Mindfulness and Mindful-Based Stress Reductio

September 30, 2013
Katherine Austin Wooley


Mindy Eisenberg

By Mindy Eisenberg 

It seems like the word mindful is popping up everywhere.

It's exciting to see the practice of mindfulness and meditation grow within a multiplicity of arenas, including health care, corporate, educational and governmental.  While positive research should not be the primary selling point (and leaders in the field are careful to point this out), Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) studies are shedding light on the healing that occurs with a MBSR curriculum.

"Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America's Bottom Line" was the lead Huffington Post article recently.  The article discussed the growing trend in corporate America to take steps via meditation, yoga and mindfulness training, to reduce stress and improve health and creativity.

Another recent article, this time on a New York Times blog, highlighted how "Meditation Might Boost Your Test Scores" for college students in addition to resolving stress, depression and chronic pain. In a University of California study, the group of college students who took mindfulness training found their minds wandered less and they performed better on tests than the comparison group.

I learned more about mindfulness when researching neuroplasticity and the ability to change the structure and function of the brain with a dear friend and colleague, Julie Levinson, who is a yoga therapist at Henry Ford Hospital. We found much literature that supports the idea that meditative practices can lead to neuroplastic changes in the brain.

It took 2 ½ years of trying to get to the top of the wait list until I was honored to attend a MBSR Professional Education and Training with two pioneers and genuine masters, Jon Kabat –Zinn and Saki Santorelli.  The room was filled with 160 professionals from around the world, including physicians, therapists, military officials and governmental staff, patients with bone marrow cancer, VA staff, educators and principals of schools, corporate administrators and leaders, and yoga instructors and therapists.

We all felt lucky and privileged to finally make it off the wait list and learn from the creator of MBSR; yet our instructors genuinely voiced gratitude for our presence for the work we do in our communities. Our instructors role-modeled mindfulness during every waking moment.

When answering our questions and conducting group discussions, their humble, thoughtful words were spoken with deep presence and care.  They practiced with us during sitting and walking meditations, body scans, yoga and the silent meditation "retreat within the retreat."

One approach to walking meditation

Thousands have experienced the formal MBSR curriculum; people participate for many reasons, including but not limited to needing to learn to cope with stress, pain, abuse, cancer, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD or improving memory and immune system functioning, decreasing the prevalence of violence, and ultimately, achieving universal peace.

Mindfulness is not only a meditation practice. It is a way of being, by living in the NOW, inviting yourself to deepen the mind-body connection and embody a calm, attentive awareness in the present moment without attachment to outcome.

With a regular practice and right effort, insights, wisdom, profound experiences of stillness and joy do come.

But the idea is to practice to for its own sake, to learn to live fully and cope with life's challenges and joys. Mindfulness begins with one-pointed attention, usually to the breath to cultivate calmness and stability.

When thoughts come up, you observe without judgment. The practice weaves into daily events and routine while eating, driving, walking, running, reading, practicing yoga into this moment and this moment and this moment ……..from dawn to dusk.

Jon Kabat-Zinn created the path to make Buddhist teachings accessible to the West using a universal vocabulary of compassion, wakefulness and wisdom through the MBSR curriculum.  Mindfulness asks us, are we "living our lives as if it really mattered?"

The concepts are simple, the work is hard and requires discipline, but the teachings can be done in a playful way during the dance of life. Healing with mindful practices takes a willingness to learn with an open mind and heart.

Mindy Eisenberg, MHSA, E-RYT 500, is an instructor and yoga therapist. Mindy completed advanced yoga teacher training in 2007 from Ananda Seva Mission and trained with Jonny Kest in 2004. Students benefit from Mindy's warm and personalized approach as she focuses on adapting yoga to each student for an optimal state of peace and well-being. As a yoga therapist, Mindy works with MS and other neurological limitations, spinal cord injury, cancer, depression and anxiety.

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