Mindfulness and MBSR: A Personal Journey
Contributing Author: Anne Louise Kracmer, LCSW & Qualified MBSR Teacher
CREATING PEACE AND HARMONY…INSIDE
NEW AT THE CLINIC – EVERY WEDNESDAY NIGHT
(forward by Deb Martin)
You’ve likely heard the term “Mindfulness Meditation”. But do you know what that means? Come along on the journey of discovery in this month’s article. Discover more about Mindfulness which is practiced in many ways around the world. It is truly a form of natural, holistic healing, and is also a wellness practice which you can easily learn to do for yourself or practice in a group.
You’ll now find Mindfulness practices being offered in a wide variety of settings, including medical and scientific (hospitals and research), mental health, schools, universities, prisons, even police and the military. It is also offered at some progressive work places as a benefit to the younger generations who expect a higher quality of work/life balance.
When a prominent magazine such as “Fortune” writes about a topic, you know it’s gone mainstream. Fortune is a business-based monthly publication where you will find articles on the stock market, the 50-top women CEO’s, the rise and demise of the once-hugely prominent Sears & Roebuck Co which once represented 1% of the U.S. economy, and the challenges of hiring employees. One recent article described the issues of attracting “Gen Z” workers. According to the research, they have different expectations of an employer than previous generations. Programs such as meditation and yoga are not just a bonus; they can be a key to a Gen Z person’s decision about where to work.
At Lotus Blossom Clinic, a particular, evening involving Mindfulness is the newest in our weekly set of events and classes. It’s open to everyone, no matter age or health issues, and you are welcome to come and experience this each Wednesday at 6:30pm at the clinic in Suite 3. The cost: Love Donation.
It is called “Rising Tide Sangha” and is a direct offering thru the Caloosahatchee Mindfulness non-profit organization. Here is what to expect when you come to this Meditation event:
“…a Mindfulness meditation practice and teachings with the intention of bringing mindfulness, stability, and harmony into everyday living. The evening includes sitting and walking meditation and the discussion of significant Buddhist teachings. All are welcome. This weekly meeting is held at Lotus Blossom Clinic, Suite 3. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This remainder of this article is about a daily-living practice called MBSR which arose out of the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness. Over the last 40 years, it moved into and took hold in clinical and research environments as it was studied and successfully used to help people with serious illnesses. It is also used as a daily living practice. This is MBSR: “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.”
Note: Our subject author this month is Anne Louise Kracmer, the Mindfulness Practitioner who facilitates our Wednesday night Sangha events. You’ll also find Anne Louise teaching Mindfulness classes all ‘round the area. This is her passion, and I’ll let her tell her story now!
MINDFULNESS CREATES HEALTH
If you’re unfamiliar with it, you may be asking, “What is mindfulness?” Mindfulness is a practice in the Buddhist tradition that leads to the end of mental suffering (Thera, 1992). Kabat-Zinn (1994) says the following: “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.
My first encounter with the word mindfulness came about as I began a course in social work research in the Spring of 2005 at Florida Gulf Coast University. I was interested in the use of yoga and other meditation forms in programs for troubled teens. As a young adult, I found that practicing yoga brought me a definite sense of well being and my few short excursions into other forms of meditation were personally beneficial as well, and I thought that research in this area could be beneficial.
I began my research using search words like “yoga,” “meditation,” and “adolescents.” When a certain combination of words popped up in a variety of articles, I really became curious. The words I kept seeing were “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)” and the name associated with MBSR was Jon Kabat-Zinn, the developer of MBSR. There were scientific studies on the influence of MBSR on rates of skin clearing in patients with psoriasis who were undergoing treatment (Bernhard et al, 1988), on self-regulation of chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985), on emotional processing (Davidson, 1992), on anxiety (Kabat-Zinn, et al., 1992), as well as other studies. I found no studies with teens, but my curiosity was definitely peaked, if not yet hooked.
Shortly after learning about MBSR as an intervention, an opportunity arose to learn firsthand about mindfulness. I joined a mindfulness meditation group who practiced with local teacher Mary Robinson, M.A., M. S. Mary studied the foundational course for professionals directly with Kabat-Zinn, and this was the beginning of a learning process which has been life changing for me over the last 13 years.
ENTERING THE WORLD OF “MBSR”
Next you may be asking, “What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?” MBSR is a treatment program used widely to reduce psychological symptoms associated with medical illness (Bishop, et al. 2004).
My first experience of a course similar to MBSR was in the fall of 2006 when I enrolled in a seven-week course called Mindfulness for Stress Reduction (MFSR) again with Mary Robinson, who has since become a colleague and friend. After graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Master of Social Work program in 2007, I started on the path to becoming a teacher of MBSR. Each step along this path has been richly rewarded.
