Tag Archives: Mindfulness-based stress reduction

New training pathways for MBSR and MBCT teachers now available through UC San Diego

By Steven Hickman, PsyD, Director, UCSD Center for Mindfulness

“How can I become a teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?” I cannot begin to calculate how many times I have been asked this question in the past ten years as a teacher of the MBSR program. I am constantly moved and touched by the people in my classes and the tremendous change and healing that can happen through the regular practice of mindfulness. This profound impact on people has more recently manifested in a huge demand among people touched by the practice who wish to share it with others. As MBSR programs have spread across this country and the world, there is a growing (and unprecedented) need to provide well-designed training for those who wish to teach MBSR and share this practice with a wide variety of people and groups in a whole host of settings.

Susan Woods

That is why I am particularly excited to announce that two highly qualified mindfulness teachers and trainers, Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, will be teaching our first 5-Day Foundational Training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for professionalson June 2-7, 2013 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.  Intended to support and develop people along their path toward teaching MBSR, this intimate foundational training will provide attendees the opportunities to learn in depth about the program, but more importantly to explore it “from the inside out” in the role of teacher, through small group exercises, mindful feedback and reflection.

Char Wilkins

The second of our two new trainings, also taught by Susan Woods and Char Wilkins, is the 5-day Advanced Professional Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers, June 9-14, 2013 at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California.  The demand for advanced training in mindfulness-based interventions has grown over the years and a foundational professional training is just the beginning of becoming a skilled and knowledgeable teacher.  This ground-breaking advanced training brings together, for the first time in the U.S., both MBCT and MBSR teachers allowing for a rich learning experience.  Susan has designed a training in which there is less dependence on teaching to the curricula of either MBCT/MBSR, and greater attention to strengthening core competency skills allied with teaching mindfulness. The heart of this program lies in closely attending to and strengthening the development of universal mindfulness principles such as investigating how one comes to understand and embody mindful presence and mindful reflective inquiry.

The training model that has evolved here at UCSD has proved to be efficient and effective. By providing intense retreat-style trainings that combine personal mindfulness practice, experiential learning of the curriculum and opportunities to guide practices, engage in mindful inquiry and take part in dialogue with skilled teachers, we have found that our participants leave feeling prepared to actually begin the important work of leading Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI’s).

Thus begins the next phase in the development of the Professional Training programs at the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. This new pathway toward becoming an MBSR teacher is situated alongside intensive training in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP), Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), and Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL). The longer-term goal is the establishment of an entire UC San Diego Mindfulness-Based Training Institute that incorporates foundational aspects of all the MBI’s, specific training in the various curricula, opportunities for live consultation and supervision, and ultimately a process of certification in specific MBI’s. The Training Institute is only in its infancy, but arises out of this increasing demand for training and the assurance of competency in delivery of these wonderful programs that are becoming increasingly popular and are being demonstrated through rigorous research to be effective. 

Registration is now open for both the Advanced Training for MBCT/MBSR Teachers and the 5-Day Foundational Training in MBSR and we expect both to fill up quickly. Plans are also in the works to offer these trainings on an ongoing basis, so if these dates don’t work for your schedule, join our mailing list on our Professional Training website to be notified of upcoming additions to the schedule.


Mindfulness for Children No Fad Either- Response to LA Times Article

Amy Saltzman, MD
Mindfulness Teacher & Holistic Physician
Creator and Director: Still Quiet Place Co-founder and Director: Association for Mindfulness in Education She is recognized by her peers as a visionary and pioneer in the fields of holistic medicine and mindfulness in K-12 education. She has conducted research studies evaluating the benefits of teaching mindfulness to child-parent pairs, and to children in low-income elementary schools.

Amy will be co-presenting, along with Margaret Cullen the workshop entitled SMART in Education: Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance for Educators at the upcoming Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference, February 4-5, 2012 at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego.

Experts Say, Mindfulness For Children is “No Fad” Either.

The real experts are the children. “Jessica”, a fourth grade student, participated in a Still Quiet Place course, an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course offered at Henry Ford Elementary School. The school serves a low-income population in Redwood City, California. On the last day of class “Jessica” wrote

When I am sad or kind of in a bad mood I take about 10 breaths and I get relaxed. I also forget about my worries. I learned this from Mindfulness. I enjoy coming here because I forget about my troubles and I forget about all the things in my life that is sad. My sadness just fades.

