Friday, March 20, 2009

MBSR Conference II

Morning Meditation

Saki Santorelli led about 200 people in a sitting, walking and heart meditation. We were encouraged to make a heart connection with another in the room. My partner was a man who I have met several time at past conferences and as we touched each other's heart, the feeling of vulnerability and compassion was deeply felt.

Long Term Impact of Mindfulness-Based Self-Care

John Christopher and colleagues presented a study on the long-term effects of an graduate course in self care that included the teaching of a variety of mindfulness based practices. The course was described as a 15-week credit course that explored both ancient and contemporary methods of therapy and self-care; including MBSR, Qigong, Vipassana meditation etc. The students were required to a) practice meditation, b) keep an experiential journal and c) give a brief reasearch presentation.

Interviewing graduates of the program the researchers found that ex-students had brought many of the practices into their work with their clients along a number of important dimensions including greate attention, emotional regulation and self-care. Some of the practices used in the course can be found at

Keynote Address I

Margaret Chesney presented a compelling argument for prevention versus treatment in health care. The central thesis of her presentation was that the sole focus on pathology has meant that the medicine has spent considerable resources on trying to erradicate disease, rather than indentify and promote means to enhance the health of citizens.

Chesney offered a graphic example of this myopic vision. When faced with data that suggested that children in North America were increasingly becoming obese, her medical policy colleagues tried to hammer out a solution the problem. There solution was to turn to drugs that lowered lipids in the blood, which were deemed to be the culprit in the health-related problems that ensued from obesity. Chesney was shocked that none of her colleagues mentioned a national campaign of fitness, diet education and other preventitive measures that would have addessed the root causes of obesity.

Chesney demonstrated that positive psychology - the search for ways of enhancing health were likley to prevent about 70% of the premature deaths that now occur. One of the main mechanisms of positive health identified was positive affect. Postive affect leads to increase likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviour and and better physiological/immune responses.

Chesney recruited us all as advocates in the fight to include positive and preventitive measures in public health policy.

Keynote II

Richie Davidson presented his data on contemplative neuroscience. This requires a much more comprehensive review than I can provide here and now. Instead here are some pictures of the people wh havebeen influential in showing how we can actively shape our own brains through contemplative practice.

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