As human beings, we often find it challenging to stay in the present moment. Our minds tend to either think about the past or future. Thoughts that enter our stream of thinking can be worrying, dwelling on negatives, planning, reflecting on memories, regrets, imaginary arguments and so on.
In the process, we end up missing out on being in the here and now – where life happens! Mindfulness means staying in the present moment with kind awareness of what is happening in our mind, emotions, and body. In doing so, we have opportunities to be in a healthier relationship with the pain and joy in our lives. This also helps us make better choices in dealing with the challenges that come up instead of being in the “auto pilot” pattern of reactivity -which often leads us to feeling out of control and hopeless.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program is a highly respected program within the medical community for dealing with stress, pain, illness, and the demands of daily life. It was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – Division of Preventative and Behavioral Medicine. MBSR is not an alternative to traditional or psychological treatments but is a complement to those approaches.
The MBSR program has benefited people with a variety of conditions and concerns:
Stress – Stress in modern life has permeated our lives. Stress can be related to work, school, family, relationships, financial matters, illness, aging, grief, uncertainty about the future, and changes in life.
Medical conditions – Research has demonstrated that people with various medical conditions, such as GI distress, high blood pressure, chronic pain and illness, cancer, heart disease, asthma, and many others, benefit from MBSR.
Psychological distress – MBSR has been shown to be effective in dealing with anxiety, panic, depression, fatigue, grief, and sleep disturbance to mention a few.
Prevention and wellness – this includes health enhancement and learning “how” to take care of yourself and gain a greater sense of balance.
Participants in this eight week program meet for two and a half hours once a week, and there is a one all-day session (on the weekend).
The program is participatory, supportive, and structured. This program provides you with:
Since their inception in 1979, MBSR programs have been well researched, indicating the various benefits of training people to more effectively deal with stress, pain, illness, and the pressures and demands of everyday life.
As reported by the Center for Mindfulness in the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the research “has shown consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstration of major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses, including chronic pain conditions, over the eight weeks of the MBSR program. Maintenance of these changes continue, in some cases, for up to four years of follow up”.
For more information on the latest MBSR research, visit www.umassmed.edu/cfm and click “research”
With advances in neuroscience, scientist are now able to investigate structural changes in the brain resulting from meditation.
Neuroscientists refer to such changes as brain neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change its structure in response to certain experiences.
Studies have shown that even after eight weeks of mindfulness practices from the MBSR program, the brain actually rewires itself to respond differently to stressful situations. Particularly, studies have shown changes in brain regions that correspond to enhanced attention, emotional stability, learning, and life satisfaction. At the same time they have found reduction in regions in the brain that correspond to stress, worry, and depression.
I was first introduced to meditation through my martial arts training as a teenager back in the early 1990s. My interest in meditation was then revitalized in 2004 after experiencing some life challenges.
This meditation journey led me to complete all the rigorous training to become a Certified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher with the Center for Mindfulness (CFM) – University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School.
One of the training courses that I completed was with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the MBSR program. I then become an MBSR Trainer with CFM UMass and also for the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, teaching MBSR retreats/trainings.
I also completed an intensive six-month meditation retreat in silence at a forest monastery in Southeast Asia. Meditating 13 hours a day (minimum) and in seclusion from the outside world. This experience deepened my understanding of MBSR and solidified my passion for meditation. It also led me to present about mindfulness at a TEDx event.