in hospitals around the world with success among many populations, including people suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and work stress. Studies published in medical and scientific journals show mindfulness-based programs are beneficial to oneÂ’s health and well-being.

Do I need prior meditation experience?

Experience with meditation is not necessary. Beginners are welcome.

How is this going to help the physical symptoms I am experiencing?

Often when we experience a symptom, we tighten mentally or physically around it hoping we can diminish its intensity. Usually this effort only increases tension and our reactions become erratic or our perceptions clouded by negative emotions. Mindfulness allows us to be present to what is actually happening and to lift the fog of our expectations, ruminations, and judgmental self-statements.

If I’m on medication, should I continue to take it? Will I be able to stop medication after the course?

Maintain your medication schedule as prescribed. Never make any medication changes without consulting your physician. Our programs are designed to develop skills that will allow you to make healthy decisions for yourself. The decision to adjust or stop your medication requires a clear understanding of your needs; an understanding which only develops over time. In the course, you will be facing many changes in your stance towards your symptoms. It is best to allow these stances to consolidate and be confirmed before making other changes.

What should I bring to the course?

  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Bring a notepad and pencil/pen
  • Bring an attitude of curiosity and commitment to caring for yourself

Benefits of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

  • increased awareness and concentration
  • a quieter mind
  • a sense of balance and enhanced wellbeing
  • learning new ways to cope more effectively with your difficulties, pain or suffering
  • learning to take better care of yourself

Risks of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction


  • The primary physical risk is connected to practicing mindful movement.
  • Taking care of oneself is at the core of practicing mindfulness.
  • If you hear guided instruction that you know is not healthy for your body or condition, or if you are feeling pain, please disregard the teacher and either modify the pose or rest and imagine doing the pose.
  • Explore your limits; carefully approach your own edge but not beyond.
  • Because mindful movement will be used to teach mindfulness of the body, being aware of the body from moment to moment is more important in the class than in other types of body practices where proper form is emphasized.
  • The teacher can help you make modifications.


  • Feelings of sadness, anger, fear or anxiety, could seem stronger at the beginning because you may be paying attention in a conscious way for the first time.
  • A history of trauma, abuse, addiction to substances, or suicidality may heighten these reactions.  Please call or email your instructor right away if this is true for you, and together you can determine whether this is a good time to take the class.
  • You may find that you make discoveries about yourself that you may not like.
  • You may be challenged and find yourself facing the unknown.


  • It may be a challenge to set aside the space and time to do this practice, so it’s important to request support from your family and friends.
  • You may find that you change patterns of reactivity, behavior and communication, and your family and/or friends may not like these changes.
  • You may find that your relationships change.


  • Finding time to make a new habit of mindfulness practice can be challenging: it’s normal to have the idea that there is not enough time to practice.  We sometimes find, counter-intuitively, that setting aside time for practice increases the sense of spaciousness in the rest of the day.