Through the years I have taken courses for professionals with Kabat-Zinn and other well-known MBSR Instructor Trainers who worked with Kabat-Zinn at UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness (CFM), including Saki Santorelli, Kabat-Zinn’s original intern at the CFM and his successor as its director, Melissa Blacker, Florence Meleo-Myer, Bob Stahl, Carolyn West, and Christiane Wolf. In March, 2018 I became a Qualified MBSR Teacher through UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness.
My last encounter with Kabat-Zinn was October 24th, just a few days ago as I write this. He led a meditation and talk in a Zoom Meeting attended by about 350 people worldwide. This was offered by East Coast Mindfulness as a special offering of what is usually a 40-minute weekly sitting meditation called “Worldwide Online Sit;” for this occasion, it was two hours long. Most of the attendees had participated in MBSR as students and/or as instructors. This occasion was a birthday celebration of sorts. It was 40 years ago that Kabat-Zinn developed and implemented MBSR as part of what was then known as the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass.
Kabat-Zinn reflected on the past 40 years and MBSR’s growth during that time. He shared that his first encounter with meditation was as a student of molecular biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he attended a talk given by Roshi Phillip Kapleau, one of the founding fathers of American Zen and author of the book The Three Pillars of Zen (Kapleau, 1965). This talk was given in 1966 when Kabat-Zinn was a 22 year old graduate student and at a time in his life when he didn’t know what direction his life would be going. This talk would have a profound effect on Kabat-Zinn’s life trajectory. While Roshi Kapleau spoke of mindfulness within a Buddhist context, Kabat-Zinn presented MBSR within a scientific context, making it more accessible to western cultures. Kabat-Zinn states, “All of us have the capacity to be mindful. All it involves is cultivating our ability to pay attention in the present moment, as we suspend our judging, or at least as we become aware of how much judging is usually going on within us”.
A CHANGING OF THE GUARD
At the World-Wide Sit, Kabat-Zinn reflected on the fact that mindfulness-based programs have expanded to serve in a wide variety of settings, medical, mental health, schools, universities, prisons, even police and the military. And change comes to everything and everyone. This past spring, UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness (CFM) closed its doors, ending its MBSR Teacher Training and moving MBSR and other mindfulness courses to UMass Memorial Health Care. However, this is just the next stage of evolution. The work continues on nearby and has clearly spread around the world!
Many UMass CFM staff members moved to the newly established Mindfulness Center at Brown University https://www.brown.edu/public-health/mindfulness/ where there are mindfulness programs for the curious or seasoned practitioner offer teacher education and development, workplace and leadership, healthcare, schools and higher education. Brown University has established Brown Global Mindfulness Collaborative with partnerships in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, and Spain. https://www.brown.edu/public-health/mindfulness/global-collaborative
Two former teacher trainers from the UMass Center for Mindfulness have partnered to establish East Coast Mindfulness (which offered the Worldwide Sit on Zoom) https://www.eastcoastmindfulness.com/ They also offer various mindfulness programs, as well as teacher training. On the west coast, University of California San Diego School of Medicine offers mindfulness programs through their Center for Mindfulness, https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/research/mindfulness/Pages/default.aspx and the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute offers teacher training. https://mbpti.org/about-the-institute/
The 40th anniversary of the development of MBSR and its growth over the past 40 years are causes for continued enthusiastic support on my part. Happy Birthday, MBSR!
Mindful Moments to You,
Deb & Dr. David Martin with Anne Louise Kracmer,
And all the Providers at Lotus Blossom Clinic
Serving the Greater Fort Myers area with Natural and Holistic Medicine: Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, Science-backed Food as Medicine, Energy Medicine, 30+ classes and events available monthly.
Bernhard, J., Kristeller, j., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1988). Effectiveness of relaxation and visualization techniques as an adjunct to phototherapy and photochemotherapy of psoriasis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 19, 572-573.
Bishop, S. R., Lau, M. Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., & Carmody, J., et al. Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230-248.
Davidson, R. J. (1992). Emotion and affective style: hemispheric substrates. Psychological Science, 3, 330-341.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2006) Wherever you go there you are: living life as it really matters. In Awbrey, S., Dana, D., Miller, V. W., Robinson, P., Ryan, M. M.,& Scott, D.K. (Eds.), Integrative learning and action: a call to wholeness(pp, 157-160). New York: Peter Lang.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness (revised and updated edition). New York: Bantam Books.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8, 163-190.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, j., Peterson, L. G, Fletcher, K., Pbert, L., et al. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936-943.
Kapleau, P. (1965). The three pillars of Zen: teaching, practice, and enlightenment. New York: Anchor Books.
Thera, N. (1992). The heart of Buddhist meditation. Kan