“THE MINDFULNESS METHOD” MEDITATION COURSE FOR HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS”
Stress in the Health Care Field
Over the last thirty years, considerable clinical evidence shows that the stress inherent in health care negatively impacts health care professionals. Stress can lead to increased depression, decreased job satisfaction, disrupted personal relationships, and psychological distress. Stress also may harm professional effectiveness: It decreases attention, reduces concentration, impinges on decision-making skills and reduces providers’ abilities to establish strong relationships with patients.
Stress also may lead to increased burnout defined as a syndrome of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and a sense of low personal accomplishment. Studies have found that burnout was significantly associated with suboptimal self-reported patient care. Over a decade ago, the field identified these problems and called for change, advocating better care for health professionals. Despite this call for change, dissatisfaction and distress have continued to increase. For example, a study of U.S. physicians showed a decline in satisfaction with every aspect of their professional life from 1986 to 1997 and inarguably, this continues to grow. It is clear that health care professionals need support in addressing the numerous stressors inherent in their work.
However, all is not doom and gloom. Over the same thirty years, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has steadily moved throughout the field providing caregivers with valuable tools for lessening stress and increasing job satisfaction. Even in a recent study published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, (2009; 302 , 1284-93), 70 physicians who participated in a Mindfulness course had direct improvement in personal well-being, mood, attitude, burn-out feelings and attitude toward patient-centered care.
Mindfulness, having continued as a living practice for over 2500 years, is at the heart of Insight Meditation, and is the practice presented over this consecutive six-week-long course.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the cultivation of clear, stable, non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness Meditation continues to help bring about calmness and clarity in dealing with the pressures of daily life; however, while mindfulness practice can be highly effective at reducing stress, many people also report that “practicing the practice” dissolves the usual barriers that so often prevent us from realizing the full development of our wisdom and compassion.
Insight meditation is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience. If we take a step back and gently look at how we think, we’ll see that we’re often overly pre-occupied with thoughts about the past or the future, or even with our fantasies. While sometimes such pre-occupations may be innocent and harmless, more often they contribute to stress, fear and suffering. Mindfulness practice is learning how to overcome our pre-occupations so that we can clearly see what is happening in our lived experience of the present. In doing so, we find greater clarity, trust, and integrity.
Mindfulness also relies on an important characteristic of awareness: awareness by itself does not judge, resist, or cling to anything. By focusing on simply being aware, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual reactions and begin to have a friendlier and more compassionate relationship with our experiences, with ourselves and with others around us.
A Brief Outline of the Series:
- The first week focuses on the basics of meditation and on mindfulness of breathing. We learn how to pay attention to our breathing and use it as an anchor point that allows us to remain in the present moment.
- The second week discusses mindfulness of the body and expands the area of present moment attention to include all of our physical experiences.
- In the third week of practice, we look at the question of why we often “feel to act” meaning: why we seem so primed for reacting (inwardly and externally) rather than responding… as we introduce mindfulness to our emotions.
- The fourth week addresses the big issue of thinking and how we can be wise to our thinking by paying attention to it from a different perspective. With these newly acquired techniques, we discover how to liberate ourselves from discursive thought and thus allow our thinking to not to get in our way.
- The fifth week focuses on the role of mindfulness of the mind as being something separate from thinking. This includes examining our overall daily attitude; its slight variations and how attitude becomes an essential player in our daily lives.
- The sixth week will center on how to take this wonderful practice of Mindfulness “off the mat” and use it productively and constructively in our daily lives. Without much effort, we find ways to turn this new awareness into a never-ending gift we consistently give to ourselves and others day after day.
The course presents recent scientific findings revealing how stress affects our physical and mental state. Together, we learn exactly what mindfulness is, and then cultivate “the practice” so that we can bring more freedom, compassion and spaciousness into our lives. The classes run approximately 90 minutes in length, feature a relevant lecture, and guided meditation with ample time thereafter for discussion.
Michael Kasten is an impassioned thinker with formal education in Insight Meditation. He is a Certified Meditation Instructor and Advisory Board Member of the American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc., a Certified Teacher of Transformation Meditation, and has been a Certified Personal Trainer for 14 years. He has a long history of selfless service in various non-profit organizations, and has been an active leader in both civic and civil service. He is a prolific writer, lecturer and has presented Mindfulness Meditation workshops at many different psychological and medical conferences.
He is enthusiastically engaged in the study of cognitive science, with particular interest in neuroscience, neurobiology, neuropsychology and neuroplasticity. Michael has helped many people find their way onto a “contemplative path” and continues on his own journey with openness of insight and inquiry into a wide variety of spiritual, scientific, ethical and contemplative studies.