2009-04-01 / Health

How to live sanely in an insane world: mindfulness-based stress reduction in action

By Ken A. Verni, Psy.D.

There is so much in today's world that pulls us away from being fully present.How often in the course of our days are we actually in touch with our bodies, attentive to loved ones, and aware of our actual feelings or what we truly need to feel fulfilled in life?

The explosion of high speed technologies that help us "process our lives more quickly and efficiently" only serves to increase our alienation from what it means to be a human being (instead of a human doing).The negative effects of this pervasive pull away from ourselves and our moments can perhaps be seen in the high levels of stress and stress-related illnesses, obesity, compulsive behaviors and mood/anxiety-related difficulties that so many Americans are struggling with.

Yet, in any given moment, even if for just one moment,we all have the capacity to return to our senses — literally and figuratively — and relate to our experience of life with a completely different perspective. By directing our attention to the movement of our breath or the sensations of our body in an open, nonjudgmental manner, our experience of any given moment can shift dramatically. These moments of opening, when we remember what is good about our lives or our loved ones, when the past and future temporarily fall away and we can again feel alive and connected, give life meaning and have the capacity to sustain and nurture us.

Ironically, this simple truth is easier to acknowledge than to live. Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), an empirically validated, rigorous program, essentially provides direct training, education and hands-on practice with learning to cultivate the capacity to be more fully present in our lives, moment by moment.Through mindfulness meditation and specific exercises involving cultivating a closer connection with our bodies and dayto day activities, the MBSR curriculum has been shown to be a powerful adjunct to the conventional medical treatment of many disorders and to increase one's overall sense of wellbeing.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an eight-session educational program conceived by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. in 1979 and continuously developed and researched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.At the UMass Medical School, more than 17,000 patients with all manner of diagnoses have successfully completed the eight-week course and more than 1,800 physicians have referred patients to this program.

Ken A.Verni, Psy.D., is associate director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center of New Jersey in Metuchen, and a licensed psychologist (lic. No. 4119).The next cycle of the MBSR program taught by Verni will be offered at Freehold Jewish Center, 59 Broad St., Freehold, on Monday evenings, May 4 through June 15.A free introductory talk will be given at the same location on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.mindfulnessnj.com or contact Verni at 732-828-4740.

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