Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program MBSR

Tucson AZ

Mindfulness literally means heart-mind. Being mindful implies the integration of direct experience and conscious awareness.

When we are Mindful, what we are sensing, feeling, and thinking comes together in a new and empowering way.

With mindfulness training, we are better able to self-regulate the nervous system, shift unconscious patterns, and make intentional choices that profoundly aide our health and well-being.

Mindfulness has emerged as a trainable skill with measurable clinical efficacy. This is due in large part to the pioneering work of John Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.    The cornerstone of their work is the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.  MBSR teaches mindfulness as a practical mind & body skill that promotes our own inner resources. The positive results for individuals who undertake this training are well documented and far reaching.

The MBSR Program consists of eight weekly 2.5 hour sessions, in Tucson, plus an additional all-day session on the Saturday of the 6th week. Weekly sessions are a balance of didactic teaching, experiential practice, and small and large group processing; the all-day session is primarily an experiential session where we are practicing mindfulness together for a sustained period. There is approximately an hour’s worth of daily homework assignments which include guided relaxation & meditation practices, reading, and written reflection exercises. What is important to understand is that your success in the program, whether that is to diminish your pain levels, stabilize your mood, or be less stressed, is directly related to your commitment to fully engage in the entire 8 week process, inside and outside of the classroom. The teaching and learning environment is designed to be highly supportive of each participant.

The essence of the course is the development of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose in the present moment, without judgment. It is simple but not easy. It is innate but underdeveloped. It is the heart of the body/mind connection. These eight weeks are a special opportunity to slow down and pay attention to how the body, mind, and emotions actually operate in real time, this moment. Through the formal practices of body scan meditation, breath awareness, mindful yoga, and mindful meditation attention is directed inwardly. These are called formal practices as they require time and space outside of daily activities. They are restorative and help physiologically regulate the nervous system.

From the formal practices we increase our capacity to bring mindful awareness to ourselves in our daily life. This is sometimes called the informal practice of mindfulness because we don’t have to stop what we are normally doing to be mindful. This is key to the trans-formative potential of the program. Stress re-activity, the feeling of being stressed and pressured, is in many cases a bad habit. The MBSR process encourages us to investigate our direct experiences of living, working, and relating and recognize the habit patterns that may be contributing to our suffering. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl sums up the MBSR learning process well by reminding us, “Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The power to self-regulate the nervous system and the power to re-pattern our neurological pathways is now known to be measurable and teachable. The MBSR program has pioneered bringing these inner resources into a learn-able format. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is an investment in your health and well being long into the future.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has clearly demonstrated that it provides measurable reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses: chronic pain conditions, depression, anxiety disorders, psoriasis, asthma, hyper-tension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, and MS are only some of the specific conditions that have been studied.

What is most obvious in the research is that MBSR clearly helps to address the physiological phenomena of stress, which is shared by all of us regardless of diagnosis. Quality of life measurements, used within many of the studies also indicate significant improvements. Consistent in the research are the sustained results over time; in one case, as long as 4 years post program.

In one simple summary author and practitioner Bob Stahl, Ph.D. writes, “Today there are over 250 mindfulness based stress reduction programs in major medical centers throughout the United States, as well as programs throughout much of the world. Mindfulness-based approaches have proven effective in decreasing symptoms of anxiety (Miller, Fletcher, and Kabat-Zinn 1995), obsessive-compulsive disorder (Baxter et al. 1992), and chronic pain ( Kabat-Zinn, Chapman, and Salmon 1987). They have also been shown to be helpful in reducing the detrimental effects of psoriasis (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1998), increasing a sense of empathy and spirituality (Shapior, Schwartz, and Bonner 1998), increasing well-being (Brown and Ryan 2003), preventing relapse in depression (Segal et al. 2007) and drug addiction (Parks, Anderson, and Marlatt 2001), and decreasing stress and enhancing quality of life for those struggling with breast and prostate cancer (Carlson, L., et al. 2007)” A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook, p. 29. This summary is not comprehensive either, but gives a sense of the range and confidence clinicians and patients may have in considering referral or participation.

Newer research and related research continues to shine light not only on the efficacy of the MBSR method but on mind/body mechanisms in general and the future potential of their development for all of us across the lifespan.

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction:

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction provides skills for working with the energy of the mind and body to face whatever is unfolding moment by moment. This is not always relaxing. It operates from the premise that we all have tremendous inner resources for healing and growing and mindfulness is a key to access those resources.

A variety of mindful meditation and yoga techniques are taught in the MBSR Program. These are powerful mind body practices that are potentially restorative and therapeutic. Some will be more useful or interesting to you than others. The essential practice we are emphasizing is mindfulness itself- how to be present and aware more often as you live your life.

The foundations of mindfulness meditation come from Buddhism but mindfulness, and MBSR itself is better understood as a universal commonwealth. Every culture and tradition honors the capacity for deeper connection with self, other, and world. A variety of thinkers, writers, and philosophers that speak to this universal quality of mindfulness may be utilized in the course as an affirmation of our collective experience.

The group process is highly participatory and you will be encouraged to share your direct experience of the practices and the homework at your comfort level. Guidelines for class participation will be explained at the onset and are designed to encourage a safe and dynamic learning environment. If the class does not meet your need for emotional support during the process, outside support may be encouraged.

MBSR is not recommended for people with a severe mental illness diagnosis, those with suicide ideation, those with chemical addictions, or those in the early stages of recovery from addiction. The program intensifies awareness and sensitivity and invites participants to explore their patterns of behavior. The emphasis is on harnessing awareness to help make new choices rather than on fixing, changing, or correcting behavior.

If a class is not on the near term schedule, Private sessions may be arranged in the interim.