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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Mindfulness Meditation Courses and Movement Classes Offered in Sarasota

Sep 28, 2014 07:00PM

Mindfulness has been making headlines, both locally and nationally. This practice of meditation was around for thousands of years before being introduced to hospital settings by MIT-educated John Kabat-Zinn in 1979. In Sarasota, Betsy Nelson wanted to bring the practice to the mainstream and, with the help of other Mindful colleagues, started the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute (SMI) in 2009. Now a busy center with hundreds of regular class-goers, SMI is breaking ground with classes that introduce participants to Mindfulness with yoga, qigong, movement, art, laughter, sitting groups and a Mindful Kids program—all designed for practitioners to become present in their daily lives without external judgment or stress.

Mindfulness: Learning to live in the moment, a special report from the Mayo Clinic, recalls that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course was designed as a set of daily practices combining mindfulness, meditation and yoga in the late 1970s One of the first studies involved a group of people, who had been living with chronic pain for anywhere between six months and four years. Chronic pain can be notoriously difficult to control and often results in high levels of stress or decreased quality of life. The chronic pain in these study participants hadn’t improved under traditional medical care. After 10 weeks of training in MBSR, half of the participants experienced a reduction in their pain rating of 50 percent or more. The researchers speculated that, as a result of the MBSR training, the participants were able to separate their physical feeling of pain from their perception of it. By detaching themselves from the pain and simply observing but not reacting to it, they were able to minimize their experience of pain.

A recent study examined the effects of a community-based MBSR program on people with different types of chronic pain, including neck or back pain, headache, arthritis, fibromyalgia and other less common conditions. The program, which lasted eight weeks, involved 20 to 25 minutes of daily formal meditation, as well as the informal practice of being mindful of everyday activities, such as breathing, walking, eating and listening. Participants were also trained to scan their bodies for different sensations, increase awareness of various emotions and practice yoga.

Before the program, the participants scored well below the general U.S. population in terms of health-related quality of life and well above the general population in terms of psychological distress. As a whole, the group experienced noticeable improvement in quality of life and significant reduction in psychological distress after completing the program. The greater the amount of home practice of mindfulness, the less people felt limited in their everyday activities and the more able they were to function in social settings.

The Mayo clinic report also discusses the benefits of Mindfulness for other conditions such as anxiety, cancer, obesity and eating disorders and preventing depression relapse.

So just how do we train ourselves to be mindful in the present moment? By developing a daily practice of meditating, we learn to be watchful of our inner narratives, feelings and bodily sensations. We learn to take a moment to observe the initial reaction, breathe into it and consider our response options. Often, we befriend those parts of us, which we have previously rejected, and develop new and lighter response sets to old triggers.

            Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with one's experience. This means paying attention to what we are sensing, feeling or thinking without judging it as good or bad. ​​​Mindfulness is the opposite of being on “auto-pilot.”  When we are mindful, we respond rather than react. And in this age of technology and multi-tasking, with more stressors than ever before, focusing solely on the present moment proves to be just as valuable as it was forty years ago – if not more. Mindfulness offers an approach to life that helps us refocus on meaning, purpose and joy.

            Several times each year, SMI offers an eight-week MBSR course, which meets on Tuesdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m., beginning October 7 and ends November 25. This course includes a daylong retreat on Nov. 15.

            The course is approved for a total of 26 nursing CE’s by the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, an accredited provider of continuing education by the ANCC, and is also approved for a total of 26 CE’s in Florida by the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling.

Natural Awakenings of Sarasota April 2020 Digital Edition