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Inspired by the vision of a more awakened and compassionate world, for 35 years the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has pioneered Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and the integration of meditation and mindfulness into mainstream medicine, health care, and society through patient care, rigorous scientific research, academic medical and professional education, and a range of broader societal initiatives in the public and private sectors, including education, business, law, leadership, government, and collegiate and professional athletics.
The Center was founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1995 and has been directed by Saki F. Santorelli since 2000. Since the inception of the Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, more than 20,000 people with a range of medical and psychological conditions have completed MBSR training at UMass. Worldwide, with programs on six continents, tens of thousands of people have participated in MBSR programs. More than 14,000 health-care professionals from 80 countries have participated in the Center’s Oasis Institute professional education and training programs. Globally, there are more than 740 places offering MBSR programs in clinics, hospitals, and academic medical centers based on the model developed at UMass.
In the past five years, there have been nearly 2,000 papers about mindfulness and MBSR published in scientific literature. Dating back to the inception of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, MBSR research at UMass and at other academic medical centers has shown, among other benefits, consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstrations of major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses, including chronic pain conditions, over the eight weeks of the MBSR program. Maintenance of these changes continues, in some cases, for up to four years of follow up. Most clinic participants experience long-lasting improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms, as well as major positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors and in perception of self. Studies have also shown changes in the brain and the immune system consistent with greater mental and physical health.
Taught by Saki F. Santorelli, Florence Meleo-Meyer, and Judson Brewer, this 7-day program is an opportunity for health-care professionals to train intensively in mindfulness meditation as it is taught at the MBSR Clinic. Specific themes and areas of focus include:
- Seamless cultivation of mindfulness throughout the retreat, through both formal and informal practices, in silence, conversation, and dialogue
- Mindful approaches to the experience and expression of stress, pain, grief, and anxiety within ourselves and when working with others
- Examination of the language and methods used for instructing and guiding others in the formal and informal methods of mindfulness meditation in various settings
- Review of research supporting the clinical value of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
- Exploration of the essential components of the MBSR curriculum, including specific program structure and content and their rationales, assessment and screening of program participants, as well as teacher readiness and competency
- Exploration of the ethical and moral principles and the domains of nonharming, compassion, and wisdom that underlie mindfulness meditation practice and MBSR
This program is open to health-care professionals and educators who come prepared for the intensive nature of the workshop and who understand the primary necessity of embodying mindfulness meditation practice in their own life before attempting to teach it to others. This course is one component of a rigorous education and training trajectory for professionals who are intent on becoming certified MBSR teachers through the UMass Center for Mindfulness.
The schedule and the work are rigorous and include both intensive training in mindfulness meditation, including extended periods of silence, and an ongoing exploration of mindfulness meditation’s practical applications in health care and other settings.
Since the cardinal principle in doing this work is that it must come out of one’s own extensive personal experience with mindfulness meditation practice, participants who do not already have a strong daily personal mindfulness meditation practice and additional MBSR teacher education and training should not attend this retreat with the expectation of immediately returning home to open a MBSR program.
Ultimately, it is the depth of one’s personal commitment to learning and growing using the MBSR approach that is most important. Integrating mindfulness into one’s professional life comes out of that commitment and the imagination and effort it inspires.
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