The Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine’s Mindfulness Institute is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall. We wanted to check in with the Institute’s Director, Diane Reibel, Ph.D., who co-founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) at Jefferson in 1996, to see what’s next in the world of mindfulness.
Dr. Reibel, congratulations on the Mindfulness Institute’s milestone! What has changed since you co-founded the Mindfulness Program?
In the past 20 years, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the visibility and public awareness of mindfulness and it’s benefits. When I started teaching mindfulness, I never envisioned that this field would grow to be as big as it is. Twenty years ago, there were very few mindfulness programs in mainstream health care. Now, you can find mindfulness programs in hundreds of hospitals and medical centers around the world. And while MBSR started in healthcare, you can now find Mindfulness programs in so many different venues – in the workplace, in universities, in schools K-12, and it was even featured on “60 Minutes”. The populations that are being reached are so much broader.
The other thing that has changed is the vast body of research that shows the effects of mindfulness. In recent years, mindfulness training has been shown to improve immune function as well as cognitive and brain function. Some of our work at the Jefferson Mindfulness Institute has shown that mindfulness is effective in reducing chronic pain, medical symptoms, anxiety and depression.
What has stayed the same?
At Jefferson, the integrity of the MBSR curriculum has stayed the same, as well as the core, key mindfulness practices and attitudinal foundations that we teach. The essence of mindfulness training is the same, learning to be present in the moment with curiosity and kindness. We still start our program by reminding participants that the journey requires commitment and dedication. Mindfulness isn’t a panacea – a quick fix. It’s like building muscles. If you want to build your arm muscle, you can’t go to the gym and simply look at the weights, you have to lift them. Training in Mindfulness is the same. It requires regular practice to build the “muscle” of your mind to keep coming back to the present moment. In so doing, one can move out of old habits that aren’t serving well and make more healthful and wise choices, moment to moment.
What’s next for the Mindfulness Institute?
We’re very excited about our next steps for the Mindfulness Institute. We have reached thousands of people over the years, and we want to reach more. In particular, our current initiative is to expand our Mindfulness programs to underserved communities including vulnerable elders, residents in homeless shelters and to diverse populations. Part of this journey will be enhancing our teachers’ skills to meet the needs of the communities we hope to serve.
To help Mindfulness Institute reach out to the community, visit Jefferson.edu/giving, choose “other” and designate “The Mindfulness Institute.”
For information on programming, visit Jefferson.edu/mindfulness.