You’ve been stressed, I’ve been stressed, we’ve all been stressed at some point. But, what do we do about it? Just as there are a plethora of personality types out there, there are a plethora of tools and techniques available to help you reduce the stress in your life. One increasingly popular technique is called The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. I have the great privilege of knowing Kersti Abawi, who is a psychotherapist, yoga and meditation teacher, and facilitator of Phoenix Rising Yoga and MBSR (She works out of The Bear Clinic in Oakville, Ontario, which offers integrated and holistic treatment to help individuals function at their optimal level). In today’s guest post, she explains all about MBSR!
By: Kersti Abawi, MA RYT
Mindfulness is a state of alert but relaxed awareness. It does not avoid, add to, or interfere with whatever comes into our awareness. It is a receptive state that accepts whatever is (already) present, in thoughts, body sensations, and feelings. Simply put: mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness.
Mindfulness as taught during the MBSR program, is a powerful tool for learning about and studying how we create our perceptions of the world (and ourselves.) It exposes our habitual patterns of discerning and reacting, and allows us to become observers of our own minds.
Why is this helpful? Becoming an observer, or witness, of our mind, allows for a stepping back, a slight gap between the habit and the response. This gap acts as an opening to choice, regarding our response. Habits are the automatic pilot behaviours of our life. Usually they are unconscious, because the pattern is a series of reflexive thoughts/feelings/actions that have been practiced thousands of times, and have become mechanical, mindless. If we live our life simply controlled by our habits, we really give over our freedom to choose how we truly want to live. So becoming an observer of your own mind gives you back control, autonomy, choice.
As a consequence of becoming a witness to the activities of our mind, we realize that our habits and choices are simply opinions. These opinions actually change. This raises a question about the idea of a permanent, solid “self”. Does such a “self” really exist, if it’s opinions change? Or is it just an illusion? This is a conversation often encountered during the MBSR program.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program is a 6-week program which runs on an ongoing basis through The Bear Clinic. We meet once a week, for two hours. Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed this program in the 1980’s and it has been offered extensively in hundreds of hospital and community settings.
Research has shown that MBSR increases activity in the part of the brain that governs learning and memory, while decreasing activity in the area responsible for worry and fear. Not surprisingly, MBSR lowers cortisol (the stress hormone), improves sleep, and reduces depression and anxiety.
It does take effort (work) to achieve freedom (or at least some reprieve) from the prison of our own thought habits! This work is intrinsically healing.
Each MBSR class includes a weekly CD to take home and practice what we’ve learned in session. Practice is essential to creating change.
For those of you who are interested in learning more, Kersti will be leading a 6-week MBSR program beginning April 22nd and 23rd (which is almost full) another one beginning in early July. For more information, please contact The Bear Clinic at 905-844-4673 or to connect with Kersti directly, you can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org