Jessica’s statement, suggests that perhaps Dr. Hoffman’s perception (reported in the January 8th, 2011 LA Times article by Chris Woolston, Mindfulness is No Fad, Experts Say) that children may have trouble understanding or embracing Mindfulness is in error. Not only do children and adolescents understand and embrace Mindfulness, recent cutting-edge research indicates they can reap benefits from practicing Mindfulness, similar to those documented in adults.

As Mr. Woolston’s article highlighted, over 30 years of scientific research with adults has shown that Mindfulness decreases stress, depression, anxiety, and hostility, and enhances compassion, empathy and executive function; executive function is a term that describes the related processes of goal-directed behavior, planning, organized search and impulse control. As a pioneer in the emerging field of offering Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction to children and teens please allow me to share the ground-breaking work indicating that Mindfulness for children is “no fad” either.

Mindfulness is simply paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity. This ability to pay attention is a natural, innate human capacity. Children as young as three can learn to attend to the breath,the five senses, thoughts, and emotions. Slightly older children can attend to impulses and actions, and their effects on others and the world.

For the last decade, colleagues and I have been offering age-adapted Mindfulness-based curricula to at risk youth. (See side bar) Unfortunately, research by Soniya Luthar Ph. D. from Columbia Teachers College shows that many of our youth are at risk. Her data indicate that affluent teens have rates of depression, anxiety and illicit drug similar to their low-income peers.[1] Daily headlines remind us that our children are being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, cutting, addictions, suicidal tendencies and other self-destructive behaviors at epidemic rates; cruelty, bullying and violence are on the rise. Most, if not all of our children could benefit from learning to focus their attention, to become less reactive, and to be more compassionate with themselves and others. Those of us involved in this emerging field are motivated by a shared commitment to offer children and adolescents life long skills that will enhance their well-being. We are rigorously investigating whether children and adolescents can reap benefits from practicing Mindfulness, similar to those extensively documented in adults.

For the last decade we have been working in clinics and schools to scientifically assess whether Mindfulness training can enhance children’s attention, executive function, learning, compassion, empathy and general well-being. The preliminary data are encouraging; below are summaries of four recent studies that demonstrate the benefits of offering Mindfulness children and adolescents.

In a randomized controlled trial conducted by Maria Napoli, Ph.D., first, second, and third graders participated in a bi-weekly, 12-session integrative program of Mindfulness and relaxation. The students showed significant increases in attention and social skills, and decreases in test anxiety and ADHD behaviors.[2]

Lisa Flook, Ph.D. and her colleagues at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA studied second and third graders who did Mindfulness Awareness Practices for 30 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks. Children who began the study with poor executive function had gains in behavioral regulation, meta-cognition, and overall global executive control. These results indicate training in Mindfulness benefits children with executive function difficulties (the children most likely to have difficulties and cause disruptions in the classroom) .[3]

In a study with 4th-7th graders and their parents, that I conducted in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Stanford, the children participated in 75 minutes of Mindfulness training for 8 consecutive weeks. At the conclusion of the study the children demonstrated increased ability to orient their attention, as measured by an objective computerized Attention Network Task, and decreased anxiety. In written narrative the children also reported decreased emotional reactivity, and increased impulse control.[4]

In research on teaching Mindfulness to adolescents conducted by Gina Biegel, MA, MFT, the teens reported reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and somatic (physical) distress, and increased self-esteem and sleep quality. Independent clinicians documented a higher percentage of diagnostic improvement in the Mindfulness group (vs. the control group). In layperson’s terms, this means that adolescents who were initially diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety were no longer depressed or anxious.[5]

While these studies are preliminary, they reinforce what “Jessica”, in 4th grade, already knows—Mindfulness for Children is “No Passing Fad”. In closing I’ll defer to another expert, a fifth grade girl from Menlo Park, California.

Mindfulness is a great class because you can chill out, and relax. It will cool you down and make you less stressed. You should try it if you are mad or sad or just want to feel better. That’s what I do. Try it!
[1] Luthar, S., The Culture of Affluence; the Psychological Costs of Material Wealth, Child Development, 2003; 74 (6), 1581-1593.

