You may have heard of the word mindfulness or a program called mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) on TV or the radio or the newspaper. Or maybe you haven’t heard about it yet, but at Heartland Health Centers we are pretty excited about it because mindfulness based programs have been proven, by very good scientific evidence, to be a great addition to medications for dozens of medical conditions, both those that are defined as physical (like high blood pressure or ulcerative colitis or cancer) and those that are defined as mental (like anxiety and depression). Mindfulness based programs have also been found to benefit the health and well being of people with no medical conditions. So, we want to tell you what it is.
Mindfulness is a particular kind of paying attention. We call it awareness in a non-judging way. To learn to exercise mindfulness, one has to practice paying attention in this way. Some people call that meditation. The concept of mindfulness has been written about for at least 2500 years, most famously by a man from northern India, named Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha (which is means the awakened one in the native language of northern India). He began to teach others how to become skillful in mindfulness in order to help them ease their own suffering and improve their own health and happiness.
37 years ago, a man name Jon Kabat Zinn studied mindfulness in depth and learned to become very skillful. He found it incredibly valuable. But he had to learn all sorts of Asian words and customs. He made it his life purpose to teach other non-Asians in their own culture and in everyday language. And he developed an eight week course, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction to do this, and has taught many others to teach this.
We have now offered two sessions of mindfulness based stress reduction training at Heartland Health Centers, and participants have learned to use mindfulness to improve their mental and physical health. Another session is starting this fall, and you too can learn how mindfulness can enhance your health and your life.