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What is Mindfulness?

It is the intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally. While there are many possible definitions, the key aspects of any definition of mindfulness involve purposeful action, focused attention, grounded in the current experience, and held with a sense of curiosity. The Center for Mindfulness believes that we all have the capacity for mindfulness.

Is MBSR good for my medical condition?

MBSR has been scientifically shown to be an effective complement to a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions. Below is a partial listing of medical and psychological conditions with citations of some of the benefits of mindfulness practice.

Anxiety (Hoge, Bui, Marques, Metcalf, Morris, Robinaugh, et. al., 2013)

Asthma (Pbert, Madison, Druker, Olendzki, Magner, Reed, et. al., 2012)

Cancer (Carlson, Doll, Stephen, Faris, Tamagawa, Drysdale, & Speca, 2013)

Chronic Pain (Reiner, Tibi, & Lipsitz, 2013)

Diabetes (Hartmann, Kopf, Kircher, Faude-Lang, Djuric, Augstein, et. al., 2012)

Fibromyalgia (Schmidt, Grossman, Schwarzer, Jena, Naumann, & Walach, 2011)

Gastrointestinal Disorders (Zernicke, Campbell, Blustein, Fung, Johnson, Bacon, & Carlson, 2013)

Heart Disease (Sullivan, Wood, Terry, Brantley, Charles, McGee, Johnson, et. al., 2009)

HIV (Duncan, Moskowitz, Neilands, Dilworth, Hecht, & Johnson, 2012)

Hot Flashes (Carmody, Crawford, Salmoirago-Blotcher, Leung, Churchill, & Olendzki, 2011)

Hypertension (Hughes, Fresco, Myerscough, van Dulmen, Carlson, & Josephson, 2013)

Major Depression (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011)

Mood Disorders (Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010)

Sleep Disturbances (Andersen, Wurtzen, Steding-Jessen, Christensen, Andersen, Flyger, et. al., 2013)

Stress Disorders (Kearney, McDermott, Malte, Martinez, & Simpson, 2012)


What impact does mindfulness practice have on my brain and cognitive processing?

Mindfulness is an active area of research with many studies focusing on the structural and functional changes in the brain due to completion of an MBSR program. Please explore the Therapeutic Neuroscience Lab site for additional information about the research.

How might mindfulness meditation benefit my life?

The direct benefit is living our lives in this moment with awareness instead of "on automatic pilot" or solely in the past or future.

Patients often report greater joy for the simple things in life, such as a shared moment with their child or partner or more aware of the change of seasons as flowers bloom and snow falls. We begin to realize that there is more “right” with us than “wrong” with us as we become more engaged in our lives. Many of the side effects of mindfulness meditation found in scientific research include decrease in psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression as well as greater stability in physical symptoms such as blood glucose levels and blood pressure.

Ultimately, it is an empirical question and everyone is encouraged to find out for themselves how mindfulness meditation might benefit their lives.

Do I need a medical doctor referral?

No…In most cases you do not need a medical doctor referral to be able to attend an MBSR course.

However, if you are under the care of a physician or mental health professional and have any specific health concerns we would want to address those with you prior to your acceptance into the MBSR program. With your consent and permission we can set up an agreement to speak with your doctor or mental health professional as you go through the course in order to increase the support network for you as you move through the program.

How is mindfulness different from other forms of contemplative practice?

Mindfulness is a practice of present moment awareness. Mindfulness increases ability to see things as they arise clearly without judgment. Mindfulness facilitates both focusing and widening our attention as we become aware of ourselves and the world around us. The “goal” is to be more fully present in our lives

There are many types of contemplative practices and the Center for Mindfulness encourages exploration of practices that allow people to increase their well-being. Many other contemplative practices have a specific focus such as building concentration, one-pointed awareness, or a relationship with a higher power. If mindfulness does not match your interest you may wish to explore other forms of contemplative practices.

How long has MBSR been taught and used by other patients?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Program in 1979. Since its inception 35 years ago, more than 20,000 people have completed our eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) and learned how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness. The central focus of the Clinic is intensive training in mindfulness meditation and its integration into the challenges/adventures of everyday life.

Can children and teens sign up for the MBSR course?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was designed for adults. The Stress Reduction Clinic (SRC) at the Center for Mindfulness (CFM) encourage individuals 17 years or older to register for the program. Specialty programs for adolescents have been offered through the SRC, but not currently on a regular schedule. Parents of children or adolescents may wish to explore other mindfulness programs not offered through the CFM.

