Jon Kabat-Zinn – The founder of the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course

Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course in 1979. Now, it is widely used as a method of calming the mind and body to manage our automatic, emotional reactions to external factors. Within this article, Kabat-Zinn explains the essence of mindfulness, learning to understand the relationship we have with pain; emotional and physical. The Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course is Secular, meaning that it is not related or connected to religion or spiritual practice.

“With others, he pioneered an eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for patients with chronic pain, harnessing the fundamentals of mindfulness meditation as taught by the Buddha, but with the Buddhism taken out. “I bent over backwards to structure it and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist, new age, eastern mysticism or just plain flakey,” he says.”

“Kabat-Zinn had been meditating since 1965, but had no compunction in playing the Buddhism right down. “I got into this through the Zen door which is a very irreverent approach to Buddhism,” he says. He talks a lot about dharma, the term for the Buddha’s teaching, but he’s not a Buddhist and remarks that to insist mindfulness meditation is Buddhist is like saying gravity is English because it was identified by Sir Isaac Newton.”

“The UMass Stress Reduction Clinic opened its doors in 1979 and taught people with chronic back pain, victims of industrial accidents, cancer patients and sometimes paraplegics. Kabat-Zinn has defined mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional.”

A positive reflection for the weekend…

This crisis has caused us all to feel a level of distress, some more than others. Therefore, our bodies and minds are reacting. It makes sense and it’s rational, even though it can feel painful and disconcerting because there is tremendous suffering

The comments on some of my posts this week have shown that we all deal with crises differently and it’s important to acknowledge that what works for one does not work for another. Finding your own nourishing activities is most important during this time of self-isolation, as is finding your tribe.

For example, someone explained how they enjoy the idea of completing a puzzle to focus the mind. Someone else said that a puzzle was their worst nightmare and that they enjoy painting. I enjoy going for a walk along the canal (it is very quiet but I keep a 2 metre distance between myself and anyone else) and, I use mindfulness meditation throughout the day, both formally and informally to check-in with myself and to make decisions about how I should approach my day, tasks and activities. This makes us unique!

Emotions are Universal. We all have them; happiness, sadness, anger. What can be different, is the way we respond and react to them.

Mindfulness meditation can support us to self-regulate the body’s response (including the mind) to distress. Person-centred therapy can also be useful to process and overcome trauma.