My Journey into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

I was browsing the internet when a statement caught my eye and it stated “Do you want to
relieve stress related symptoms, promote a sense of well being and peace of mind”? I was
intrigued and thought I would love to relieve stress and also learn ways to help my patients too.
I clicked on the link and was taken to a course description titled “Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction program (MSBR) that was being offered for 8 weeks over the summer.

I signed up for the program without really knowing what the course was going to be about.
The first night of class I was in a room with 15 other participants who were of different ages,
backgrounds and occupations with our instructor Kevin who was a licensed social worker. We
were given the book “ Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn along with a workbook and a
CD. He had us imagine that we had a rock in our hand and walked up to a well and dropped it
in and then he went around the room and asked us what that symbolized to us. I remember
that I had said that it symbolized throwing away the stressful feelings and discomfort. He also
asked us not to set a goal or expectations for the course.

The program focused on attitudinal qualities that would relieve stress including: non-judging,
patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving and acceptance. Non-judging is being an
impartial witness to our own experience and not having a reaction to the experience. Patience
is allowing letting things unfold in good time and make a connection to the present. Beginner’s
mind is not allowing our beliefs and thinking from seeing things as they really are. Trust is to
listen and trust our own being through meditation. Non-striving is about trying less and
through meditation we are non-doing. Acceptance is seeing things as they are in the present
and not trying to force things to the way we want them to be which causes more stress and
prevents positive change.

We had daily meditations on our CD that guided us through body scan which focused our mind
on each body part starting with the head and then ending at our toes or sitting or laying
meditations or meditative yoga. We had a log in our workbook to document our feelings and
reactions to different situations that may have given us distress or pleasure. We had a retreat
day after our sixth week in which we did not speak during that time. Our instructor gave us
directions during the day and guided us through different types of mediation. We ate our lunch
mindfully and took our time tasting and chewing our food more times than we would normally
and did not pick up the fork before we swallowed our bite. I was a little anxious as well as
some of the other participants of not talking or using our phones for a whole day and staying
focus on the present, but it actually was easier than I thought and at the end of the day I felt a
sense of peace.

This type of course is not for everyone, but it is evidenced based and taught internationally.
The course has taught me a way of being. It is not a philosophy, it is a be practiced by being
mindful and carrying out the meditation practices daily. It takes commitment and is to be
practiced daily in order for it to be available when needed.

At the end of the eight weeks, I am better at being more mindful and at mediation, but it is a
work in progress. After the eight week course I had learned that my initial response to the first
question of dropping the rock into the well throwing away stress thoughts and feelings was not
mindfulness, it is about learning to live with all the thoughts or feelings good and bad and
acknowledging them and not reacting to them. “ Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It is
the way it is. And how we relate with this truth is what makes all the difference. “. Virginia Satir

Submitted by Edith Chang, M.D.

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