What is Mindfulness?
It is the intention to pay attention to each 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 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 (MBCT, 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 upon completion of an MBSR program.
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 of experiencing life mainly based on thoughts of 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 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, more than 25,000 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 course is intensive training in mindfulness meditation and its integration into the challenges and adventures of everyday life.
Can children and teens sign up for the MBSR course?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was designed for adults 17 years and older. 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 CFM 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 offers Harvard Pilgrim or Tufts Health Plan members 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, 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 do not take notes. Home assignments and guided meditation files will be provided electronically. Ultimately, your experiences with the mindfulness practices during everyday life become the 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 participants to use the eight weeks as a testing ground for the mindfulness practice. In this way you will be able to see what benefits may come. After the course, class participants are encouraged to continue with their own 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 MP3 audio recordings of the guided meditations and yoga sequences for about 40-45 minutes a day.
Why are mobile devices not recommended for the online course?
A large part of the MBSR class is dialogue with your instructor and your classmates about your experiences throughout the 8 weeks. One of the great benefits of the online meeting room is the flexibility to see your fellow participants altogether on screen. With mobile devices such as tablets and phones, your view of your classmates will be limited to just a few faces at a time, or just the person speaking. Mobile devices also make it more difficult to see yoga postures being demonstrated, shared-screen presentations and slideshows, or if the teacher is writing or drawing on a whiteboard. The controls for the mobile app may not be as intuitive or robust as the desktop version. We want you to have the best experience possible, and so we only recommend using a mobile device if your computer is not working, or if you are in a location without access to a desktop or laptop at the time of your class.
I cannot sit still for long; can I still take an MBSR course?
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 engaging 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 and to notice what it is like to stay with the experience 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 all, and we all have our own unique abilities and experiences. Yoga and movement sessions are designed to be gentle and the focus is more on giving attention to the movement (even if imagined) than to having the perfect 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 practices and help modify them to fit the individual. There will always be the encouragement to take care of yourself in the best way possible.
Are there conditions or life situations where taking an MBSR course is not recommended?
There are some conditions that participants are encouraged to be under the care of a mental health professional or medical doctor, and in still other cases participants are encouraged to delay entering an MBSR program or seek other treatments.
A partial list of conditions or life situations may include a history of 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. The hope is that participants can complete the MBSR course at a point in their life where they are supported and able to gain full benefit from the mindfulness practices.
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 CFM is a 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 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 is the tuition for your 8-Week Courses?
What is your cancellation/refund policy?
Do you offer CE’s for your 8-Week courses?
Currently, we do not offer Continuing Education credits for our courses.
Will I receive a certificate at the end of the course?
We do not offer certificates; however, we do provide a completion letter at the end of our courses. This letter includes your name, the dates attended, the number of class hours, and information regarding the at-home practice.
For participants who will be pursuing MBSR teacher training, this letter can be submitted to the training organization as confirmation of fulfillment of pre-requisite requirement.
What if I would like to become a Certified MBSR teacher?
During the Summer of 2019, the Center for Mindfulness transitioned from UMass Medical School to UMass Memorial Health Care. At that time, the CFM discontinued its MBSR teacher training program. The 8-Week MBSR and MBCT courses are not professional trainings and should be completed and experienced in the fullest way possible for yourself as a participant. It is only this solid foundation of the experience that will prepare you to begin training as an MBSR teacher.
Completion of the 8-Week MBSR course with the CFM fulfills the pre-requisite for beginning a teacher training pathway at most institutions offering this professional training. If your intention is to fulfill this pre-requisite with UMass Memorial Health Care, please confirm with the training organization you have chosen before registering for the MBSR course.
What if I am pursuing MBCT training, can I take your MBCT course as a pre-requisite for that training?
No. Although some organizations do allow teachers-in-training to enroll in their MBCT programs, ours is not intended as a professional training. The MBCT course at CFM is specifically intended for participants who have recurrent depression, are currently in treatment, and who may have been hospitalized for depression in the past. In this way we can offer a course that connects participants and acknowledges, supports, and builds on their shared experience.