By Chris Gauthier
You know something’s working when it makes it to the big time “for Dummies” book publishing. Today a person can Google “Mindfulness” and will find almost 12 million global links for the word/practice/healing revolution in less than a second. What we find on the internet today and in the contemporary programs of our time is historically linked to practices in other parts of the world about 1500 years before our common era (Alidina, 2011). The folks at UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness work to train professionals, empower those who come to learn the skills, and research this nebulous field to better understand why what they do is successful.
Variations of this practice of mindfulness, some with traditions hundreds of generations long, are compacted, packaged and exported around the globe. The methodology and application remains in essence, however newly formulated semantics, developed contemporarily by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others describe these activities and practices for this generation. With the success that he has had (Zinn, 2003) along with others, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs are popping up like Starbucks all over the place. Recently interviewed, Steven Hickman, Psy.D, the founder and current Director of the growing UCSD Center for Mindfulness discusses the continual development of their program.
Generally, these programs educate people with scientific explanations and evidence for many data-driven and evidence-based consumers today. Hickman knows that mindfulness is somatically located, based on this research and his own practice, so the Center’s programs provide “a way in for people to then let that go and to experience what that is for real” paired with discussions of research, art, and sharing experiences. Researched, tried, and tested, this methodology seems to ‘click’ with human minds and brains to institute real, long-lasting change on a neuronal level (Baer, 2003). UCSD CFM has come a long way from its conception, more than a decade ago.
Hickman’s vision was and is still: not a business plan, not any sort of “strategic plan” at all. Confident in this work, the practice itself akin to the roots of kelp that meld with the ocean floor, swaying with the change of tide, but never adrift and disconnected. This is what makes UCSD’s program unique: “All of these interventions, even though each one’s different, they all share a core of mindfulness practice, and needing to be grounded in a practice if you are going to teach.” Still, designing an authentic and effective mindfulness program for a large range of participants from chronic pain patients to lawyers is challenging. UCSD’s success is a teaching framework whereby these skills are taught, experienced and made into habits is reflected in the center’s growth. Steve explains that, “people are coming in because they are suffering over something…We help people identify that they have stressors, then set that aside and give people the experience of watching their mind.” This is not where influence of the center stops for long, however.
The Neuroscience behind Mindfulness is of increasing interest to healthcare professionals and they are pursuing mindfulness training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness’s Professional Training Institute. When the center was founded, it quickly became a hub. Hickman describes the experience, “I was just standing on the beach when the global wave of interest hit.” Currently, the CFM is creating programs, training and research opportunities that will help to spread the practice far beyond the center’s current reach. With the instructors here also continually practicing and growing, it is only natural that what the center teaches “can take care of itself.”
Keeping with the pace of the global wave of interest mindfulness brings, Steve is heartened by knowing, “the nice thing is that you can do life and mindfulness at the same time.”
Baer, Ruth. “Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 10 (2003): 125-43. Print.
Bishop, S. R. “What Do We Really Know about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?” Psychosomatic Medicine 64 (n.d.): 71-84. Print.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. “Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 10.2 (2006): 144-56. Print.
“A Tidal Wave of Mindfulness: An Interview with Dr. Hickman.” Interview by Sara Kimmich. May 2013.
Alidina, Shamash, MA. “History of Mindfulness.” Learn Mindfulness. Learn Mindfulness, 2011. Web. 1 June 2013.
Image credit: http://apogeepoet.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html
About the Author:
Chris Gauthier is an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego with a degree in Cognitive Science and a focus in Neuroscience. He has many passions revolving around skills of wholeness, health, and self-discovery. Chris is affiliated with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. He also travels and presents a variety of topics in a workshop style, mostly to college-level minds. Mr. Chris Gauthier can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org