[2] Napoli, M. ”Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students: The Attention Academy” Journal of Applied School Psychology (2005) Vol. 21(1)

[3] Flook, L. “Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children” Journal of Applied School Psychology (2010) 26: 1, 70 -95

[4] Saltzman, A., (2008) “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for School-Age Children, 139-162. In L. Grecco, Acceptance and Mindfulness Treatments for Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner’ Guide, Oakland, New Harbinger, 2008,

[5] Biegel, G. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for the Treatment of Adolescent

Psychiatric Outpatients: A Randomized Clinical Trial” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2009) Vol. 77, No. 5: 855–866

Opening the Heart at Stanford, Google and Beyond

Margaret Cullen is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher. In 2008 she launched a mindfulness-based emotional balance program for teachers and school administrators in Denver, Boulder, Ann Arbor, and Vancouver, B.C.  Margaret will be co-presenting, along with Amy Saltzman, MD the workshop entitled SMART in Education: Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance for Educators at the upcoming Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research conference, February 4-5, 2012 at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego. (This article originally appeared in “Inquiring Mind.”)

Five years ago, a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford had a revolutionary idea: open a center dedicated to compassion right in the middle of the university. Today, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) flourishes within this citadel of academia. Here, it quietly pursues its mission of supporting and conducting rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruism, developing ways to cultivate compassion and promote altruism within individuals and throughout society.

Thupten Jinpa was enlisted as a visiting research scholar at CCARE, during which time he developed a course of study called the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). An eight-week program modeled after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (founded at the University of Massachusetts by renowned meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn), CCT teaches Buddhist meditation practices in a completely secular way. Instead of focusing on mindfulness, though, this training emphasizes practices of the heart.

Beginning by developing a foundation of breath awareness, the program systematically teaches students to cultivate the qualities of kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna). Each series of the program begins by sending kindness to people such as grandparents, friends and children—those individuals toward whom it is easy to access tenderness. From there, participants progress to thinking of people about whom they are ambivalent or who cause them downright frustration: the barista at the local café, the bagger at the grocery store, the ex-husband’s new wife. The CCT strives to help individuals imagine each of these people happy and flourishing. But the program also encourages participants to remember or imagine times when they themselves have been hurt, shamed, ill or suffering in some way. By working through such progressions, participants can learn to strengthen the muscle of the heart. Such strengthening can engender a fearlessness that allows them not only to send others wishes of love, and compassion, but to also breathe others suffering into their own hearts and to breathe out relief and ease.

To date, the program has been piloted at Stanford, Google, the Cancer Support Community and in a few series open to the general public in the San Francisco Bay Area. As one of the senior teachers, I have witnessed many transformations. A recent training I led with cancer patients and their loved ones generated a number of moving stories. The following are just two of the narratives of heart that emerged from the eight-week program:

A cancer patient in active treatment has been living with, and caring for, her ninety-five-year-old mother. Having developed her own capacity for tenderness and generosity, the daughter made a radical decision. At our closing circle she shared with tears that she and her mom had invited her suicidal and recently homeless nephew, a war veteran, to come live with them. She said, “Before this course, I might have tried to help him, but my heart wouldn’t have been open enough to take him into my home.” Through this extraordinary act of compassion, both she and her mother learned that, in spite of the limitations imposed by age and illness, they could find happiness by helping another person.

A retired professor of environmental science took the course in order to support his wife, a cancer patient. He told us, “I spent a lot of time talking with my students about the ‘problem’ of poverty, but I just didn’t feel the suffering.” About to cry, he said, “If I had taken this course earlier, I think I would have been a better teacher. Poverty isn’t just a term you can pass over and move on. I’m now able to draw it in and feel the pain. This has been a big aha.”

UCSD Offers Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Nurses

We are thrilled to announce registration is now open for our Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Nurses January 28, 2012, 9am-3pm at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA. Please join workshop leaders Lois Howland, DrPH, MSN, Livia Walsh LMFT, MS, MA, RN, and Amy Holte, PhD, MEd, in this exciting experiential workshop. You will gain insights on bringing mindfulness into your daily life for self-care along with exploring strategies for offering mindfulness to your patients to promote healing. This continuing education activity has been approved for 7 contact hours by the UCSD Medical Center Nursing EDR which is accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP55 .

