MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)

The Mindful Manifesto, by Dr. Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell

The Mindful Manifesto presents — and represents — the continuing move of mindfulness practices into the mainstream of western culture. And mainstream it is. Almost daily, news articles appear highlighting the various ways that meditation is being taken up by ordinary people living ordinary lives, and used by veterans and trauma survivors, and adapted by clinicians to treat depression, stress, obesity, behavioral disorders in children, to give just a few examples. A constant stream of scientific papers appear from researchers, investigating — and confirming — meditation’s ability to do everything from slowing cellular aging to promoting growth in the brain, to improving our sex lives.

The authors are Ed Halliwell, a writer who has contributed columns on meditation for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and Jonty Heaversedge, who is a family doctor who also presents on medical topics on television and radio. Halliwell is the main contributor, and his writing is clear and lively.

The Mindful Manifesto is both a guide — in very accessible language — to the practice of mindfulness, and a fascinating history of how the west has come to embrace meditation. The authors state their dual intensions in saying “we’d like to invite you to learn more about mindfulness, through an exploration of its history, philosophy, science, and practice. We’d like to invite you to see how it could make a difference — in your own life, and to our stressed-out world.”

Title: The Mindful Manifesto: How Doing Less and Noticing More Can Help Us Thrive in a Stressed-Out World
Author: Dr. Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell
Publisher: Hay House
ISBN: 978-1-4019-3536-8
Available from: Amazon.co.uk and UK Kindle Store, and Amazon.com and US Kindle store.

The authors say that their book is not a “manifesto” in the traditional sense of a grand plan for overhauling society, but behind that denial is a plainly visible (and quite natural) yearning for meditation to be more widely adopted. They imagine how different the world might be if politicians, for example, sat down to connect with their inner wisdom and compassion before discussions, or how healthcare might be transformed if every patient had access to meditation instruction. But there’s no concrete plan. So in what sense is this book a manifesto? The word “manifesto” is used here more in the sense of “to make manifest” or “to show plainly” (the original meaning of the word) and stands for “an invitation to let go of doing, at least for a time, and learn how to be, right now, in the present moment.” It also makes for a very catchy title.

So, how well do the authors succeed in their invitation, both to communicate how to be mindful, and to communicate meditation’s history, philosophy, and science? I think they do remarkably well in both. As a long-time practitioner of meditation (thirty years this summer) I benefited from the freshness of the Manifesto’s approach. The writers successfully translate the sometimes clunky and unappealing language of meditation (“delusion,” “attachment”) into more contemporary and accessible language (“denial, “addiction”). They take traditional Buddhist teachings, such as the Four Noble Truths and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and relate them to life as it’s lived in the west. This is a very approachable book.

The authors present numerous examples and case histories, showing how meditation has actually benefitted ordinary people. They in fact regularly slip into the first person to offer accounts of how meditation has helped them with their own personal difficulties. These examples will no doubt help many people to recognize that meditation can benefit people like them. The book offers clear instructions for eight meditation practices. Some of these are traditional, such as mindfulness of breathing, while others, like an ice-cube meditation and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s famous raisin experiment, are more contemporary. Of course it’s not really possible to follow detailed meditation instructions from a book, but the site for the Mindful Manifesto does offer audio downloads (for an extra fee). It would have been good if these were available in a streaming format, or if a CD had been included with the book. Practitioners who have an established practice will probably benefit more from the written guidance, because it’s easier to take on board “nuggets” and integrate them into what you already do than it is to read, digest, and remember whole paragraphs.

One omission that I think is unfortunate is that there’s no lovingkindness instruction given. It’s not that lovingkindness is absent from the book. Lovingkindness is mentioned in terms of having kindness and compassion to oneself, and is woven throughout every topic that’s considered, but it’s barely touched on in an explicit way. When it is mentioned by name, it’s in the language of “self-parenting” as a way of developing emotional security. While this language is both contemporary and very useful (thanks, guys, I’ll be stealing that phrase for use in my own teaching!) it’s very much to do with “self-metta,” which is only the first stage of lovingkindness practice. Lovingkindness techniques for enriching our connections with loved ones, developing more empathy for strangers, and overcoming antipathy — in other words the traditional format of lovingkindness meditation — would have made a valuable addition to The Mindful Manifesto.

The book is largely structured around a modified form of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which the authors render as mindfulness of body, mind, feelings, and life. These headings don’t really match with the traditional understandings of the satipatthanas, but practically speaking the schema works well as an instructional tool. The approach throughout these chapters is very much rooted in science, and in the clinical applications of mindfulness, so that mindfulness of the body, for example, is treated very much in terms of dealing with painful sensations in the body, using approaches made popular in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The history of the development of such approaches is woven through this material, and is, to my mind, fascinating. Although a book on practicing mindfulness technically doesn’t have to include the historical perspective, the techniques being explained are given an extra weight of authority when put in the context of their scientifically tested applications.

