News /UCSD Center for Mindfulness brings weeklong MBSR training to PEERS
"There's more right with you than wrong with you."
That's the first lesson Allan Goldstein and his colleague teach in their mindfulness workshops. Goldstein, who serves as Associate Director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, joined Director Dr. Steven Hickman to facilitate a five-day Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training at PEERS from Feb. 27-Mar. 2.
MBSR, which refers to a set of skills for encouraging mindfulness practices drawn on some of the more traditional methods of meditation, was born from religious frameworks, according to PEERS Social Inclusion Program Manager Sharon Kuehn.
Over the course of five days, the often-buzzing PEERS office was infused with a mellow energy as 25 participants from the community learned about body scans, sitting and walking meditations, and using yoga as a form of mindful movement. The practices involved focusing on the breath, being conscious of feelings and sensations, and checking in with oneself but with "nonjudgmental awareness," explained Goldstein.
"By being with yourself through the meditation, without trying to change anything or look for something different, just simply being, there's this opportunity to connect beyond the labels and the stories we tell ourselves, " Goldstein said.
Kuehn said PEERS recognizes that MBSR can be an empowerment activity and wellness tool for consumers. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies suggest mindfulness meditation has helped people dealing with anxiety disorder, depression, sleeping problems, hypertension and other ailments.
"We're providing a more effective means of coping," said Goldstein.
Participants in the PEERS training were encouraged to teach the practices to others in the community. PEERS WRAP Leader Enrique Lopez received the MBSR training and introduced it to his WRAP groups.
"One participant said it helped her release a lot of stress," Lopez said. "Another participant told me that practicing mindfulness helped him reduce his racing thoughts. I was so happy to hear that. "
MBSR dates back to 1979 when Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin founded the Stress Reduction Clinic in Massachusetts.
"He took [Buddhist] wisdom traditions and brought it to the UMass Medical Center, a teaching hospital, with the intention of bringing it to people with chronic pain," Goldstein explained.
Doctors saw that the practices were not only beneficial to those in pain, but anyone suffering from chronic stress. Later on, the Center of Mindfulness was established at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1995. Today there are 250 centers and institutions worldwide that present MBSR programs, including one at UC San Diego.
"The intent behind the five-day training was that people who took an interest in it and felt a connection with the program would continue to work by facilitating practice sessions, " Kuehn said.
Since the end of the training, participants meet up for a monthly mentoring Skype call with Goldstein and Dr. Hickman. The meetings help them further develop their mindfulness practices.
Community members are welcome to join a weekly mindfulness meditation session every Tuesday morning at 8:30am at the PEERS office.