"Even the briefest moment of silence is both a way of coming into the present and a way of moving on." ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn



 

What is Mindfulness?

  Mindfulness is awareness. Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives, paying attention with intention and without judgment. This awareness strengthens our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation and healing.

Jon Kabat Zinn who developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program says this: “We have made absorption in the future and worry about the past such an overriding habit that, much of the time we have no awareness of the present moment at all. As a consequence, we may feel we have very little, if any, control over the ups and downs of our own lives and of our own minds.”

When we start noticing our automatic reactions and the ways we “get in the way” of our own healthy responses to stress, we can learn that we do have control of how we react to the stress in our lives. It is not the stress that is the problem, but how we react to the stress that leads to difficulties.

Mindfulness is awareness. The good news is you already know how to be aware; so simply put, like muscle strengthening, we develop that awareness. We do this through meditation; we cultivate a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. We put out the “welcome mat” for our sensations/thoughts/emotions and come to know them for what they really are; without a lifetime of conditioned reacting getting in our way.

Mindfulness is a skill, and like learning a musical instrument, is developed through repeated daily practice. Mindfulness is a brave path that includes cultivating the wish to move from narrow to open, to a more flexible adaptable stance in your life. With practice, and over time our own true ease and love appears. We practice meditation to reconnect with our true nature.

Mindfulness–Based Stress Reduction was pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. and assisted by Saki Santorelli, Ph.D. and colleagues in 1979, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. In 1993, Bill Moyers featured Jon Kabat-Zinn's Stress Reduction Clinic in his series "Healing and the Mind". A great wave began as many health care professionals wanted to use this model for similar programs. Currently there are over three hundred medical centers in the United States that have Mindfulness–Based Stress Reduction programs. MBSR has also expanded internationally, there are programs in nearly every continent of the world.

Mindfulness programs are six to eight-week training programs designed to empower participants to take an active role in the management of their health and wellness. The classes meet weekly for 1.5-2 hours and there is an all-day session on a weekend day. Participants are asked to practice mindfulness meditation and/or mindful movement for 6-30 minutes a day with instructional CD's. Alumni of the Stress Reduction Program are welcome to attend future all-day sessions at no charge. In addition, there are free weekly sittings and Alumni Graduate programs.

This program can improve participant’s ability to live and cope with chronic pain, illness, insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress related conditions, and the stresses of everyday life. Participants have stated that they feel less judgmental and critical of themselves and subsequently toward others. Many also report a decrease of the frequency and length of medical visits to hospitals, emergency rooms, and health care professional offices. There has also been a noticeable decrease in the use of prescription and non-prescription medications.

Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck from whatever is keeping us off-balance. The benefits of practicing mindfulness are cumulative and can be life changing.

 

 

   
  Carey C. Charyk RN MA  
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