Essential Mindfulness Training

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. I am worried that I can’t find the time to practice every day. What happens if I just come to the classes and don’t do the homework?

The daily practice is very important. Although we have had students who rarely did the homework and told us they benefitted enormously from the classes, we are confident that continuing benefit depends on regular practice. We have helped even the busiest people (including us!) find the time. We have many creative suggestions, and Rob, the instructor, will work with you individually on this issue.

2. I’ll need to miss a class or two. Is that okay?

Missing one class is not a problem as long as you tell Rob in advance. If you think you’ll need to miss two, please let me know prior to the course by emailing

3. I can make the class but not the day-long retreat. Is that okay?

The day-long is very important for many reasons and I urge you to make every possible effort to attend. If you simply can’t, however, I will still welcome you to the class.

4. I’m nervous about the idea of a whole day of meditating! I don’t know if I can make it.

The best we can offer is this: we were also nervous before our first day-long, and we’ve had lots of very doubtful students. All of us made it, and were glad we did it. It’s actually much easier than you think, especially after 6 weeks of practice. It is qualitatively different from brief daily practice, and an opportunity for powerful experiences and insights that would not otherwise arise.

5. Is EMT Buddhist? Are you Buddhists? Are there any religious rituals?

No doubt about it, EMT (like many contemporary mindfulness programs) draws heavily on Buddhist contemplative practices. However, these practices are common to many other traditions, both religious and secular, and have no “belief” component. As for us, we have both studied and found great comfort in Buddhist practices, philosophy, and traditions. Catherine identifies as Buddhist, Rob identifies as “Buddhish.” But what I (Rob) teach and how I teach is practical, experienced-based, and does not require you to adopt any belief, or question your own religious beliefs.

In the yoga component of EMT, we draw on the foundational practices of the Ashtanga Vinyasa system of Hatha yoga, but do not use any kind of chanting or other devotional practices.

6. I have a physical problem that I think will prevent me from doing yoga or sitting on the floor.

I can work with you. The yoga poses we teach are very gentle and can be done by anyone who is relatively healthy and uninjured – and can be modified for you if you are injured or otherwise have limited mobility. 

Please email Dr. Riddell in advance if you have concerns about injuries, etc. Feel free to email with your particular concerns at As for sitting on the floor, it is not necessary. We provide chairs. We have had several students use a chair throughout the class.

7. Will I have to talk or share personal information in the group?

Not really. At the first class, I will ask each of you to say your name and what you hope to gain from the class. There will be one or two brief interactive exercises at some point, but it is up to you what you choose to share. I will also invite comments and questions about the practices at each class, from whoever wishes to speak. However, because I am focused on skills, we will discourage participants from directly addressing each other with advice, etc., and limit personal sharing. Most of each class will be silent or feature only instruction.

EMT is not a “process” group, nor is it psychotherapy. I am happy to help with individual questions informally after class.

8. Do the benefits of EMT last beyond the eight weeks?

Yes. However, just like physical exercise or any other practice, you need to keep it up to really continue to get the benefits. I will help you with this.

9. I have heard of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and it sounds a lot like EMT. How is EMT different?

MBSR is a wonderful, time-tested program that we hold in the highest regard. However, while we use the format of MBSR – weekly class, a day of intensive practice, required daily practice – the content of EMT is quite different.

In EMT, the course is structured using: hatha yoga practices of internal and external body awareness from the Ashtanga Vinyasa system, including breathing exercises; practices for cultivating compassion for oneself and others; intention and committed action practices from contemplative traditions as well as mindfulness-based psychotherapies; mindful practices for daily living; and traditional contemplative practices such as sitting and walking meditation.

To be clear, EMT is not an MBSR program; those seeking MBSR should consult local hospitals or search the web.