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Mindful : February 2014
More than 20,000 people have completed the MBSR program at the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic and countless more in other locations. Source: Center for Mindfulness The number of research publications on mindfulness per year grew from zero in 1980 to 477 in 2012. Source: mindfulexperience.org 477 20,000 1980 2012 meditators mindfulness studies in 2012 0 500 February 2014 mindful 37 health The eight weeks of the MBSR curriculum offer a reliable protocol that is used in ma ny studies of the effects of mindfulness meditation practice. People who have taught it a lot have seen that it has an integrity of its own. If they try to switch things around—a little more of this, a little less of that, take this out, put this in—they find it isn’t as effective. Yet it’s only a framework. It’s only as effective as what the teacher brings to it and how he or she “holds the space,” as we say. It simply will not work if it is scripted or formulaic. If the teacher doesn’t feel competent in one of the elements, say yoga, it doesn’t work if they bring in an outside expert. They have to get the training a nd embody it themselves. Everything that is taught has to be lived. Life is the curriculum. As a teacher, you are trying to convey something that can’t be conveyed in words. Mindfulness is also heartfulness—you need poetry as much as prose. What truly makes mindfulness training work is love. If the teacher holding the class is profoundly in love with what they are doing and with the people in the class in a fundamental way, it will work. If they are not, it will peter out. The benefits of mindfulness go far beyond stress reduc- tion. Why did you call your prog ram that, and are you still satisfied with your choice? I wanted it to speak to universal experience. Every- body ca n relate to stress. It’s a common English word and a common experience. The science on stress is proving that it was a good choice. We find out more every day about the negative effects of stress on the body, on the immune system, on aging, and so on. Likewise, there is a correspondingly strong interest in how we can develop resiliency in the face of stress, which is a benefit of mindfulness practice. You often say that mindfulness is not about attaining benefits or fixing problems—that it’s about discovering there is more right with us than wrong with us. Yet a “stress-reduction” prog ram can seem very benefit-ori- ented. That is an unavoidable paradox. There are tremen- dous benefits that arise from mindfulness practice, but it works precisely because we don’t try to attain benefit. Instead, we befriend ourselves as we are. We learn how to drop in on ourselves, visit, and hang out in awareness. It’s essential when you’re teaching mindfulness to remember this and embody it in your own way of being. People come to a mindfulness course because they’re in pain or angry or depressed or afraid. The one thing they want is to get somewhere else, so the teacher needs to continually convey that mindful- ness is not about getting any where. The teacher’s own practice and way of holding him- or herself → “Mindfulness is not a special state you achieve through a trick or a technique. It is a way of being.” ILLUSTRATIONSBYMEGUMIYOSHIDA(TOP);STUARTMCCOY,FROMTHENOUNPROJECT(BOTTOM)