Mindfulness & Medicine
If we want to heal our bodies, our minds and our relationships, and the many ways things can go wrong on all three levels, a fundamental paradigm shift is required.
We need to move from the prison of seeing our organism as a structure, a thing or a noun, to realizing that its nature is energy flow, movement and function – not a noun, but a verb! The moment we shift that way, our whole approach gets revolutionized and we can tap into the vast healing forces we previously had no access to. The results are surprising and a deep source of inspiration for health and well being.
Suffering is the deepest of human concerns. We all yearn to find liberation from it, but in trying to achieve relief from suffering, we unwittingly perpetuate attitudes and action patterns that prolong or even deepen our suffering and the suffering of our planet. The reason for that lies in our relationship to consciousness. Consciousness is a survival tool that has been thrust upon human beings by evolution. Like apprentice sorcerers, we are easily intoxicated by the power of consciousness, causing a lot of harm in the process of wielding its fascinating creative potential. If we want to live full lives, lives that are imbued with wisdom and love, healed by compassion, opened up by clear view, and in harmony with the mystery of existence, it now behooves us to discover the seed of wisdom deep in the bowels of consciousness, and to develop it in a systematic, disciplined and committed fashion. For this seed to flourish, nothing less will do than stating our whole being, uncompromisingly, without substitutes, without easier conditions, as if our lives depended on it. That is the challenge of mindfulness.
Every human being also has the responsibility to actively participate in maintaining health and preventing illness by learning how to live mindfully with an attitude that fosters regeneration. To this end, we integrate medicine’s scientific knowledge base with a complementary vision of healing that emphasizes a preventative and highly cost-effective focus on health.
The development of our medicare system is our culture’s immediate reaction to illness. However, every disease has a long, silent history before its symptoms become manifest. The way we live and our sense of self contribute to this history, which most of the time is largely unconscious. Mindfulness is the key to discovering that history and influencing its future course. In developing skills of mindfulness, we deepen our relationship with the unconscious and our insights into connections between the physical, psychological and spiritual domains. Practicing the art of mindfulness is essentially harnessing and directing the complex human phenomenon of consciousness.
In essence we examine our sense of self, so that we may heal and move towards greater inner peace and serenity. This involves interweaving rational understanding, emotional experience, irrational intuitions, dreams and fantasies, and listening to the body. Personal and cultural history, present life circumstances, and aspirations for the future form the three-fold context within which this work unfolds.
Mindfulness can be described as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. For mindfulness to become the determining force in our attitude towards life, we need to practice a purposeful kind of attention that we are not usually accustomed to.
Recognized in all cultures of the world for its intrinsic and transformative qualities, mindfulness is a universal human faculty that is not limited by cultural boundaries. It has acquired a fundamental place in behavioral medicine, which explicitly recognizes the interconnection of body and mind in its scientific understanding of disease and health. Therefore, all our programs teach different meditation practices independent of the religious and cultural beliefs associated with them.
The development of our medi-care system is our culture’s immediate reaction to illness. However, every disease has a long, silent history before its symptoms become manifest. The way we live and our sense of self contribute to this history, which most of the time is largely unconscious. Mindfulness is the key to discovering that history and influencing its future course.
In cultivating mindfulness, we learn to shed light on the unconscious, integrate conflict, go beyond contradiction and embrace complexity, so that we begin to experience a sense of wholeness. We thus discover deep realms of equilibrium, calmness and insight within ourselves. The resulting experience of inner peace and acceptance lies at the heart of both health and wisdom.
Whether engaged in developing mindfulness through meditation or psychoanalytic psychotherapy, people do best with a skeptical, but open attitude.
Behavioral medicine recognizes the interconnection of body and mind in its scientific understanding of disease and health. Since thought patterns and emotions play a significant role in health and illness, health is maintained and healing significantly improved by encouraging patients to be active participants in recovering from and preventing illness. This lays the foundation for highly cost-effective health care, instead of unaffordable disease care.
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. In the form of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction programs, he introduced mindfulness meditation, the technique and practice that allows us to purposefully cultivate non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness, in a formalized manner into medicine. The clinic grew and became The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (CFM) in 1995.
The mindfulness-based stress reduction programs provide a rigorous and systematic training in mindfulness that builds upon the principles and research results of behavioral medicine. The method consists in applying the principles and practices of mindfulness meditation for the purpose of stress-reduction, chronic pain management and disease prevention.
Representing mainstream medicine at its best, we learn to work with the forces of mind/body integration by removing psychological obstacles to healing and mobilizing the body’s innate healing mechanisms. It involves becoming acquainted with principles that are universal for all human beings, intrinsic to the human organism and transformative on one’s life path.
Research has shown that the majority of people report lasting reductions in both physical and psychological symptoms. Their attitude and behavior undergo deep, positive changes that are rooted in a less conflicted perception of self, others and the world. This results in an increased ability to cope effectively with both short-term and long-term stressful situations.
It is a pre-requisite that patients be motivated to spend time actively practicing a participatory attitude in their healing process.
On this basis, the following are possible indications for this work:
- Chronic pain
- Type A behavior
- Panic, anxiety, depression and other psychiatric conditions
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic illness such as auto-immune diseases and cancer
- Cardiovascular illness including heart disease and high blood pressure
- Weight problem
- Mnire disease and tinnitus
- HIV-infection and AIDS
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Skin disorders
- Bereavement and Dying
- Stimulate one’s body’s mechanisms of regeneration through a direct effect on neurophysiological, hormonal and immune responses.
- Decrease the intensity of, and sometimes eliminate physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from anxiety and high blood pressure to various types of physical pain.
- Positively modify the course of illnesses, leading to an improved prognosis and lifestyle, or at times remissions.
- Decrease the likelyhood of a relapse after a depressive episode.
- Increase energy levels and the ability to relax.
- Free-up one’s creative potential as the world takes on a more nurturing quality.
- Create a sense of one’s life being more meaningful.
- Receive systematic training in mindfulness meditation.
- Obtain a solid knowledge base about the phenomenon of consciousness.
- Discover how consciousness integrates the physical, psychological and spiritual domains of experience.
- Learn mindfulness techniques to better cope with medical symptoms.
- Foster the greatest possible degree of freedom of inquiry in a safe and respectful environment.
- Encourage greater freedom in one’s spiritual exploration by analyzing restrictive belief structures.
- Open greater emotional access to the possibility of undertaking the lifelong adventure of insight.