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  1. “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Jon Kabat-Zinn (New York, 1944) is widely considered being one of the founders of transforming Eastern religious mindfulness practices into methods for Western secular audiences. Kabat-Zinn is an emeritus Professor of Medicine of the University of Massachusetts, and the creator of the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) The MBSR program is an eight-week course that incorporates mindfulness, to assist people with stress, pain, anxiety, psychological difficulties, illness, and life issues. MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness and body scans, and yoga, to help people become more present. Although MBSR is based on spiritual teachings, the program is secular. The benefits of MBSR include: stress reduction; overcoming chronic anxiety; and improvements to the quality of life. MBSR is a method taught by trained instructors, that entails weekly group meetings, a one-day retreat [six-hour mindfulness practice], daily homework [45-60 min. per day], and instruction in three techniques: mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and mindful yoga.  MBSR is based on the fundaments of non-judgmental awareness, non-striving, acceptance, letting go, beginner’s mind, patience, trust, and non-cantering.  Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness.” During the program, participants are invited to focus both on their practice, and on incorporating mindfulness into everyday routines. In doing so, MBSR enhances self-management and coping with the environment, and one’s reaction to it. MBSR also helps against ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.  The MBSR course is offered by medical centres, hospitals, and general health organisations.  “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Background, Education and Career Kabat-Zinn graduated from Haverford College and afterwards went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT. Whilst being a student there, Kabat-Zinn was introduced to meditation by Zen missionary Philip Kapleau. Afterwards, he studied with Thích Nhất Hạnh and Seung Sahn, and at the Insight Meditation Society, founded by Sharon Salzburg, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein.  In 1979, Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There he adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness into the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, that he later renamed into the eight-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Afterwards, he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. Kabat-Zinn has conducted a vast amount of research on the effect of MBSR on pain, anxiety, brain function, and immune function.  Kabat-Zinn has trained groups of CEOs, clergy, judges, athletes, and congressional staff in mindfulness. His methods and insights have been used to introduce mindfulness and meditation practices in healthcare, schools, corporations, prisons, and other (work)places.  Kabat-Zinn is retired from his professorship at the University of Massachusetts but is still involved in the centres he founded, and an avid public speaker, writer, and mindful meditation workshop host. Apart from that, he has held numerous fellowships and memberships, including as a board member of the Mind and Life Institute, an organisation that facilitates dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.  “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Books Kabat-Zinn has written numerous books on mindfulness and MBSR. The first one, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, gives detailed instructions for the practice of MBSR. His second book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, became a best-seller in giving a very down-to-earth introduction to mindfulness.  Afterwards, Kabat-Zinn wrote books like Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life, The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness, Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life, and Coming through our senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, in which Kabat-Zinn reflects on sentience and awareness.  “Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Online resources The Internet provides a wide range of possibilities to familiarize oneself with Kabat-Zinn’s ideas, the MBSR program, and associated themes. A lot of these materials are a mixture between free and paid-for. Podcasts and Audio On the website soundstrue.com, there are a couple of different podcasts starring Kabat-Zinn and his ideas. Topics included are: The mindfulness Revolution. Resting in Awareness. Creating the Future in this Moment. On the excellent website Audiodharma of the Insight Meditation Center, one can find hundreds of guided meditations, talks, and interviews, with most of the big names in mindfulness and meditation. Kabat-Zinn is also featured, in three talks on mindfulness in education.  On the Mindfulness CD’s website, associated with Kabat-Zinn, you can find three paid-for collections of guided meditations by Kabat-Zinn. You can find a collection of videos starring Kabat-Zinn speaking on different subjects, that link through to YouTube, where you can find many more videos, including guided meditations and full-length lectures.  “Life only unfolds in moments. The healing power of mindfulness lies in living each of those moments as fully as we can, accepting it as it is as we open to what comes next—in the next moment of now.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Jon Kabat-Zinn Videos There are many videos available starring Kabat-Zinn, either in interviews, or in lectures. The Greater Good Science Center based at University of California, Berkeley has an overview of different videos with Kabat-Zinn. Topics included are: mindfulness, MBSR, compassion, and well-being. The GGSC also hosts a free MOOC on edx called "the science of happiness".  The Connection is a documentary film, Internet platform, and blog, with separate videos on the connection between health and the mind. Kabat-Zinn is one of the featured experts that include Andrew Weil, Herbert Benson, and Sara Lazar.  “Meditation is a way of being, not a technique. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and the world to be exactly as it is in this moment, as well.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Talks and Events As mentioned, Kabat-Zinn is still very active as a public speaker, lecturer and event host.  On E-Omega, you can find a schedule with some upcoming workshops on mindfulness and meditation.  On Facebook, you can find a page dedicated to news and updates on Kabat-Zinn, managed by admirers.  Ocasionally he would post something on Twitter as well.  Photo: colourbox.com   Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  2. Want to alter the way your mind works to gain a greater understanding of the here and now? Thinking about which strategies you can use for dealing with pain, inattentiveness or stress? Worried that any approach you might take is not bound up in real scientific research? If so, then MBSR may be the practice you have been looking for all along. Based on the concept: mindfulness that is 'in the moment.' These techniques are simple, anyone can learn them with persistence. Thorough research from various leading medical experts in their fields has revealed some impressive facts about this practice.  