Take a moment or two now to consider what brought you to this page. Like most people, you probably identified some problem or difficulty you are experiencing, some aspect of your life that you’d like to change. And the idea that you can change, you do have the capacity to free yourself of what’s holding you back or challenging you or causing you pain — this is the voice of that natural awareness, also known as inner wisdom.
That inner wisdom knows the fundamental principle of all mindfulness programs: as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.
Mindfulness is not something you have to work to produce or acquire; it is built right into you. You possess a deep internal resource of awareness that is available and ready to be reawakened, in support of your learning, growing, and healing.
Mindfulness training taps into that resource, giving us a way to access it and use it for our own healing and self-care.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) provides a training unlike any you may have encountered before. It involves cultivating a different relationship between you and the things that challenge you in your life, and relies completely upon the tools you already have. Specifically, mindfulness helps you develop the ability to be non-judgmental, compassionate, patient, present, and aware. You wouldn’t have come this far if these qualities did not exist in you somewhere
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MBSR Structure and Content
MBSR is a practical, highly participatory course. Can stress reduction be simple and fun? Yes! It just takes practice. The schedule consists of eight weekly two-and-a-half-hour classes and one daylong retreat (usually on a Saturday), for a total of 27 instructional hours. Class activities include:
- Guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices
- Gentle stretching (yoga) and mindful movement (qigong)
- Inquiry exercises to enhance awareness in everyday life
- Evidence-based data on stress physiology and the efficacy of mindfulness practices
- Individually tailored instruction
- Group dialogue
In addition, participants engage in daily home practice using recorded audio guidance for the meditation and mindful movement learned in class each week.
What You Can Gain From MBSR
In this program, you will learn to:
- Understand, through direct experience, the key aspects of mindfulness as it relates to stress reduction, coping with pain and illness, and enhanced well-being.
- Meet life as it unfolds moment by moment, by learning the difference between mindfulness practice and relaxation or other distraction techniques, which may seem similar but are fundamentally quite different.
- Practice and apply mindfulness techniques in both personal and professional settings, as a way to deal more effectively with the demands of both settings.
- Integrate mindfulness into social interaction with family, friends, coworkers, and others, to become more effective and mindful in communication.
How You Will Build Mindful Skills
Participation in the MBSR 8-week course represents an ongoing commitment to yourself. When you attend all classes, including the one-day retreat, and practice daily home assignments for 30-45 minutes, you’ll begin to notice a tangible difference, both during practice and in the rest of your life.
This isn’t a quick-fix proposition, but tens of thousands of participants over many decades have consistently reported that being fully engaged in the MBSR process has produced lasting results, some of which they could not have predicted when they began.
Who Should Take MBSR?
There is probably no one, regardless of experience or circumstance, who couldn’t benefit from more mindfulness. That said, the program was first developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn for people suffering from chronic pain and life-threatening/life-limiting illnesses (go here for a full history), and has a 40-year, proven track record of benefiting people with a variety of conditions and concerns. As the program gained in popularity over time, it became clear that the training could be applied in nearly any setting, and even those with overall good health found relief from the pressures and strains of living in a too-busy world.
There are four main categories of “dis-ease” and well-being that respond positively to the practices learned in MBSR:
- Stress. This catch-all term describes the pressures we feel at work, school, and in our families, from financial woes to fears about an uncertain future, complications from illness, aging, grief, and major life losses. In short, the feeling of being “out of control” within our life circumstances.
- Physical Health Challenges. Chronic pain, auto-immune disorders, cancer, heart disease, respiratory conditions, high blood pressure, and more.
- Mental and Emotional Distress. Anxiety, panic disorders, depression, chronic fatigue, PTSD, and sleep disorders, to name just a few.
- Prevention and Wellness. Even when there is no disorder present, learning how to care well for yourself will enhance your experience of being a human alive in the world. Restoring balance (the root meaning of “healing”), gaining confidence and clarity, and learning to relax are supremely beneficial.
If you feel overwhelmed, always exhausted, in pain, experiencing foggy thinking, anxious, grieving a loss, in continual conflict with others, having trouble making an important life decision, or just generally feel disconnected and out of step with your own life, MBSR can help.
Or maybe none of that is going on with you, and you just want to explore your capacity to be peaceful, calm, and happy. You don’t have to be miserable to take MBSR, just curious and willing to stay open to change.
What Recent Participants Say
- I am thankful that I participated. I recognize the benefits of mindfulness practice, and I’ve enjoyed learning new methods, even ones I am challenged by! That challenge has been a valuable experience too.
- This work allowed me to be okay with stopping, taking a break, taking a breath, and waiting. MBSR helped me to acknowledge and accept my grief, to walk with the loss.
- Meaningful breathing is helping me every day.
- This helped me get unstuck in my life, and every day I am able to love myself more and more.
- The biggest surprise has been the impact on my everyday life, especially my parenting. My relationships are stronger and calmer.
- The fruits of the practice have been pervasive: awareness, intention, gratitude, humility. Thank you!
Who Teaches MBSR?
The class is taught by Amy Ward Brimmer, M.A. Amy has been named a Qualified Instructor of MBSR from the Oasis Institute at the Center for Mindfulness at the UMass Medical School, where MBSR was founded, developed, and continues to be studied. She is skilled at creating a safe, supportive, and deeply engaging learning environment that allows participants to seek, explore, and inquire. Visit the About Amy page for more about her background and other professional work.