The abbot of a Buddhist monastery instructing novices, Uttaradit, Thailand.Image via WikipediaWhat's the best way to help people learn mindfulness? What kind of programs are actually clinically useful? This recent paper on Low-Dose Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR-LD) is a really good example of some of the investigation that is being done these days. The MBSR model developed by Jon Kabat Zinn is wonderful, but people have been learning mindfulness for millennia in many different contexts, and there are many ways of offering the benefits of mindfulness for therapeutic and wellness purposes.

Many of us have found that, in contrast to the traditional MBSR emphasis on required practice ("You don't have to like it, you just have to do it"), an invitational approach to home mindfulness practice is quite effective. This is especially true when the course helps participants clarify their goals and values. When people know why they want to learn mindfulness, and are supported by their awareness of their deepest values, they will engage genuinely and effectively. I've found that it is very important to devote some class discussions to helping people clarify their values and intentions, because we often need help getting in touch with what is really important to us.

Traditionally, mindfulness practices are learned in the context of vow and intention. In a Zen monastery, for example, monks engage in daily rituals which renew their commitments to work for the liberation of all beings. Having entered the monastery, a monk only has to look around to be reminded that s/he is in this place deliberately, because of a deep intention to realize the buddha way. During my recent three-month experience with monastic training, I was very aware that I had this wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow, and that I needed to pay attention while it was available to me.

I think that clients in our mindfulness-based therapeutic programs participate most fully when they find their authentic reasons for doing so. The mindfulness-based clinical programs we offer, whether "low dose" or "mega dose," are only valuable to the extent that participants recognize them as advancing their life's purposes. I feel strongly that MB programs can benefit by paying attention to the lessons of therapeutic approaches like Motivational Interviewing and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The psychological community is on the verge of discovering many effective ways of integrating mindfulness principles into therapeutic approaches. The so-called "Third Wave" of evidence-based psychotherapy is just forming now, and nowhere near its crest. Let's encourage each other to explore the possibilities!

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