In April of 2013 the psychology department of Trinity Christian College hosted it's annual conference. The conference, entitled Psychology Renewed, focused on the concept of mindfulness. The following post reflects one of the presentations at the conference.
I have been involved in the study of mindfulness, particularly mindfulness meditation, for many years as part of my yoga training and teaching. I came to this study after experiencing the following quotation from Eastern mindfulness practices on my journey: “Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn patience, perfect wisdom, and perfect compassion.” This quote is attached to the computer in my home office. As I read this quote on a daily basis, I am humbled and encouraged to move forward and bring mindfulness to every thought and action.
My colleagues and I shared some insights into mindfulness at our recent Psychology Renewed Conference during the spring semester at Trinity Christian College. My part was to reflect upon the major research findings of an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program, one at Montana State University and the other at the University of Massachusetts. I thought that this information was timely, since I was involved in this particular program for a second time.
The program began at The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University Of Massachusetts Medical School, dedicated to furthering the practice and integration of mindfulness in the lives of individuals, institutions, and in society through a wide range of clinical, research, education, and outreach initiatives in the public and private sector. According to the program’s founder, Jon Kabat-Zinn, since its inception in 1970, more than 18,000 people have completed the program at the University and learned how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness.
Based on the Kabat-Zinn model, Montana State University incorporated this program into their graduate program in counseling, arguing that few counseling programs directly address the importance of self-care in reducing stress and burnout in their curricula. A course entitled “Mind/Body Medicine and the Art of Self-Care” was created to address personal/professional growth opportunities through self-care and mindfulness practices, including meditation, yoga, etc. Most students reported intentions of integrating mindfulness practices into their future professions.
The research findings at both universities noted some important information. Researchers have been evaluating MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) as a tool for helping university students cope with stress and have discovered decreased levels of depression. Other researchers found similar reductions in state and trait anxiety, and increased scores on measures of spiritual experience and empathy in the program. Researchers also discovered an increased quality of life due to program participation.
Based on this information and others, I enrolled in an eight-week mindfulness course for the second time. I discovered what a student from Montana State noted, “I suppose it is the experience of connectedness that has affected my thoughts and questions about healing most significantly. Contemplation remains at the center of my life and I continue to realize that every person in the world is my teacher, each doing the right things to help me learn patience, wisdom, and compassion.”
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Mary Lynn Colosimo, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Trinity Christian College