The section on the fourth foundation of mindfulness departs most from the traditional descriptions. Rather than “mindfulness of dhammas” (in my view best described as “a wise understanding of the workings of the mind”) Heaversedge and Halliwell discuss “mindfulness of life.” But although the treatment is non-traditional, it nevertheless performs a valuable service in showing how mindfulness, although it begins with a focus on our selves, can be applied to the way we interact with our world :”mindfulness takes us out of the limitations of self — by connecting us to a wider view, it shows us how we can fruitfully inter-relate with others.”

I found The Mindful Manifesto to be a fascinating and enriching read. While beginners to mindfulness and meditation will undoubtedly benefit from read the book, it’s probably even more valuable to the established practitioner, who will find the contemporary language to be helpful in seeing their practice with fresh eyes, and who will gain extra confidence from the reading about the many scientific studies that confirm in great detail the many ways in which meditation can help us be happier, healthier, and more engaged individuals.

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The power of meditation: How a quiet mind can unlock wonders

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Cheryl Clemens (Baltimore Sun): To understand the impact meditation can have on the human mind, picture a glass of muddy water. If you stir it, the water stays cloudy and anything that might sink to the bottom is instantly sucked back into motion. But if you allow the glass to become still, slowly the dirt settles to the bottom and the water begins to clear.

Meditation means different things to different people, but most agree that it is a means of quieting the mind, of stilling the parade of daily distractions and becoming less reactive to the stimulation that assaults our senses and emotions every waking hour. By achieving such stillness and clarity, meditation practitioners experience a sense of focus, insight and peace that they describe as nothing less than transformative.

“The way most of us live our lives today means our minds are horrendously busy,” said Dr. Jeff Soulen, an Ellicott City psychiatrist and founder of the Howard County Dharma Group. “Thoughts can be unruly and all over the place because so many distractions are vying for our attention, and often we’re not even aware of it.”

For Soulen, the members of his group and many of his patients, the answer can be found in regular meditation, which he describes as “cultivating the capability to put your attention where you want to, when you want to, for as long as you want to.

“There’s a misconception that you have to clear your mind in order to meditate,” he added. “Meditation is about clearing the mind. It’s about achieving a state of mindful awareness of what is going on around you without judgment so you are observing it rather than getting caught up in it.”

The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine acknowledges meditation as a “way to become mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way … to result in a state of greater calmness, physical relaxation and psychological balance.”

Meditation exists in many styles and has numerous places of origin. And while it has roots in spiritual growth and enlightenment, many of today’s practitioners use it simply as a tool for relaxation and stress relief.

In Howard County, residents have many options for learning or practicing meditation, from in-depth courses to informal meditation groups to machines that help train the brain to relax.

“Meditation can be nothing short of life changing, and the irony is, you sit down to meditate with no purpose, just a powerful trust in the process,” said Mark Fradkin, a Dharma member.

‘An amazing clarity’

When he was in his 40s, Soulen, now in his 50s, found himself wondering about life beyond what was in front of him every day.

“I was raised in a very scientific household, where faith and belief were downplayed,” he said. “But I’ve always been interested in questions about the spiritual realm.”

That curiosity intensified after he read “The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion,” by Ken Wilber.

“The book talked about realms other than the one we live in every day, and how you can know what goes on in any realm,” he said. “That got me very excited, the idea of possibly seeing the truth of the spiritual realm.”

Soulen began reading up on the subject and attending workshops. When he felt ready to really immerse himself in the practice, Soulen signed up for a weeklong seminar for health-care providers in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which joins meditation and yoga. He was sure the five hours of daily meditative yoga would intensify the mindfulness practice he’d been cultivating for some time and lead him to the spiritual breakthrough he’d been waiting for.

“I was ready to see the realm of the divine instead of the realm of the ordinary,” he recalled.

But by the end of the week he felt only frustration. “The week was completely ordinary, and by the end, the only thing different was I was really confused and my knees hurt.”

Soulen left the seminar unsure of his future relationship with meditation — until he returned to work on Monday. That week he met with four patients who had been struggling with four very different problems, and each one had recently stalled in his or her progress.

“At each appointment it became perfectly clear to me exactly what they needed,” he described. “I had an amazing clarity of vision that I’m convinced had everything to do with the previous week, and I thought, if this was the result, I have to do this for the rest of my life, because I owe my patients no less than this.”

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Destress your life in 10 easy steps

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Danny Penman and Mark Williams: The gloomy days of January can be the most miserable and stressful of the year, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you follow this ten step guide to destressing your life, then the next few weeks just might become the most serene and fulfilling ones of the year.

