an incredibly rich adventure into the domain of the inner
landscape, said Jon Kabat-Zinn of meditation. Sitting
in or thinking of a peaceful place like this pavilion garden
can help the mind relax and focus on breathing.
can assist in the healing process
By Nancy Hurrelbrinck
doesnt necessarily mean curing disease, but coming to terms
with things as they are in the present moment, University of Massachusetts
professor of medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn told a Medical
Center Hour crowd filling McLeod Halls auditorium and
an overflow room May 4.
his U.Va. talk, he addressed the benefits of practicing mindfulness
for doctors, patients and anyone who feels stressed.
is possible in the absence of a likely cure. It can happen up
to our last breath, said Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Center
for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the U.
Mass. Medical School, a program featured on Bill Moyers
PBS documentary, Healing and the Mind.
want to energize people to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly,
whatever demons come up for them, he said, referring to
the goal of the stress reduction clinic he also founded.
meditation, a process of seeking to attend fully to the present
moment, often focusing on the breath, seems simple, but its
not easy, said Kabat-Zinn, the author of Full Catastrophe Living:
Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and
can enliven everything else you are and do. Its about falling
awake, as opposed to being on auto-pilot or caught up in
worrying about the future or reviewing the past. The only thing
we have is this moment.
are very real limits to our medicine, he said. We
may understand what is wrong, but not be able to [cure it]. This
is no reason for despair.
when someone has a chronic illness, he can come to feel
free of the condition even though it wont change. Its
an inner shift, a rotation in consciousness.
if patients were invited to participate in their healing so that
they had the sense that they could work on it, that they have
a sacred responsibility to themselves, he said.
lot of the time we diminish ourselves, or we have been scarred,
led to believe that were less than we truly are, said
Kabat-Zinn, who spoke without notes and radiated a vibrant serenity.
We put on a mask for the world, but there can be a feeling
of loss or emptiness inwardly.
cultivating mindfulness, health care workers, as well as patients,
can be more fully present when interacting with one another.
is about the intention to serve from the deepest place in oneself
as a healer, to recognize the sacred privilege of working with
people in pain and suffering. Doctors are supposed to do no harm,
he said. Its essential to recognize the patient as
a whole human being; if youre not doing that, youre
encouraged doctors and nurses to engage patients in the healing
process, noting that scientific research conducted in the past
three decades is leading to an understanding that human
beings are extraordinary living systems capable of learning, healing
and growing across the lifespan.
talking about reclaiming our wholeness. Meditation traditions
have been creating [ways] to explore this terrain for thousands
of years. They all have to do with presence, with stepping outside
of time, said Kabat-Zinn. During a meditation retreat the
next day, he said that a clock at the U. Mass. clinic is covered
by a sign that reads, NOW. Held at Morven Farm Pavilion,
the silent day drew 360 people.
visit was co-sponsored by the Humanities in Medicine Program,
the Cancer Center and several other medical departments, as well
as Tussi and John Kluge.
health care workers can refer patients to U.Va.s Stress
Reduction and Relaxation Program, modeled on the one Kabat-Zinn
founded, which offers eight-week courses in mindfulness meditation
practice. (Information can be found at http://hsc.virginia.edu/stress-reduction/
or by calling 924-1190.)