Saturday, May 29, 2010

10 Secret Ingredients of MBSR

Last Thursday was our last day of MBSR teacher practicum training with Bob Stahl. To celebrate, Bob took us out to dinner to his favorite vegan restaurant in Mountain View. Ten weeks we had been together, and now we had to part. The mood was bittersweet, and we swore to keep in touch, and reunite soon for more practice sessions in each other's homes. I was most struck by the tales of personal transformation, shared by all around the table, many of them psychotherapists with years of personal work and professional experience under their belt. I had witnessed similar testimonials throughout our weeks, participating in the larger group with the 'regular' folks. And I wondered, what are the ingredients in the MBSR elixir that make it so potent? 

By no means  a complete list,  here are the 10 key ingredients I found as I deconstructed my experience, both as a MBSR group participant, and teacher trainee:
  • Mindfulness practice - formal and informal
  • Loving kindness, and radical acceptance
  • Teacher's modeling of essential qualities of equanimity, unconditional love, effort, and humor
  • Group process - normalizing, universality, and support
  • Integration of body and mind, including mindful movement practices such as yoga, qigong, and walking
  • Mindful inquiry - combining mindfulness with investigation, for liberating insights
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy - as in systematic tracking of one's thoughts and behaviors outside of group meetings
  • Rituals, as in ringing of bell after each sitting, dimming of lights before sittings, and group sharing
  • Imagination - engaging through sharing of poems, metaphors, and role plays
  • Participants empowered to take responsibility for their own healing 
So powerful. 

Which brings up another question. Why isn't MBSR use more prevalent? Currently, MBSR is mostly practiced in hospitals, as part of health education. Participants are usually referred by their doctors, as a result of chronic pain, or life threatening illness diagnosis, or difficulties with dealing with stress, or anxiety, or depression. So far, attempts to use MBSR outside of healthcare settings have been scant. Yet, its applications outside of the limited realm of healthcare, are obvious. One area in particular, is the corporate arena. Google, is taking the lead, once more.

Meng Tan has taken upon himself to introduce MBSR to his fellow Googlers, as part of Google's Search Inside Yourself  initiative. I am interested in pursuing that lead, and exploring ways that mindfulness, and MBSR in particular, can be used, by itself, or in combination with other self-actualizing tools*, to foster greater creativity, productivity and happiness in the workplace.

* I am thinking art therapy, and other forms of creative expression :)


  1. I have gone through MBSR teachers training as well. After a while I read a book on group dynamics and proces. I was just amzed as to how the MBSR course takes it all in and it is just there. For everytime I teach I feel more and more grateful that I can be part of that work. Thank you for a great blog.I love reading your posts.

  2. Dear marguerite,

    Lovely website and ideas...thank you. I an involved in offering MBSR in the community in Australia ( and I have also done quite a bit of offering the program or a version of it in the corporate arena and I find that some issues emerge, which make it tricky. The main one is that when people come to MSBR in a workplace setting, they often have not really chosen to undertake the program. And because meditation necessarily opens one up to the flow of one's inner life, it is tricky to offer this to people who have not really chosen to engage. This can cause suffering for some participants and the group - as those wonderful, profound group process and personal transformations, literally don't have the some space and ground to unfold. Not sure how to handle this, but will get even more explicit and also more flexible in the workplace offerings. Timothea

  3. Does anyone know of a good Buddhist/meditation book for a teenage boy who is very competitive and into outdoors and sports?