The program consists of eight weekly 1-1.5 hour sessions, plus an optional additional all-day session on 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 movement, 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 transformative potential of the program. Stress reactivity, 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 learnable format. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is an investment in your health and wellbeing long into the future.
Adapted from The Tucson MBSR programme.
For more information on the next MBSR training with Simon Heale contact here:
Simon Heale 2015