In a Stanford BeWell Q&A, Mark Abramson, DDS, the founder and facilitator of Mindfulness-Meditation Based Stress Reduction programs at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and the Stanford School of Medicine, discusses the origins of such practices and how they can be applied in health settings and other areas such as business and education. Abramson leads an eight-week mindfulness meditation course through Stanford’s Health Improvement Program.
From the Q&A:
What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was originated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, [PhD,] who applied the traditional meditation practice of mindfulness (defined here as non-judgmental awareness) to medical centers. He created an eight-week treatment program for medical illnesses as well as general stress issues. In his program, he used a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to assist people with pain and a range of conditions and life issues. MBSR is now a common part of the treatment regimen in many hospital settings.
Meditation looks easy, but can be quite difficult. What is the simplest way to get started?
There are two phenomena that make meditation difficult. The first is the expectation people have that they’re going to go into a mystical, magical place where the mind shuts off and they will be in a special state. This expectation has ruined people’s practice more than anything else. Mindfulness is really just observing yourself through your natural senses — such as your taste, hearing, smelling and feeling. Even the thoughts you have are observable experiences.
The second difficulty is the habitual tendency for our minds to go off on tangents. It is difficult to stay focused; we slip away and we come back. I try to see that as part of the practice.
Previously: Med students awarded Schweitzer Fellowships lead health-care programs for underserved youth, A campus-wide call to pause and reflect, Learning tools for mindful eating and Stress, will-power top reasons why Americans fail to adopt healthy habits
Photo of James Lee by Emily Hite