One step should be carried out on each of the next 10 days. They’re based on the ideas found in the international best-seller “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.”

The book uses a program based on mindfulness meditation developed by us at Oxford University in the United Kingdom to relieve anxiety, stress, exhaustion and depression. Mindfulness has proved in some clinical trials to be at least as effective as drugs or counseling for dealing with these conditions.

The ten steps described in the article are:

Day 1: Eat some chocolate

Day 2: Go for a short walk

Day 3: Take a three-minute breathing space

Day 4: Do something pleasurable

Day 5: The intensely frustrating line meditation

Day 6: Set up a mindfulness bell

Day 7: The ten-finger gratitude exercise

Day 8: Do the sounds and thoughts meditation

Day 9: Reclaim your life

Day 10: Go to the movies

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Mind reading: Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about bringing mindfulness meditation to medicine

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Maia Szalavitz: Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained molecular biologist, began meditating in 1966, when the practice was primarily the province of hippies and gurus, not scientists. Now, thanks in large part to his efforts, it has become mainstream medicine. Dozens of studies have since shown the benefits of what he termed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in treating cardiovascular disease, depression, addictions, chronic pain and many other conditions.

Kabat-Zinn has authored a new book, Mindfulness for Beginners, that aims to introduce meditation to first-timers.

Why did you first get involved with meditation?

The one word answer would be karma. Basically, I always felt in some sense, from the time that I was a little, that something was missing in the way life was unfolding. It was almost as if it was all about ‘out there’ but nothing about ‘in here.’

This is a path that I’ve been walking now for over 45 years. It’s been 32 years since I founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

I was first exposed formally to it at MIT because of Huston Smith, a professor of philosophy and religion there. I started meditating myself when I was 22, in 1966, when I was a graduate student. Almost no one I knew was meditating back then and anyone who was, was considered to be somewhat beyond the lunatic fringe, a drug-crazed hippy communist.

How did you work to bring meditation into medicine?

I started the Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979. The idea of bringing Buddhist meditation without the Buddhism…

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Scans ‘show mindfulness meditation brain boost’

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The theory that meditation can reduce stress, depression and even chronic pain is one that has been gaining in momentum in recent years.

So the BBC’s David Sillito has been learning the art of mindfulness meditation in order to find out for himself.

After getting to grips with the activity, he joined some other devotees for an MRI scan to find out what impact the practice can have on brain activity.

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Breast cancer survivors benefit from meditation

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Women recently diagnosed with breast cancer have higher survival rates than those diagnosed in previous decades, according to the American Cancer Society. However, survivors continue to face health challenges after their treatments end. Previous research reports as many as 50 percent of breast cancer survivors are depressed. Now, University of Missouri researchers in the Sinclair School of Nursing say a meditation technique can help breast cancer survivors improve their emotional and physical well-being.

Yaowarat Matchim, a former nursing doctoral student; Jane Armer, professor of nursing; and Bob Stewart, professor emeritus of education and adjunct faculty in nursing, found that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a type of mindfulness training that incorporates meditation, yoga and physical awareness.

“MBSR is another tool to enhance the lives of breast cancer survivors,” Armer said. “Patients often are given a variety of options to reduce stress, but they should choose what works for them according to their lifestyles and belief systems.”

The MBSR program consists of group sessions throughout a period of eight to ten weeks. During the sessions, participants practice meditation skills, discuss how bodies respond to stress and learn coping techniques. The researchers found that survivors who learned MBSR lowered their blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. In addition, participants’ mood improved, and their level of mindfulness increased after taking the class. Armer says, for best results, participants should continue MBSR after the class ends to maintain the positive effects.

“Mindfulness-based meditation, ideally, should be practiced every day or at least on a routine schedule,” Armer said. “MBSR teaches patients new ways of thinking that will give them short- and long-term benefits.”

Armer says the non-pharmaceutical approach works best as a complement to other treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

“Post diagnosis, breast cancer patients often feel like they have no control over their lives,” Armer said. “Knowing that they can control something—such as meditation—and that it will improve their health, gives them hope that life will be normal again.”

The study, “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Health Among Breast Cancer Survivors,” was published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

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Meditation relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome severity, randomized study finds

David Wild: Mindfulness meditation is as much as four times more effective than group support in relieving the severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, according to research presented at the 2011 Digestive Disease Week meeting. Patients with IBS who participated in eight weekly meditation sessions and meditated daily at home experienced residual symptom relief three months after ending treatment.