The Key Effects of MBSR – What You Need to Know Mindfulness-based stress reduction is something that can bring tremendous benefits to anyone who takes up the practice. While it is not a substitute for treating more serious medical ailments, it does have many benefits. As with most things in life, creating a balance is the key. Once you become better-versed in the mindfulness techniques and training, they can have a widely-accepted therapeutic effect for any of the following conditions:  stress high blood pressure depression chronic anxiety migraine headaches diabetes some heart conditions In particular, common uses for MBSR are for controlling the often debilitating effects of chronic pain. A frequently unwanted symptom of several of the above-listed ailments. But, how can such claims be made? According to Dr Daniel J. Siegel, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, scientific studies and research programs have regularly shown that MBSR is effective in reducing stress in all these conditions and more.  In addition to the medical effects that mindfulness can have, many people use the techniques involved to improve their daily lives. Everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, going for a walk, can all be performed using mindfulness techniques. According to Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, taking a mindful approach is as focused on being as fully awake in life as it is when dealing with medical ailments. “It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment", he says. Therefore, stress-reducing mindfulness can have a powerful effect on individuals who consistently practice the techniques. Even those who don't suffer from excessive amounts of anxiety and mental anguish can benefit from mindfulness techniques.  A Brief History of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction The science of mindfulness has been a crucial part in creating its modern history. It had its start in America in 1979. Numbers were small, but as word spread of its positive effects, numbers grew. Currently, courses in mindfulness-based stress reduction are more than 22,000 participants. The thirty-five-year history of the course program has revealed to science that it can deliver a consistent and reliable improvement in individuals suffering from stress and other related symptoms. This betterment is present in both medical and psychological symptoms.  Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are. ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are Pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who successfully brought together modern Western traditions of science and medicine together with ancient mindfulness techniques from the Far East. Indeed, mindfulness can trace its roots back hundreds, if not thousands, of years to transcendentalism and Buddhism. Centred in and around the Middle East, India and China mindfulness takes hold in various religions and philosophies. The word  The word mindfulness is essentially a translation into English of the Indian Pali word sati or smrti in Sanskrit. Sometimes translated as awareness, sati is one of the fundaments of Buddhist thought. These concepts have a broad range of ways in which they can be practised. Similar to anapanasati and satipaṭṭhāna which are popular in Zen Buddhism. These ideas focus on mindfulness and awareness of sensory experiences.  Notable Scientific Studies into the Effects of MBSR According to Philippe R. Goldin and James J. Gross in their study into 'Emotion Regulation in Social Anxiety Disorder' available from the United States National Library of Medicine. One of the key findings of MBSR research is that it has measurable effects on emotional regulation. They point out that reducing stress, anxiety, and depression is possible by using these techniques. This result was due to the modifying emotion regulation abilities which mindfulness practices can create. The study shows that people involved in this research program were able to achieve emotional regulation in a number of different ways. These included changing situations by selection, modifying situations, attentional deployment and response modulation. Another key factor in the scientifically noted emotional regulation detected in participants resulted in cognitive change. Further research studies have been carried out to determine the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction on social anxiety disorder- a common psychiatric condition usually referred to as SAD. According to one critical study, carried out by Koszycki et al. in 2007. Results from the study showed a like-for-like improvement in patients with SAD was achievable by participating in an 8-week MBSR course. Compared with a 12-week cognitive–behavioural group therapy course. Although both programs produced improvements in the mood, functionality, and quality of life for the participants, the study also revealed significantly lower scores for anxiety. Especially with cognitive behavioural therapies compared with MBSR as rated by both clinicians and patients. In a 1998 study conducted on medical students, a control group who underwent an MBSR course showed reduced stress levels. Published in the American Journal of Behavioural Medicine, Shapiro et al.'s study showed that there was a reduction of reports from the group of overall psychological distress including depression. Furthermore, the group stated that they felt increased levels of empathy. They also measured their spiritual existence with higher scores at the end of the course.    Fields of Use for Stress-Reducing Mindfulness As you can see in the video, there are many areas of use for mindfulness-based stress reduction. According to Judith Ockene Ph D at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Early scientific studies showed that psoriasis patients saw improved results after their phototherapy treatments. Two control groups were created. One group listened to a guided mindfulness audio during their treatment. The other group heard no accompanying audio. This study, it should be noted, centred on the physical ailments of psoriasis and not the mental aspects. By simply reducing the stress levels of the patients who underwent their treatments, scientifically demonstrable improvements demonstrated the effects of the physical outcomes from using the mindfulness audio.  Therefore, much of the recent scientific research, understandably, focusses on mental well-being. With a particular focus on conditions like depression. Mindfulness can be a powerful tool in the field of medicine across many disciplines and therapeutic avenues. For example, according to Lawrence Leung, Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine at Queen's University, Canada. The MBSR technique is used to help patients cope with chronic non-cancer related pain and a range of other conditions. These matters eventually affect up to half of the world's population at some time or another. With such wide-ranging uses, it seems that the medical possibilities for mindfulness are limitless. All it takes is new ways of imagining its practical application.  You can take the 8-week MBSR course for free:  Online MBSR/Mindfulness (Free) This online MBSR training course is 100% free, created by a fully certified MBSR instructor, and is modelled on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the ... Update 24.03.2018: This article was published on April 10th 2017. Meanwhile a new book "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body" by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson was published. Altered Traits is a collaborative overview of the history of research on meditation and an analysis of what claims in the mainstream press are legitimate as opposed to those that are overreaching or simply wrong. For those who are interessted in the purely scientificly provend effects of meditation and how to make the most out of it wen highly recoment this book: "In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it. Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice." Photo: Colorbox.com  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.