BLUE MOUNTAINS MINDFULNESS TRAINING
BLUE MOUNTAINS MINDFULNESS TRAINING
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Courses in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains
ABC Catalyst recently screened an excellent report on the MBSR course, available on iview
For whom might this course be appropriate?
The MBSR program is useful for a broad range of people with diverse backgrounds, ages, interests and levels of well-being. People may self-refer, or they may be referred by their doctors or allied health practitioners because of emotional and/or physical stressors in their lives. Many enrol because, although they are feeling rather well, they say the pace of their lives is "out of control" or they're "just not feeling quite right", or just want more ease and enjoyment in their lives.
Mindfulness training can enhance learning, concentration, creativity, personal resilience and professional effectiveness.
For those experiencing job, relationship or family pressures, the course can help with day-to-day stress symptoms such as headaches, irritability, high-blood pressure, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Participation in the course can reduce suffering even for those with quite serious conditions, including mild depression, anxiety and panic disorders, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and chronic pain.
For health professionals, participating in one of our regular 8-week MBSR courses is a way to help establish a personally and professionally meaningful mindfulness practice, to experience first-hand how mindfulness ‘works’ and the benefits it can bring, and to see how some mindfulness skills can be imparted simply and effectively.
In a pre-course phone interview with the teacher, interested people will have the opportunity to raise any personal issues that might affect course attendance or home practice. They can explore with the teacher whether the course is right for them at this time, and if it is, what extra supports if any they may require in order to get the most out of the program. They may be advised at this stage to speak with their health care practitioner for an opinion and/or a letter as to whether there are any contra-indications for them participating in meditation or gentle yoga.
In general, one of the great things about MBSR is its flexibility: it ‘works’ with many different people with many different personal needs and life situations. Accordingly, we strive in our teaching to accommodate individual needs and limitations. For example, participants are encouraged to take authority for their own bodies, exploring within their own capacities, and not participating in any movement or posture that may cause injury or exacerbate a condition. Sitting, lying, standing and walking are all valid postures.
The course incorporates the following elements:
- A 2.5 hour class once a week for eight weeks plus one full day
- Mindfulness meditation training
- Gentle yoga and body awareness training
- Exploration of patterns of thinking, feeling and action, and how to transform them
- Brief talks and discussions
- Individual feedback and support
- Scientific rationale for the practice
- A commitment to daily homework practice using CDs and course book
The course offers a systematic training in mindfulness – learning how to cultivate an observant, accepting and compassionate stance towards one’s own thoughts, emotional states, body sensations and impulses. As the course progresses, new skills and understandings build on the foundation of the skills taught the previous week and as practiced at home in the days between sessions.
Specific information about stress physiology, emotion regulation, cognitive behavioural strategies, interpersonal communication and implementing self-care will be given.
The weekly themes are as follows:
- Recognising the Present Moment - stepping out of automatic pilot
- Perception and how we make sense of the world
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Investigating stressful experience & approaching the difficult
- Finding another place to stand
- Interpersonal mindfulness
- Living on Purpose - applying mindfulness
- Making mindfulness part of your life
Structure of weekly classes
The emphasis in the classes is on experiential learning – practicing becoming more mindful, rather than on theory. A weekly class usually starts with practicing various mindfulness meditation techniques and often also some gentle mindful movement practice. We then explore together how everyone is doing with practicing mindfulness at home and applying the principles in daily life. Each class also has a few topics that will be explored with brief talks, group discussions and short exercises.
Day of Mindfulness
Between sessions 5 and 7 (this varies slightly) there will be a full Day of Silent Mindfulness Practice. This day is like a mini-retreat, dedicated to the mindful exploration of experience through various modes of guided meditation and mindful movement practices. The day is mainly conducted in silence, apart from the guidance by the teacher(s), and a close-of-the day process. The Day of Mindfulness is an important and integral part of the course, and many participants have reported substantial benefits from it.
As well, course graduates can participate in any Day of Mindfulness that is held after their course has finished anywhere in Australia where the Openground MBSR courses are run. This is a way of refreshing their connection with the mindfulness practices and with themselves and experiencing community.
How does MBSR differ from the meditation at Buddhist meditation retreats?
While the MBSR meditation practices are embedded in Buddhism’s Four Foundations of mindfulness and the Noble Eightfold Path, we do not explicitly teach Buddhist philosophy. Most of a Buddhist retreat is conducted silently and participants are removed from daily life for longer periods – anything from a weekend to months at a time. Meditators practice for long periods without instruction or interruption, and group and/or individual teaching interviews occur separately at scheduled times. There are usually daily talks about Buddhism and mediation practice. In this MBSR course, practices are taught through guided instruction, with daily home practice between weekly classes. The teacher follows most of the class meditations with loosely structured ‘inquiry’ discussions focusing on group members’ specific concrete experience of the practices. There are also other structured exercises and discussion. After completing MBSR courses, people may than want to explore mediation further and deepen their practice by attending longer retreats.
MBSR teachers are themselves expected to attend Buddhist retreats and practice meditation daily. They study the Buddhist foundations in which the course is embedded. There is also more emphasis on mindful gentle hatha yoga and movement in MBSR than in the longer Buddhist retreats, but this depends on the kind of retreat one attends and the skills of the teachers.