In this workshop, nurses will learn how to:

  • Practice mindfulness strategies and techniques
  • Practice self-care on and off the job
  • Apply mindfulness and self-care in daily activities, such as eating, walking, and moving
  • Integrate mindfulness into interactions with patients, colleagues, family, and friends
  • Improve ability to cope with short- and long-term stressful situations
  • Implement brief mindfulness practices with patients and family members as a means of coping with acute pain, anxiety, and distress


On or Before January 14, 2012: $125

On or After January 15, 2012: $150

Lois Howland, DrPH, R.N.

Senior MBSR Teacher

Lois Howland, DrPH, RN, completed the professional training program in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and at the Omega Institute with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, and Saki Santorelli, EdD. She has been a mindfulness practitioner since 2000. Dr. Howland is a graduate of the UCSF School of Nursing, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Howland is a full-time faculty member in the School of Nursing, University of San Diego, and conducts research related to biological mechanisms of stress particularly as it affects maternal and child health.

Livia Walsh, RN, LMFT

MBSR Teacher

Livia Walsh is a nurse and licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Encinitas, California. She developed an interest and pursued training in the area of holistic/integrative health including mindfulness over her 30 plus years of professional practice. She completed the MBSR training program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Omega Institute under the direction of Jon Kabat Zinn, Saki Santorelli and the senior teaching staff. Ms Walsh also teaches MBSR at the Senior Center in Encinitas. She integrates mindfulness in her work with patients and students. In her capacity as clinical supervisor at San Diego Hospice and other institutions she has taught mindfulness-based interventions to graduate/post-graduate students and professional staffs. Ms. Walsh believes strongly in the mind-body connection and in an integrative approach to achieve and sustain optimal health and well being.

Amy Holte, PhD, MEd

Senior MBSR Teacher

Amy Holte, Ph.D.,M.Ed. has been a meditation practitioner since 1997 and has been teaching mindfulness techniques for health, stress-reduction, and well being since 1999. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin where she completed her doctoral research on meditation and the brain in an interdisciplinary Ph.D.program in East West Biopsychology, and a M.Ed. in Human Development and Education. Dr. Holte is the Director of Mind-Body Medicine and Team Leader of the Functional Restoration Program at The Center for Orthopedic Care in SanDiego where she teaches mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and tai chi in her work with chronic pain patients.

Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: February Conference on Mindfulness with Youth in San Diego

Mindfulness, as a powerful and important means of cultivating health, well-being and equanimity, is nowhere more important than in our work with the young people of our society. Alongside the explosive and transformative growth of mindfulness-based programs for adults, there is a particularly heartening and vibrant effort to bring mindfulness to youth of all ages, in a plethora of settings and formats designed to have a significant impact on the lives and futures of literally millions of young people around the world.

To support and grow this important movement, the UCSD Center for Mindfulness has teamed with Stressed Teens to organize and present a first of its kind conference on February 4 and 5, 2012 entitled Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research . The intention of this conference is to bring together a number of key thought leaders in the field of mindfulness, both those engaged in bringing it to youth and those whose influence extends well beyond that one area, with the hope that the synergy created by such a gathering will provide further impetus to a growing and important field.

Keynote speakers, breakout sessions and half-day workshops will form the structure of this gathering, but the intention is to create an overall atmosphere of connection, collaboration, encouragement, support and innovation that will inspire attendees to continue or begin the work of teaching mindfulness to the young people with whom they work. A full description of the conference is available on the UCSD Center for Mindfulness Professional Training website, but a  few highlights include:

Rick Hanson, author of The Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time will be presenting a public talk on Friday evening, February 3 entitled “Taking in the Good: Helping Children Build Inner Strength and Happiness” and then will provide a keynote address on Saturday at the conference itself with the intriguing title “Managing the Caveman Brain in the 21st Century”.