Lucinda A. Harris, MD, who was not involved in the study, said the research confirms that modalities like mindfulness need to be integrated into a holistic approach to treating IBS, which also …

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Creating a mindful society

Mindfulness is a simple yet profound practice that changes lives. If you’re committed to mindful living, or just want to learn more about the transformative power of mindfulness, join Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richard J. Davidson, and U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan for this landmark gathering of the mindfulness community, September 30–October 1, 2011.

With a rich program of dialogue, practice, and breakout sessions, participants will explore all the proven, practical ways that mindfulness can benefit our lives and transform our society, from health, work, and family to education, leadership, and policy. This groundbreaking conference will feature keynote presentations by outstanding leaders in the mindfulness field.

Whether your interest is applying mindfulness at home, in your work, for better health, or simply to make your life more joyful and awake, you will benefit from this groundbreaking conference on changing lives and creating a mindful society.

From the opening keynote talk by mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) founder Jon Kabat-Zinn to the closing Mindfulness Town Hall, you will practice, experience, and learn about the transformative power of mindfulness and the emerging mindfulness community, all in a warm, contemplative atmosphere.

In this lively program of talks, dialogue, practice, and breakout sessions, you will:

  • Learn from leading experts in the mindfulness field, featuring keynote presentations by MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindful leadership expert Janice Marturano, U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, and renowned neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson
  • Discover the benefits of mindfulness for your own life—and the science that proves how it works
  • Go deeper into your area of interest at a breakout session of your choice
  • Share your experience and insight with fellow practitioners across many fields, and benefit from theirs
  • Learn about the exciting work now happening to change lives and create a mindful society
  • Explore the future of the emerging mindfulness movement at the Mindfulness Town Hall
  • Connect and network with others in the mindfulness community in a relaxed, contemplative atmosphere

Creating a Mindful Society will be held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, on beautiful Central Park West in New York City.

This landmark gathering of the mindfulness community is a partnership of the Center for Mindfulness, the Omega Institute, and Mindful: Living with Awareness and Compassion.

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Rethinking tinnitus: When the ringing won’t stop, clear your mind

Allison Aubrey: Silence is a beautiful thing. But Robert DeMong has accepted that he’ll likely never experience it again.

He’s got a condition called tinnitus, which means a ringing sound travels with him everywhere he goes, including to bed at night.

It came on suddenly about five years ago. And he says it threw him into depression. “It was like an ugly monster inside my head,” recalls DeMong. “I couldn’t sleep at night.”

Now, DeMong says, he’s left the anxiety and suffering behind.

He participated in a research Read the rest of this article…

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Canadian federal department embraces mindfulness to reduce workers’ ‘brain chatter’

Stressed-out employees at Justice Canada in Ottawa will soon be able to seek relief in a taxpayer-funded program that uses the Buddhist concept of mindfulness to help them cope with personal and workplace pressures.

The department invited bids last week for two nine-week “mindfulness-based stress reduction” sessions designed to help up to 40 public servants “learn to relate more consciously and compassionately to the challenges of work and personal life.”

According to Justice Canada’s request for proposals, the program will help employees “deal more effectively with difficult thought and emotions that can keep you feeling stuck in everyday life.

“The practice of mindfulness can support you to work with and understand the nature of your thought and perceptions so that you can take control and responsibility for your health and well-being,” the document says.

The maximum budget for each of the two sessions is $11,000 plus GST. The request for proposals gives the department the option of adding four more…

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sessions later this year, which would increase the cost by up to $44,000.Asked why the program was necessary, a departmental spokesman replied by email that the need for effective tools to manage stress and promote mental health in the workplace is “widely recognized. The beneficial effects of this program are well documented.”

Mindfulness-based stress reduction was founded in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical professor at the University of Massachusetts. According to the website mindfulnet.org,18,000 people have since completed MBSR programs.

It’s now used in hospitals, schools, courtrooms, prisons and boardrooms around the world. Corporate disciples include Apple, Yahoo!, Google, Starbucks and Procter & Gamble.

Mindfulness, which has its origins in ancient meditation practices, “helps you choose to become more aware of your thoughts and mental processes,” says mindfulnet.org,”allowing you to choose how you respond to them, rather than responding on autopilot.”

In the workplace, the website says it can help reduce tensions, improve communications, defuse conflict and promote more creative thinking. Participants are taught a number of meditation techniques designed to reduce “brain chatter.”

Most MBSR training includes a “body scan exercise, two sitting meditations, walking meditation, gentle stretching and body awareness exercises.”

Justice Canada’s embrace of mindfulness got a qualified endorsement from Patty Ducharme, the national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents some department staff.

“Obviously we’re not opposed to programs that could improve workers’ health and wellbeing,” she said. “But we’re also mindful of the fact that prevention programs seem to have the most significant impact on people’s ability to work in environments that are busy and stressful.”

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