Clare College Cambridge

Mindfulness at Clare

Next courses for Students:

 Tuesdays 5:30pm till roughly 6:45 or 7pm from 11 October - 29 November, in person. If you would like to attend but can’t make that time please contact Rachael, address below.

To sign up:

Please email Rachael Harris,, by midnight on Saturday 8 October, telling her a bit about why you’re interested and if you have any mental health issues you think she should know about. Also email her if you have any questions about the course or about mindfulness.

Feedback from a student who has done the Clare course:

"This is my second time doing the mindfulness course at Clare. I use the meditation app, and it's great. But it doesn't allow you to discuss ideas, experiences and questions. It is by this process of sharing that mindfulness becomes something to explore, understand and internalise. Learning how to let go is a life-changing skill in our overly cerebral lives. Dr Rachael Harris is an amazing instructor, and I feel very grateful that we can so easily get involved, if we put our mind to it." 

What and why?

Uncertainty, isolation, worry about your own or others’ health, frustration, lack of motivation, difficulty focussing on work: lockdown, whether in Cambridge or at home, is tough for many of us. There’s often little we can do to change our external situation, but if we can change how we respond to it internally we can help ourselves to live through it less unhappily and more productively. In the same way that exercise helps us to look after ourselves physically, mindfulness gives us tools for looking after ourselves mentally and emotionally. As with exercise, you don’t have to be at all 'good at it' to benefit from it. It's not about ‘controlling your thoughts’ or ‘emptying your mind’, but about getting to see more clearly your cognitive and emotional processes and how they respond to what is happening, in the moment, in your experience. As you see the patterns more clearly, you can start to loosen those that cause you difficulty. 

The benefits of this approach are supported by a large body of research: the practice of mindfulness changes the structure and functioning of the brain itself, increasing happiness and quality of life, and reducing stress, anxiety and depression. 

For more on what mindfulness is and what it can do for you:

listen to the 14-minute Mental Health Foundation podcast  If you want more of a feel of how mindfulness can enrich life, you might listen to Richard Hunt’s eulogy for Jim Henson  or ‘This is water’ .


You can learn mindfulness and meditation through an online course like the Mental Health Foundation one, or through an app like Headspace or Calm, or using a course like Mindfulness: a practical guide for finding peace in a frantic world (in the FML). Doing a course in a group like the one in Clare gives you more:

  • ways of conceptualising mental processes, and strategies for dealing with unhelpful ones
  •  group discussion about how these processes affect us both in meditation and in the rest of life: in work, in relationships with others and with ourselves, and with difficult situations in general, e.g. how to cope with stress, procrastination and so on
  • a range of meditation techniques, and the opportunity to develop and deepen meditation
  • access to an experienced teacher, including a one-to-one session to answer your questions and adjust how you’re using mindfulness to suit you

We discuss processes and strategies, not the specifics of problems. This is not a therapy group.

What next?

After the course, to develop your mindfulness and meditation further, you can join an ongoing weekly group in Clare, or the CU Mindfulness Society or a range of other groups. 


Seven sessions lasting up to an hour and a quarter, plus a short one-to-one session. Some homework: a short meditation practice every day, or as often as you can manage it, some meditation exercises that can be done within other activities, e.g. while walking, and some questions to investigate in your own experience.


3-minute breathing space

10 minute breathing meditation

10 minute kindness meditation (or longer)

Other meditations

A body scan meditation: good for mindfulness in general, and especially insomnia:; and there are longer and shorter versions of a body scan on the mp3 link from

Other versions of the three-minute breathing space: and on the mp3 link from

Mindfulness of sounds and thoughts: and on the mp3 link from

A very quick and easy set of mindfulness practices:

If you want a very full DIY course that you can work through at your own pace, I'd strongly recommend Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus, 2011), which includes a CD of guided meditations. It's also in Clare library. You can find some of the meditations from the CD at

Another good eight-week DIY course is Mindfulness in eight weeks by Michael Chaskalson (Harper Thorsons, 2014). has a link to the complete set of guided meditations from the book.

Disclaimer: These resources offer only a taste of mindfulness and meditation. The experience of most people is that the support of a meditation/mindfulness teacher and membership of a group is of enormous benefit in furthering the development of their skills and understanding.

Mindfulness aids for the computer

Computer breaks: these are freely downloadable programmes which regularly remind you to take a break from the computer, good for both body and mind:



Meditation bell (for adding into a computer break)

Programmes to help you control your internet use:


General: StayFocusd on Google Chrome

If you have any questions about any of the above or about mindfulness and meditation please feel free to contact me: Rachael Harris at