Psychologist and well-known mindfulness researcher Amishi Jha will be offering her insights in another keynote address, entitled “From Dazed and Distracted to Attentive and Calm: What the Neuroscience of Mindfulness Reveals”. Dr. Jha will be joining the other keynote presenters, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Pamela Siegle and Chip Wood on a discussion panel on Saturday as well.

Three post-conference half-day workshops will be offered on Sunday, February 5, allowing attendees to deepen their understanding and training in working with mindfulness and youth. Workshops include one by conference co-organizer Gina Biegel, developer of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBSR-T); another by Randy Semple, who has adapted Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for children, and a wonderful session on “Nurturing Your Self in Your Work With Youth” offered by mindfulness teacher and holistic physician, Amy Saltzman.

These are just a few of the highlights of this inaugural conference that promises to be literally packed with interesting and engaging speakers, presentations and experiences. Co-organizers Steven Hickman, Director of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and Gina Biegel, founder of Stressed Teens, hope that this will become an annual event that makes a significant contribution to the field of mindfulness with youth. If you are an educator, therapist, physician, or just a concerned and engaged parent looking to explore how you might integrate mindfulness in your work with youth, you may want to consider joining this impressive lineup of presenters in San Diego at the Catamaran Resort Hotel on February 4 and 5, 2012. Space is limited, register early and receive a $50 Early Bird Discount.

Meatballs and Mindfulness: It Just Doesn’t Matter!

(Fair warning, I have previously refenced Caddyshack as a source of dharma teaching a few months ago, and today I will draw upon another Bill Murray 70s comedy, Meatballs, for inspiration. If you consider such pop culture references offensive, I invite you to turn to the more conventional items elsewhere on our blog. -SH) 

I sat in our Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class last night and listened closely to these people who have become a fleeting family for me over these past six weeks. Their voices were gentler, their faces were softer, their posture was more at ease. They were talking about the “Full Catastrophe” of their lives: deadlines, challenges, pain, relationships. When they walked in the door six weeks ago they wielded these things like weapons or burdens, or both. They were dark, heavy, malignant and unpredictable forces in their lives that seemed to threaten all that they hold dear in life.

Six weeks of mindfulness practice later (and two to go) and, in the vast majority of cases, nothing has changed about these stressful items in their lives.

But they have changed. In remarkable, awe-inspiring ways. They report meeting many of the facets of their lives in a more present-centered, equanimous manner. They are noticing their habitual tendencies and often ineffective coping strategies, and choosing to respond rather than react. To pause and allow a more skillful response to emerge from within rather than doing what they have always done. They have come to practice what the bumper sticker says: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

It is my view that they are viewing the dramas (stories) that are created beyond the actuality of their experience, and seeing right through them to the heart of the matter. They watch the drama unfold and, in some way tell themselves that “it just doesn’t matter”. And what’s even better is that they have a very deep felt sense of what DOES matter. To them, to their future, to their lives.

In the movie Meatballs, the quintessential summer camp movie, replete with adolescent angst, the hyper-hormonal and the perennially awkward, this attitude is amplified through the motivational speech offered up by Bill Murray. Take a look and see if you don’t feel the powerful and liberating  letting go inherent in chanting: “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!” (We probably won’t be hearing the strains of this chant issuing forth from behind the walls of monasteries anytime soon, but the image lightens my mood and makes me smile nonetheless!)

He’s not saying “nothing matters” but exposing the emperor with no clothes, the man behind the curtain, the paper tiger if you will. The coiled hose in the shadows is actually just a hose, and the “story” of it being a rattlesnake poised to attack just doesn’t matter when you see it for what it is. Just this.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) & Meditation Studies Show Brain-Changing Results

Are you more aware of the “here and now?” Do you feel your developing enhanced learning skills, and your memory is improving?

If so perhaps you have participated in one of our MBSR Programs. Recent studies of MBSR participants are showing these benefits along with an increased ability to regulate emotions.

In the article from the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail, “Meditation alters your grey matter, studies show,” Adrianna Barton reports on these finding, and more.

This article includes insights from Dr. Zindel Segal, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat depression, along with resources for MBSR programs in cities across Canada.

Find information relevant to our own upcoming MBSR classes, special events, upcoming all-day sessions, and other things of interest to people practicing, or inquiring about mindfulness at UCSD Center for Mindfulness.