Thursday, January 9, 2014

What MBSR is NOT!

I have found in my past experience with teaching mindfulness meditation that many people are still quite unfamiliar with meditation as a whole, or have a somewhat skewed view of what it actually is and how it is used. It can make many feel uncomfortable just talking about it. I like to deal with this fact up front in my meditation classes I teach as it is my preferred way of helping people to feel at ease and comfortable with something that seems so exotic.

Many liken meditation to a visage of a long, white or gray haired guru, sitting on a cushion in some far off remote locale, letting the world slip away, the hours of the day pass without pause while he/she tries to attain some state of perfection, nirvana or enlightenment. This is an iconic image and one that may seem somewhat intimidating, romantic or perhaps even idealized. The image can be very off putting for so many who see it as a complete waste of one's waste time or a self-centered activity that results in a lot of doing nothing. When I teach people to meditate, we dispense with this iconographic image and focus instead on the process of meditation and how it can be part of of this contemporary  24/7/365 world.

Many people are equally less familiar or completely in the dark about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs, more commonly referred to as MBSR, which introduces people, many for the very first time, to various  meditations, some gentle yoga movement,  as well as an array of additional mindfulness-based activities/approaches to daily living. This is all accomplished and spread out over a consecutive, 8-week period so it can be systematically taught in an effective format to encourage lasting and impactful results for all participants.

Let me describe here what MBSR is NOT,  to open the door a bit more for you:

It is NOT a "new age" methodology and no, I promise you won't learn to levitate, fly around the room or chant ditties into the night with frozen smiles on your zombie-like face. All said very tongue-in-cheek of course, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people do think of meditation and MBSR in this way.

It will NOT teach you to numb your emotions/reactions, or stop your mind from thinking.

It is NOT a religion, nor does an MBSR program require you to shift your religious affiliation in any way.

It is NOT  a "how to" on reaching a state of nirvana or enlightenment.

It is NOT a class geared toward only women, and women are indeed not the only participants.  In fact, a number of the mindfulness centers located at major universities such as Duke's Integrative Medicine Program, U Mass Medical School's Center for Mindfulness Studies,  and the Mindfulness Center at UC San Diego, just to name a few, are led by men. Keep in mind, stress is not for "women only." It is universally "felt" by us all, to some degree or another.

It is NOT going to work as well for you unless you bring a healthy dose of open-minded skepticism to the program as a participant. Likewise, enthusiasm and letting go of expectations/goals can be so helpful to your growth and development within an MBSR program as well.

It is NOT a "quick fix" program that will magically make all your worries and difficulties disappear. It will however, help you to increase your ability to focus or concentrate your attention in order to find more effective resolutions to problems, gain new insight/perspective or reduce the tension and anxiety you feel in your life.

Lastly, "the proof is in the doing."  MBSR is not a program to be undertaken on a whim or thinking it will be a cake-walk. It is hard work and requires daily attention/practice of the skills and methods learned to put into action, for long term, positive, lasting change.

Here are some links if you wish to learn more about MBSR programs and meditation:

http://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

http://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/classes-workshops-and-education/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/index.aspx

Please email me at cbhoward@mac.com or call me (603-801-8945) if you have any questions about the upcoming Spring Session of MBSR taking place in Bedford, NH. Please view my prior post for all the specifics about the class.

I am always willing to work with anyone regarding the costs associated with taking this MBSR class. I will do everything possible to make the cost as affordable as I can in order to have you participate, so do not hesitate to talk or email me about this matter.

Keep in mind however, some insurance programs may in fact reimburse for this class as part of their wellness benefits, so be sure to ask your provider.

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