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Mindful : August 2017
Since Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 23,000 people have completed the MBSR program, both in classrooms around the globe and via online sessions. The medical community, in particular, has embraced the idea that developing this skill of mindfulness can be an effective complemen- tary treatment for the likes of panic attacks and depression, cancer and chronic pain. In fact, nearly eight in 10 medical schools offer their Becoming more familiar with what causes us stress, and learning how mindfulness can help respond to those stressors as we choose how to respond rather than react automatically. WEEK 04 Stressed to the Nines students elements of mindfulness training, while the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society—the organization that grew out of Kabat-Zinn’s original clinic—has conducted research to demonstrate the effec- tiveness of such training for everything from curbing obesity to treating addictions. Most notable, though, is that this eight-week program has been shown to reduce anxiety and keep it at bay for years, giving meditators the wherewithal to function effectively even when facing undue stress. This week’s course work, which coincidentally focuses on understand- ing stress and our reactions to it, puts those research claims to an extraordinary test: the ability to survive the gut-wrenching US presi- dential elections. Our formal practice in the run-up to that polling increases the amount of time spent doing sitting meditation and yoga or body scans. Furthermore, our informal practice (reading, journaling) explores in detail our physical and psychological responses to stress, along with ways that mindfulness can help short-circuit the cascading damage it can inflict. This stepped-up approach has the feel of graduating from playing scales to making music, as if finally building atop a hardened foundation. Despite that, I’m still doubtful that four weeks of MBSR can blunt my terror of this election tipping in the wrong direction. But in the days preceding the voting, I manage to turn the incessant election chatter into vaporizing background noise. And to my astonishment, I greet the dreaded outcome with a sense that my life is intact, that whatever I fear is for now, at least, rooted in my imagination. I attribute this to my newfound sense of mindfulness, although I soon wonder if it’s actually shock. Or denial. Or some combination thereof. In the days that follow, as I’m overcome by irrepressible rage and foreboding that medi- tation simply won’t dislodge, I get my answer. August 2017 mindful 49