What is Mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is cultivating awareness of the mind and body and living in the here and now with out discrimination. Historically rooted in ancient Buddhist meditative disciplines, it's also universal and anyone can benefit from the practice. Today, mindfulness has expanded beyond its spiritual roots and even beyond psychology and mental and emotional well-being. People all over the world are experiencing improved quality of life by taking an active role in understanding the nature of their own mind-body connection. Progressive physicians are prescribing training in mindfulness practice to help people deal with stress, pain and illness. Mindfulness has hit the mainstream and is widely accepted in the West. Recently, catching the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who invited Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn to her program.
In the Buddhist classic What the Buddha Taught, by Dr. Walpola Rahula states, "Mindfulness is simply observing, watching, examining. You are not a judge but a scientist." (1974, 73). Everyone can apply this approach. Some of the greatest benefits of mindfulness come from examining your mental processes in this way, observing them dispassionately, as a scientist would. This allows for great insight into habitual ways of thinking. It has a profound power to alleviate stress and suffering." (Adapted from A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook; Stahl, Goldstein)
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center defines mindfulness as, "The awareness that arises by paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. There has to be an intention to pay attention in the present moment. Because it is the only moment we truly have. When you hear the word mindfulness, you have to understand that it is presence of heart."
Although there are many definitions for mindfulness. It is centuries-old wisdom steeped in the belief that we all have the inherent capacity to live happy, peaceful lives, no matter what our past or current circumstances may be. And now, scientific studies are supporting this belief.
"The challenge of mindfulness is to realize that this is it. Right now is my life. The question is, what is my relationship to it going to be? Does my life just automatically happen to me? Am I a total prisoner of my life circumstance or obligations? Of my body? Of my illness? Or of my history?" ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?
The MBSR program is highly respected within the medical community. It is a 8-week, 9-session curriculum that is well-defined, systematic and has been taught for over 35 years. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD., conceived the MBSR 8 week program through years of practice in meditation and yoga. At first, he worked closely with Dr. Saki Santorelli, Ed. MA, to create a program for patients in chronic pain, undergoing intensive cancer treatments, AIDS and other serious illnesses. The circle has widened over the last 3 decades to include thousands of people dealing with the daily stress and pressures of living in the 21st century.
The MBSR course is embedded within the context of Mind/Body and Integrative Medicine. It is the most scientifically tested program of its kind in the world. The curriculum focuses on the experiential cultivation of both "formal" and "informal" mindfulness practices as a foundation for the growth of positive health behaviors and psychological and emotional resilience that can be effectively used for a life time.
Clinical research indicates that a majority of people who complete this program report a greater ability to cope more effectively with short and long term stressful situations, an increased ability to relax, lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms, reduction in pain levels and most importantly a greater energy and enthusiasm for life. MBSR gives you the opportunity to experience your inherent reserves of inner strength, find your voice, and to be in relationship with all that is clearly important for you in your life now. Mindfulness is simple. But it is not easy. It is a practice that requires dedication and compassion.
MBSR is an experiential adult learning program. Although the program is challenging, it can also be an insightful and empowering adventure. For nearly 40 years, more than 30,000 people have completed the 8-week program at The Center for Mindfulness alone, and over 700 hospitals, universities, and corporations worldwide are offering MBSR in their communities.
Mindfulness is a skill you develop. You will notice where your thoughts take you, and what associated emotions, and actual physical sensations you are experiencing while engaged in thought. More choices and a sense of grounded self-control evolve thru awareness of what is actually going on in the moment. It can help you feel more connected and to respond to situations rather than react to them. By understanding your own direct experience of the interplay between the mind and the body- tools for taking better care of yourself grow- allowing for access to greater resources for coping, growing, and healing.
MBSR is an immersion intensive into the study of Mindfulness meditation. You will come together for 8 weekly classes and one All-Day Retreat on either a Saturday or Sunday. You will learn in a supportive environment with a professionally trained MBSR teacher. MBSR is an approach that combines several meditation practices, dialogue, reflective inquiry, and mindful yoga and movement. It is a highly participatory class where you will be encouraged as a group to share your experiences of the practices. You may also choose not to share if it is difficult for you at times in a group setting. Each student will have 45 minutes to 1 hour of home practice daily to support your confidence in developing a mindfulness meditation practice between weekly classes. As a graduate, you are always invited back to the All Day Retreat, free of charge, to help support your integration of mindfulness practice in everyday life.