Mindfulness FAQs

1. What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?

MBSR is an evidence-based program designed by Jon-Kabat-Zinn that has been used to complement modern medical treatments. It uses a systematic, intensive training in mindfulness meditation as the core of a program to teach people how to take better care of themselves and be more adaptive. The 8 –Week program has over 30 years of research to document its value.

night at sea. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

2. Is mindfulness compatible with a busy schedule?

One thing to keep in mind is that while time may feel limited, adding mindfulness into our lives tends to help us prioritize and become more efficient both at home and at work. Additionally, taking time to replenish our reserves can enable us to better meet the demands of our very busy lives.
That said, the course is intense, and best attended when you feel confident you can make every class AND create time on a daily basis to explore the suggested practices. Let’s set ourselves up for success!

3. Do I need to have prior experience with meditation or yoga to attend?

No. The MBSR program and facilitator have no expectation that participants have experience with meditation or yoga or any other mindfulness practice. Everyone will be encouraged to put aside their previous experiences, and meet the course with a beginner’s mind. In this way, we come together as equals, with a shared intention of exploring present-moment experience with curiosity and kindness.

For those that have experience with meditation or yoga in the past, they may find the course refreshes their practice.

4. Is MBSR a form of group therapy?

No…MBSR is a form of participatory medicine where participants experientially learn about their stress reactivity, and how they might be able to respond to their life challenges.

It may be better viewed as an educational course where we can explore our own life and patterns, rather than delve deeply into the content of our lives. The aim is to provide you with enough resources to take the tools with you and be able to integrate them into your normal day-to-day routine.

5. Is there evidence that MBSR is good for my medical condition?

Over the past 35 years, MBSR has been scientifically shown to be an effective compliment to a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions. Mindfulness is an active area of scientific research with new studies on MBSR being shared on a regular basis. Below are some examples.

Chronic Pain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Heart Disease
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

6. Is mindfulness compatible with my religious faith?

Mindfulness is a life concept and is found in many traditions and cultures. It has been particularly well articulated in some Buddhist traditions. MBSR was developed in a way that is secular and accessible to all people regardless of religious traditions or beliefs. Mindfulness practice is really just about being present to our lives as they are and working with what we discover with compassion and openness. This tends to be a good compliment to whatever practices and traditions one is already aligned with.

7. What is the average size on an MBSR class?

The average size of an MBSR course is typically 15-25 people.
Each class has a component of dialogue and inquiry which promotes self-discovery and personal growth. Having a diverse range of many people can foster a supportive environment that holds many different insights and experiences.
For some it can be more difficult to speak in front of others. Please know that while participation is encouraged, sharing in front of the group is always optional.

8. 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.  It is helpful to consider the program as a daily agenda with weekly support, rather than a weekly course. The suggested mindfulness practices take about 30-45 minutes.

9. Are there times when taking an MBSR is not recommended?

At times, participants are encouraged to delay entering an MBSR program or seek other treatments. These situations include: if someone is dealing with substance or alcohol abuse with less than a year of being clean or sober, thoughts or attempts of suicide, recent or unresolved trauma, as well as being in the middle of major life changes.
Decisions around enrolment are made on a case-by-case basis. Certain participants may do better if they attend the program AND continue active visits with their mental health therapist. The hope is that participants can complete the MBSR course at a point in their life where they are able to gain full benefit.

10. What are the main benefits I might gain from an MBSR program?

Studies have shown theta there is an inherent satisfaction that comes with living our lives  with awareness instead of “on automatic pilot”. There is also evidence that the functional connectivity of the brain is increased, giving us better access to what is happening within us, and around us. We are thus far more likely to make sound decisions.
Participants often report greater joy and presence for the simple things in life, such as a shared moment with a loved one. We also may find ourselves experiencing heightened compassion both for ourselves and others. Many of the effects of mindfulness meditation found in scientific research include decrease in anxiety and depression as well as shifting relationships to pain, in whatever form.
Ultimately, everyone is encouraged to find out for themselves how mindfulness meditation might benefit their lives.