From the Editor
In 1991, at the end of my fourth year of psychiatry residency at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical Center/Worcester I presented a grand rounds, “The Role of Meditation in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders,” the conclusion to my research that year on the benefits of mindfulness meditation for anxiety disorders. At that time this was an unusual and unconventional topic for a grand rounds in psychiatry. This was made very clear to me when I presented a version of this same lecture at 2 nearby hospitals—both with announcements of my lecture editing out the word “meditation.” At one hospital the announcement was for “The Therapy of Silence: Medication [should have been Meditation] as a Healing Modality,” and the other replaced the word “Meditation” with “Mediation” in the title for my initial grand rounds. Today, mindfulness has become a household word, and the psychiatric and psychological literature abound with publications implementing mindfulness as a treatment or self-help tool for everything that ails you.
Resources for how to learn and practice mindfulness abound—books, articles, Apps, workshops, institutional based courses, seminars, weekend retreats, and so much more. The paradox is that mindfulness is not intellectual, and the practice of mindfulness involves surrendering the common mind states of thinking, describing, judging, and assessing to retreat to a state of awareness where raw and egoless observation is present to learn from whatever content enters into our awareness in that moment.
In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, started the first Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) clinic in a US hospital at the UMass Medical Center to help medical patients with chronic pain and stress. Dr Kabat-Zinn provided a foundational definition of mindfulness for the clinical setting: “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, in the service of self-understanding.” In his first book, he provides a detailed manual of the structure and experience of his MBSR clinic, after spending over 10 years developing and optimizing Mindfulness for patients at a university medical center.1 His second book is an easy-to-read map of the many ways mindfulness can be inserted into our busy western lives.2
Clinical applications of mindfulness
Over the past 3 decades clinical medicine and psychology have integrated the basic principles of mindfulness into many diverse treatment modalities. These principles are free of any dogma or ritual and serve to empower the individual to practice mindfulness as a lifestyle enhancement that often provides a wide range of benefits—physically, emotionally, interpersonally, and sometimes spiritually. With mindfulness, there is no ultimate accomplishment or mastery, rather a continued strengthening of the mind’s ability to stay attentive in the present moment, and experience it directly, free of the many filters of thought, expectation, desire or aversion that usually intrude, pulling us away from the direct experience. Given the general nature of the practice of mindfulness, not surprisingly, it has found its way into numerous applications.
• Mindfulness based stress reduction
• Pain management clinics
• Mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy
• Dialectical behavior therapy
• Addiction treatment
• Acceptance and commitment therapy
• Augmentation of individual psychotherapy
1. Kabat-Zinn J. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York, NY: Delacorte Press; 1990.
2. Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Hyperion Books; 1994.