We thought it might be helpful if we shared some common misconceptions about the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that may help you decide if the course is right for you.
I don’t have the time:
Learning a new skill, always takes some amount of time. However, one of the benefits of mindfulness is stress reduction which in turn opens up time. The practice of mindfulness can bring greater clarity to one’s intentions and values. This added clarity helps to avoid wasting time on things that are not important to you and making costly mistakes caused by rushing and being too quick to react. Making the time now, and it will be a commitment, you may find time opens up for you in the future.
I can’t meditate:
You may have tried meditating and found and you had lots of thoughts rushing through your mind. Or you may have seen people sitting still and cross- legged and thought that you are too restless to do that. It is true that mindfulness meditation is taught as part of the 8 week program but it might be quite different than what you imagine from seeing pictures of blissed-out meditators. At first, you will be encouraged to find a position that is comfortable for you and will begin with short periods of meditation. Over time, you will be able to slowly increase the length of you regular practice. While it is possible to experience a calm stillness or very pleasant feelings when meditating, this is not what we’re trying to do with mindfulness meditation practice. Instead, we are simply growing our ability to rest the attention on whatever is arising in the present moment. For those of us with busy minds sometimes it might be as simple as noticing that. It might not be what you thought it would be, but it is very likely that you can do this kind of meditation.
I need to be in great physical shape to take the class:
In an MBSR class some of the practices involve gentle and mindful body movement, and yoga is one of the practices. You may have tried yoga and found the positions difficult or felt less flexible than those around you. Or you may have seen pictures of yogis standing on their heads or balanced on the edge of a cliff on one leg and know that is not for you. The yoga we do in MBSR is approached in a different way. Instead of a body movement or pose being a “destination”, the focus of the practice is to grow our ability to pay attention to what’s being sensed in the body as we move and noticing thoughts as they arise. The focus is not changing your body nor making it match the position or the ability of another, but rather, to sense how the body is and find a way to be compassionate and present while involved with gentle and mindful movement. Teachers provide specific instructions for all participants, so that everyone can find an expression of the movement in a way that works with their body on that day and enjoy the benefits of the practice. You do not need to have experience in yoga or be in great physical shape to take the class.
I’m not comfortable in groups:
The MBSR program takes place in a small group so you will be learning along with others. There is much richness in hearing from others and sharing in a way that you choose: in that way it is a group process program. Teachers provide specific guidelines to support a safe and confidential setting that allows everyone to find their way of sharing. While you are likely to learn things from other participants, the MBSR program is not group therapy.
These are common questions people often raise when thinking about taking MBSR. If you are asking any of these you are not alone, and it might be reassuring to know that MBSR has a long track record in bringing greater health and vitality to graduates of the program. This well researched and documented program is a treasure being offered through MaineHealth.
About our MBSR Instructors
Tim Blair teaches the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program at MaineHealth. Tim has received his Teacher Qualification Status from the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute (MBPTI) at UC San Diego. Tim is a Systems Design Consultant for nonprofit organizations and is the Founder of the Mindful Nonprofit Institute, a mindfulness program geared for nonprofit organizations looking to incorporate the benefits of mindfulness into the nonprofit workplace.
Anne Gosling teaches the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program and Restorative Yoga at MaineHealth. She completed MBSR teacher training with the Center for Mindfulness (which Jon Kabat-Zinn founded and directed at UMass Medical Center). Anne taught mindfulness meditation and yoga in DC for five years in the VA Medical Center, government agencies, and a community hospital. In the spring she finished a year as a Retreat Support Fellow at the Insight Meditation Society (a silent retreat center in the mindfulness tradition in Massachusetts) and moved to Maine in June. She loves it here.
If you would like more information on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or any other health related topic, the health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today!
Be well, be well informed.