“Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
The topic of mindfulness really excites me and I embrace the opportunity to learn more about it and how it can be applied to help people live their best life. Any practice that improves your own health and wellness is so worthwhile. I became particularly fascinated with this topic when I realized it is a research-based form of healing for various health problems. It is now being introduced at the medical student level as well as a form of continuing education for physicians. The most popular and renowned treatment program is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It is a vast, interesting topic, so I decided to break it down over 2 weeks. This week we will explore the background of MBSR and next week will focus on how it can be applied to promote healing.
What is MBSR?
Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you – consciously and systematically working with your own stress, pain, illness, and the challenges/demands of everyday life (from the Center for Mindfulness: University of Massachusetts Medical School). It was originally developed in the Buddhist traditions of Asia. The founder of the MBSR program is Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He is a clinician, author and co-author of many books, researcher, meditation teacher and has transformed the lives of many people. The program originated at the University of Massachusetts Medical center and is now in over 250 hospitals around the country and many more around the world.
Who is MBSR for?
The program is ideal for individuals experiencing stress in various aspects of their lives, certain medical conditions, and psychological conditions as well as a means to enhancing health prevention and improving wellness. It is typically an intensive 8 week program including a one day retreat where participants meet weekly and cover areas such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, group dialogue, individual instruction and home assignments. If you cannot find a program in your area, you can attend one online through Sounds True.
In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living, 2013, he cleverly describes MBSR as ‘participatory medicine’. These programs are an opportunity for people to become active participants in their own health and well-being. It is often an adjunct to medical treatment and allows people to exert some control over their health and day-to-day lives.
When you consider stress, no one is immune to it. We all experience stress in our lives that can impact our physical, emotional, and social well-being. MBSR guides you in how to cope with stressors and in turn live the life you were meant to live.
Next week we will focus on how MBSR can improve your stress, medical conditions and psychological distress.
What do you think of participatory medicine? In what ways are you an active participant in your health and well-being?