Monday, September 11, 2017

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) experience

Mindfulness, by definition, is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, a process developed through the practice of meditation and other similar training, incorporating significant elements of Buddhism namely the development of self-knowledge to gradually lead to what can be described as enlightenment or freedom from suffering.  The popularity of Mindfulness is generally considered to Jon Kabat-Zinn (Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School) that as practitioner of yoga and studies with Buddhists led him to integrate such teachings with scientific findings, creating in 1979 the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program aimed at treating the chronically ill.

This program sparked the application of mindfulness ideas and practices in Medicine for the treatment of a variety of conditions in both healthy and unhealthy people. MBSR and similar programs are now widely applied in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other environments.
Mindfulness practices are inspired mainly by teachings particularly from Buddhist traditions and one of MBSR's techniques - the "body scan" - derives from a meditation practice ("sweeping").

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to enroll at my first Mindfulness course at Budadharma and this summer, I finally  had the change of completing the the MBSR course with João Palma in a 
group program focused in the progressive acquisition of mindful awareness, with a calendar of eight sessions workshops, a one-day retreat  and homework. Learning formal techniques such as mindfulness meditation, body scanning and yoga postures are at the center of the MBSR program that is based on basic principles such as non-judging, non-striving, acceptance, letting go, beginner’s mind, patience, trust, and non-centering. 

One of the biggest causes of stress is ruminating or repeating a certain stressor that causes the brain to start and repeat a thinking pattern and stay there. Mindfulness practices teach (train) our brain to pop up out of that pattern and recognize it for what it is: a default state from where we have a choice to step out of. 

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