Monday, May 05, 2008

exploring mindfulness-based stress reduction

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Science has started to recognize what Buddhists have known for thousands of years: meditation can be an effective tool in helping people cope with the challenges presented by chronic and acute pain and illness.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) first originated at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society (UMass CFM) almost 30 years ago. The Center's Stress Reduction Program teaches people living with pain how to use mindfulness to more effectively cope with the stress of pain and illness.

The program is suitable for people of any religious belief or background. You need not be a Buddhist to learn and benefit from this program. Rather, mindfulness is about learning to be still in the present moment and experience life as it comes.

The 1991 book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Illness and Pain by Jon Kabat-Zinn is the perfect introduction to MBSR.

Kabat-Zinn founded the UMass program and continues to teach the concepts underlying it all across the country. He was instrumental in moving mindfulness from the fringes to the mainstream in the United States over the past 15-20 years.

If you want to dip your toe into the water and learn more before diving in to a formal program, I highly encourage you to get a copy of this book and start your journey by reading it and participating in the exercises he outlines in it.

I've been exploring meditation on my own for a couple of years through books, audio books and CDs (including Kabat-Zinn's and work by other teachers, such as Pema Chodron), and I've become increasingly interested in taking an MBSR course. However, I've had trouble finding anyone who conducts them in my area. Thankfully I recently stumbled across the website of a center in the Kansas City Metro area that had conducted an MBSR course earlier this winter.

While I knew I was out of luck for the time being, I sent them an e-mail in hopes they might be having another course soon. They responded immediately and put me in touch with the course instructor. She informed me that a new course will start this June.

The program is rather expensive, particularly for someone like me with no job and only a small disability income, but I think it will be a wonderful resource and highly valuable in helping me tune into my internal capacity to cope and care for myself no matter what my body is experiencing. I'm excited to share my journey with all of you.

NPR: Meditation a Hit for Pain Management
Mind Over Matter: Meditation Helps Ease Pain for Some Patients
Meditation May Help Brain Handle Pain

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