Will my health insurance pay for the MBSR course?

Not currently… The Center for Mindfulness does not accept third party payees. However, some insurance companies have been trying to promote preventative medicine and have become more willing to reimburse members under wellness codes. In addition, the CFM has a special relationship with Harvard Pilgrim plan or Tufts making members eligible for a 15% discount.

Do I need to have experience with meditation or yoga prior to the course?

No…While prior mindfulness practice may motivate individuals to take MBSR, the MBSR program and teacher have no expectation that participants have experience with meditation or yoga or any other mindfulness practice. Everyone will have the opportunity to explore and experience mindfulness while having a skilled teacher to guide and help answer questions about practice.

For those that have experience with meditation or yoga in the past, the course can be a good refresher to rebuild a strong daily practice.

Do I need to read any books prior to the course?

No…It is not necessary to read any books prior to attending the MBSR class. In fact during the class we recommend not reading any books, as mindfulness is a highly experiential process. We invite you to use this time to investigate your own process and experience of the course and then after it is finished it may be useful to expand your understanding through reading books such as the ones listed below:

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Heal Thyself by Saki Santorelli

Where Ever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Do I need a textbook for the MBSR class or a notebook to take notes during the class?

No…You will not need to have a textbook or a notebook for the MBSR class itself. We recommend that while in the class you don’t take notes. We have included many things you may want to reference in a workbook given to all participants. Ultimately, our experiences with the mindfulness practices and our lives become our textbook and notes.

Some participants have found it helpful to keep a journal outside of the class to note experiences during the unfolding of the class.

Do I have to engage in mindfulness practices to benefit from the program?

Yes… Mindfulness is a highly experiential practice and therefore engaging the formal mindfulness practices is perhaps the most important component of the course. We encourage all of the participants to use the 8-weeks as a testing ground for the mindfulness practice. In this way you will be able to see what benefits may come from taking the course. After the class participants are encouraged to continue with their mindfulness practice as it fits and supports their lives.

How much practice is in the MBSR class week to week?

Mindfulness practice is a major component of each class meeting as well as the time in-between classes.  During the week participants use mindfulness CD’s or MP3’s to support daily practice. The CD’s/MP3’s contain mindfulness mediations and yoga sequences that are about 40-45 minutes long.

I cannot sit still for very long, can I still take an MBSR class?

Yes… Mindfulness is not about sitting still or moving slowly. Mindfulness and MBSR is about bring attention to this moment whether it is stillness or fidgety. Participants will be engage in many different forms of mindfulness practices which include sitting, lying down, standing, and moving. Participants are encouraged to take care of themselves. If you need to leave the room and walk a bit and then come back that is an option. The class may also be a good place to explore the edges of our boundaries with this and to notice what it is like to stay with this and notice if it perhaps changes over time.

Do I need to be athletic or flexible to take and MBSR course?

No… The class is open to a wide variety of individuals who may have a wide variety of abilities. The yoga is designed to be gentle and the focus is more on giving attention to the movement (even if imagined) than to the particular posture. Participants are encouraged to let their teacher know if they have any physical challenges. This will allow the teacher to fully support the participants as they engage in the mindfulness practices such help modify the practices to fit the individual. There will always be the encouragement to take care of yourself in the best way possible.

Will Mindfulness-Based programs disrupt my ongoing psychotherapy?

MBSR and MBCT can be a wonderful compliment to psychotherapy. If you are currently in therapy we do recommend that you speak to your therapist about your intention to participate in an 8-week course. Our preference is that your therapist is in support of your taking the class. We can with a consent agreement and your permission speak with your therapist if you choose as you go through the program.

Is mindfulness compatible with my religious faith?

The Center for Mindfulness is secular institution and MBSR was developed in a way that is accessible to all people regardless of the religious traditions or beliefs. Mindfulness practice is really just about being awake to our lives as they are and working with seeing our process and ourselves more clearly. This tends to be a good compliment to many religious traditions in ways that you can explore as you develop your practice.

What if I would like to become a Certified MBSR teacher?

To learn more about the path to becoming a Certified MBSR Teacher visit the Oasis Institute, the teacher training and professional education institute of the Center for Mindfulness.