Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Created by Dr. Jon-Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the most widely researched mindfulness intervention in the world. MBSR allows you to cultivate a different relationship between you and the things that challenge you in your life. Most of us are in “auto-pilot” much of the day and tend to react rather than respond to the situations we face.
This course is intended to develop the innate ability to cultivate mindfulness over “mindlessness” – those moments when we are unaware of what we are feeling and why we are doing what we’re doing. Specifically, mindfulness helps you access the ability to be non-judgmental, compassionate, present and aware.
This 8-week course incorporates guided meditations, group discussions, daily home assignments, a full-day retreat, gentle stretching and mindful yoga to bolster one’s ability to better manage stress and its effect on the body. Each class builds upon the previous session. There will also be lively discussions on stress management, turning off auto-pilot, the mind-body connection, how mindfulness changes our relationship to thoughts, feelings, emotions, stress, pain and illness, as well as other health-related subjects. This course cultivates one’s ability to be fully aware of one’s surroundings in the present moment, as well as build resilience around health, thoughts and emotions.
Research has shown that MBSR is effective for the symptoms of general stress as well as stress due to illness such as cancer, depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Benefits have also been shown in a wide range of other heart and vascular, gastrointestinal and psychological conditions.
Here you will receive an overview of the course and establish the learning context for the rest of your experience. You will learn the theory and evidence of mind-body medicine and how to apply it in your life. You’ll be experientially introduced to mindful eating, mindful breathing, and the body-scan method, with a special emphasis on what it means to be fully engaged in the present moment.
Perception is key in mindfulness—how you see things (or don’t see them) will determine in a large part how you respond. This week’s session and practices will ask you to examine your perceptions, assumptions, and the way you view the world. You will learn to use the body-scan practice to cultivate a greater degree of awareness of how you react to stressful situations. Changing the way you perceive and respond to difficulties and challenges will impact the short- and long-term effects of stress on your mind and body.
In this session, you’ll practice several distinct yet interrelated mindfulness practices—mindful hatha yoga, sitting meditation, and walking meditation. This is an ideal time to share your insights about your experiences with formal practice and integrating mindfulness into your daily life. You will discover that there is both pleasure and power in being present—you’ll directly attend to and investigate how your experiences create such reactions as pleasure or discomfort in the mind and body.
By practicing mindfulness, we cultivate curiosity and openness to the full range of our experience, and through this process our ability to pay attention becomes more flexible. This week, your practice will focus on the development of your ability to concentrate and systematically expand your field of awareness. You’ll learn about the physiological and psychological bases of stress reactivity, and experience mindful strategies for responding in positive, proactive ways to stressful situations.
At the halfway point in this course, you should now be familiar with the foundations of mindfulness and able to focus on applying it more rapidly and effectively to specific challenges and stressors in your life. This week you will begin to pay attention to the places where you might be stuck in repeating, unhealthy patterns that you can disarm through mindful awareness. You will also learn how to apply mindfulness at the critical moment when you experience a physical sensation, intense emotion, or condition, with special attention to exploring the effect of reactivity in health and illness.
Resilience or “stress hardiness” is our ability to return to equilibrium after stressful situations. This week, you will focus on transformational coping strategies to broaden your inner resources and enhance your resilience through mindfulness practice. You’ll also learn the fundamentals of interpersonal mindfulness—applying awareness and presence at times when communication becomes difficult or fraught with strong emotions. You’ll gain direct experience of a variety of styles for more effective and creative interpersonal communication.
Mindfulness is most effective when it is a lifetime commitment. This week, you will explore the many ways that you can integrate mindfulness more fully and personally into your life. While having a dedicated regular practice for mindfulness meditation is important and beneficial, it is just as important to bring a broader sense of awareness and presence to every moment in your life, and to use non-judgmental mindfulness in your self-reflection and decision-making processes. You’ll learn how to maintain the discipline and flexibility of daily practice as circumstances change over the course of your life.
In the final week of the program, you will have a complete review of everything you’ve learned over the course, with an emphasis on carrying the momentum you’ve built forward into the coming months and years. You’ll learn about resources available to you to pursue mindfulness in new directions as your life and practice evolve, as well as the support systems that exist to help you continue to integrate, learn, and grow. The final lesson creates a satisfying closure by honoring both the end of this program and the beginning of the rest of your life.
The six-hour retreat is scheduled toward the end of the program. The intensive nature of this session is intended to assist you in firmly and effectively establishing the use of MBSR skills across multiple situations in your life, while simultaneously preparing you to utilize these methods far beyond the conclusion of the program.