FAQs – MBSR
Who should take Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
People come for a variety of reasons, and in a wide range of ages. Some may come to find a new way to deal with back pain from disc disease, or arthritis, while others may be stressed from a demanding job and family responsibilities. Some students are referred by their doctors to help treat high blood pressure, anxiety, or insomnia.
Some are successful business people who are unsure how to slow down and enjoy retirement. Several students have come to deal with the trauma of a car accident, or the fear that can develop after a heart attack.
Whatever the reason, participants seem to get help with the original stressor and get surprising additional benefits as well. Primarily they say that they appreciate their life more deeply.
What kind of meditation do you teach?
We teach a very simple form of meditation that uses the breath as a focus. Some other forms of meditation may use a ‘Mantra’ (word or phrase) or visual imagery as the focus. We find using the breath very effective because the breath is always with us, it brings you more into your body, and we can only breathe in the present moment. So, every time the mind wanders off—which it inevitably will—we bring our attention back to the breath, over and over again, and thereby to the present moment. When this is practiced regularly, we begin to see how often our thoughts are not on what we are doing or who we are with. Then we can come back to the present moment in our daily life, and we don’t miss our lives—lost in thought. This practice alone enhances our enjoyment and eases stress.
Is it a religious or spiritual practice?
No. Most religions do include some form of meditation, and while this may have some origins there, it is taught much more as a skill—a mind-body training. Medicine now recognizes meditation as a valid treatment, and we offer it in that way. It may, however, compliment your religious practice.
I'm not in very good shape and have some physical limitations. How strenuous is the yoga?
The two yoga series were specifically designed for people with a wide range of abilities. It can be practiced gently and slowly and can be done by people in wheelchairs and with other limitations, or more vigorously by others. Students often find their flexibility and strength improve quite quickly with regular practice.
I have been to a lot of doctors and taken many medications, and I am still in pain and can't sleep. How can this program help me?
The relaxation exercises and the yoga can provide physical relief by releasing tension and improving circulation. This has been shown in several studies. However the main benefit comes through changing the way you perceive and react to your pain. Many times our thoughts about our pain – triggered by fear, are very negative. Thoughts like; ‘This is killing me, I can’t stand it, how long will this go on?’ cause us to feel worse. Through meditation we are able to separate our thoughts from the physical sensations. This can dramatically change the level of suffering.
One of the reasons I am stressed is I am so busy. How much time is required for the MBSR class?
The class meets for two hours a week. After week six there is an all-day retreat usually on a Saturday. In addition there is 45 minutes of ‘homework’ a day. That is—practicing the meditation or yoga with the CDs as well as some written assignments and mindfulness practice. Most people find that by setting aside the time to do this they actually end up with more time for everything else because they have more clarity, and are less forgetful and function more efficiently.