Collier and Lee Counties Edition

The Benefits of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

MBSR group practicing Awareness of Breath meditation

MBSR group practicing Awareness of Breath meditation

Thousands of individuals throughout the U.S. have turned to the simple practice of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for reasons that vary from relief of chronic pain and stress to dealing with illness, improving academic or athletic performance, healing from trauma and becoming better leaders. Even politicians such as Congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance and Recapture the American Spirit, are finding that the benefits of MBSR apply to current challenges that affect our lives, communities and society as a whole.

In Southwest Florida, hundreds of local residents such as retired physician Jim Bova and his wife, Kathy, as well as Sara Barry, a local middle school teacher, have benefitted from the eight-week mindfulness program offered at Integrative Mindfulness, in Bonita Springs. Founder Madeline Ebelini holds a Master of Arts degree in Transpersonal Psychology and is a trained MBSR teacher, having completed professional training through both the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of California San Diego. In 2010, she completed MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the program’s founder. She is also a registered yoga teacher.

The practice of mindfulness is the intentional cultivation of the innate capacity for non-judgmental, momentto- moment awareness. Increasingly recognized as a healing and wholesome way to live, the MBSR combination of a variety of mindfulness meditation practices, gentle stretching and simple yoga strengthens inborn internal resources, which naturally flow into everyday experiences and interactions. MBSR practitioners respond to life more thoughtfully by choice and less automatically by habit, experience less negative judgment and anger, enjoy better sleep, moods and energy levels, and notice improvement in emotional well-being. Additionally, in learning to listening attentively, they often benefit from improved relationships, acceptance of things as they are, wise action and changes that arise from a place of alignment, rather than denial.

“Practices included in the MBSR program that I teach originated in a healthcare setting as possible solutions for individuals whose physicians informed them that there was nothing more that they could do to help them deal with chronic pain. Those who participated in the earliest MBSR programs learned to differentiate between psychological pain and physical pain. In letting go of the psychological pain, they gained a better quality of life,” says Ebelini.

Since 2002, a great deal of brain research, such as Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2003, has revealed the effects of eight-week mindfulness training on brain and immune function that occurred during a three-month and three-year follow up with individuals practicing MBSR. Other important studies showed a reduction in the incidence of other medical disorders such as anxiety, depression and the lowering of elevated blood pressure.

Bova first learned about mindfulness while reading Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, in which he mentions that he made many personal notes.

In the fall of 2015, Jim and Kathy committed to the eight-week course that includes a one-day silent retreat. Both agreed that they didn’t want to wait until they had catastrophic medical issues to deal with, and the decision proved to be a prophetic. “2016 was not a good year for either of us. Kathy had to have a second orthopedic surgery on her ankle and was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I had a stroke. We also had to euthanize our amazing dog that was our companion for more than 14 years,” says Jim, who notes that mindfulness practices helped him and Kathy navigate those challenging situations.

“I am thankful that Jon introduces medical science to support the importance and value of mindfulness. The Benefits of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction by Linda Sechrist Madeline Ebelini natural awakenings April 2017 43 The brain science that is eloquently explained in the book lends the necessary credibility that makes mindfulness a non-denominational practice of stress reduction, which enhances health and life,” explains Jim, who has cardiovascular disease. “I appreciate that my practice allowed me to reduce my stress level, which is one of my risk factors. I’ve also been able to reduce the dosage of my medication.”

Jim and Kathy meditate and use aspects of mindfulness practice now nearly every day, although he notes that when they travel, setting aside the time is more challenging. He describes how mindfulness is useful while driving in traffic. “Drawing in a deep breath and scanning my body to become fully aware of how it is feeling are the steps before I assume the mental position of observing without judgment. Mindfulness has been a very positive experience that has enhanced our lives,” advises Jim, whose grandson and granddaughter are students at the same charter school that provides a mindfulness meditation as an aspect of every school day. “I think about how this will positively affect students’ ability to listen in class, resolve conflicts, reduce stress levels during tests and have better relationships. I also think about how it would have helped me in medical school, as well as throughout my entire medical career.”

Barry was interested in meditation long before her September 2016 enrollment in Ebelini’s class. She felt that MSBR would be emotionally helpful for the personally stressful times that she was experiencing. As a parent of a 6-year-old son, she also thought that mindfulness could help her to be more present with him, as well as her students.

“At Madeline’s recommendation upon completion of the eight-week course, I enrolled in the online mindful educators course. Both courses helped me have better relationships with my students. By learning to adopt a curious beginner’s mind, I am able to avoid prejudging students whose behavior is defiant and disruptive. A beginner’s sense of curiosity allows for more listening, patience, and wonder about what is going on with students, rather than reacting to their disruptive behavior, which actually occurs less and less,” clarifies Barry.

“In the mindfulness educator course, the teacher talked about consciously creating or setting the container within which students experience a calm attitude and respond to the presence that they unconsciously sense,” advises Barry.

In Mindful Nation, Ryan describes encounters with teachers that have implemented mindfulness programs in schools. “They tell great stories about the difference mindfulness makes in their classroom and about how they are able to avoid burnout by increasing their resilience. In essence, mindfulness can be a powerful tool in boosting our children’s educational experience and in improving our health as a nation,” says Ryan.

Integrative Mindfulness is located at Woods Edge Cir. in Bonita Springs. For more information on the free Apr. 14 MBSR introductory information talk at 9:30 a.m., call 239-590-9485. For more information, visit IntegrativeMindfulness.net.

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