Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the mother of all mindfulness-based interventions, invented and applied in the past some decades.
First developed in 1979 at University of Massachusetts Medical School by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph. D. and his colleagues, MBSR has been in a continuous evolution since then, so you are likely to meet slightly different versions of the course worldwide. The core values and foundational practices, however, are the same everywhere.
MBSR, as taught at Mindful.Works, consists of 8 sessions of 2.5 hours long each, plus a 6-hour long retreat day (practice day) usually on a Saturday. Additionally participants commit themselves to practice meditation on at least 6 days of the week for the whole duration of the course, i. e. 8 weeks. This usually means a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes of daily meditation practice. You can now figure out that home practice is the most essential part of MBSR.
Sessions consist of group practices and common learning on the “hows and whys” of meditation practice. We also learn about the basics of human mind and body, especially leaning into the findings of contemporary science. A course is a journey for everyone, including the teacher, as there are limitless possibilities to find new things inside ourselves as long as we can keep the spirit of beginner’s mind and non-judgmental attitude alive.
This learning, however, is not like learning at school at all. Experiential learning means that you feel, percept, experience what is in yourself. Everyone is one’s own expert and mindfulness can only give you the key to open up to and deal with whatever comes up. At a mindfulness course no one can tell you what to do with your problems, but you, yourself alone has the power of self-observation and, accordingly, self-change.
Therefore an MBSR course is not a talk therapy or counselling. The focus is on inner processes. Yet we can help each other and even ourselves easily just by sharing our bare experiences. But no participant is given advice on any particular problems, instead we develop to become our own masters, therapists, healers, coaches – whichever word applies.
Mindfulness-based interventions, especially MBSR were first used in professional health care environment and so it has become an evidenced-based approach regarding chronic pain/pain disorder, panic disorder, sleep disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, etc. Over time MBSR has been specialized into areas like supporting patients going through cancer-treatment or even school or prison programs.
Today, on the basis of MBSR, several separate programs exist. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) mainly focuses in preventing relapse into depression while Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) does the same, but into addiction. Although the theme of these new branches may be specialized, the main mindfulness practices remain the same any context you meet them in.
Click here if you are interested in the roots of mindfulness.