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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Mindfulness, Compassion, Nonviolence - Series 8

 

What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR?

We already outlined what mindfulness means. Next, what is Stress and what is Mindfulness Based stress reduction? Let us start with a link to a short video to hear what Dr.Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of this concept has to say.

https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is a technique developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical center for stress management. Dr.Kabat-Zinn started this program to help relieve pain and suffering of patients with chronic diseases who were not responding to available treatments.   Since then it has been modified to include body awareness, yoga exercises and self inquiry (into one’s patterns of ineffective and harmful thinking). The method has been used to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. It has also been used in conjunction with behavior modification programs.

Although Dr.Zinn started with Mindfulness meditation adapted from Buddhist teachings, he renamed his program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), removing the Buddhist framework and placing it in a scientific context. This helped MBSR to enter mainstream clinical practice followed by excellent neurophysiological research which has provided adequate scientific proof for its efficacy.

What is Stress?

As we all know, Stress is a fact of life. For some, every moment of life is a stress. For some, it takes a lot before they feel stressed. In other words, there is a subjective element to it. Stress, which our ancestors experienced in the remote past, when they were hunting or were being hunted, and of animals in the wild, was existential stress. It was acute, short term, had a beginning and an end with death or survival as the only options. It was physical stress. Basic parts of our nervous system are built primarily to respond to this kind of stress.

We do not face those challenges our ancestors experienced under primordial conditions. But we live in a complex society and as the famous saying goes “there is a jungle out there”. At least that is the way our mind reacts to the ups and downs of modern day living, making our lives stressful! That is why there is so much professional burnouts and mental illness such as anxiety disorders and depression. That is why there is so much interest in eastern teachings on calming the mind such as yoga and meditation.

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