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MBSR Training in France

Lavender Garden by Joey Johannsen

By Acharya Mathias Pongracz

What is MBSR?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a method for teaching mindfulness to people who want to deal with stress, pain, anxiety, depression and other medical and psychological conditions in a way which will give them a chance to take responsibility for their own well being.  There is no use of any religious or even spiritual jargon.

This method was developed 30 Years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the stress clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester.  It is now successfully applied in more than 300 clinics worldwide.

There are scientific researches and scientific evidences on the effect of this method for a series of symptoms: anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain and illnesses..  This method focuses on prevention and on finding our own balance in the stressful situations of our daily life.  

Until recently this method was unknown in France.  Three years ago, sangha members Acharya Mathias Pongracz, teacher-in-residence in Dechen Chöling and Dr. Otto Pichlhöfer in Vienna, introduced this method in France, giving a four-day intensive program on MBSR in Dechen Chöling (near Limoges, France).  People from all over Europe participated. Acharya Pongracz has since continued to make this work known by offering workshops in Marseille and Dechen Chöling. 

He recently co-led a four-day MBSR workshop in MBSR in Belgium for psychologists and psychiatrists with Anne Soulet to help spread this method in healthcare institutions.

How is a MBSR program laid out?

Normally, the program consists of weekly 2h1/2 long group meetings of the participants for 8 weeks.  In the 6th week, there is a day-long silent meditation.  Mindfulness which Kabat Zinn defines as, ‘the ability to deliberately direct your attention towards a chosen object and hold it there without judging’ is being introduced step by step: starting with the practice of the “body-scan” which you could see as “a guided bus tour through your body”.  Later basic awareness of breathing is added and some simple yoga stretches are to follow.  

Participants get CDs to take home and must agree to repeat these exercises 6 days a week for 45min, in order to be accepted into the program. This body-centered technique proved to be quite effective in terms of changing people daily routine and their approach to stress.

The way it works..

What is being changed is not so much stress itself, but rather the way that the persons are handling it and the ability to treat thoughts as mental events rather than as something real.  From the 2nd and 3rd meeting, sitting meditation is being introduced progressively.  A specific characteristic of this approach is the space given to participants for sharing and exchanging about their experience, in a way that supports their recovery and healing process. The idea is that, the wisdom lying dormant within the group is being awakened.  They bond and support each other in the process.  The facilitator introduces the exercises and skilfully guides the group in the exchange.

The depth of experience in taking part to such a program can hardly be expressed.  I saw people in tears, softening and discovering their hearts.  Within a short period of time, and in a way that I usually only witness after longer intensive retreats.” says Mathias Pongracz. Then adds: “Participants have included cancer patients, musicians with stress syndromes, a winegrower from Bordeaux, psychiatrists, hospital workers, businessmen, housewives, people from all walks of life…”

photo by Joey JohannsenMBSR in France

Since last year there has been an emerging network of people in France, who are starting to apply MBSR in their local areas.  Dechen Chöling will also offer a four-day intensive program from April 30 until May 4th.  This program will be taught in French but English translation will be provided.

However, the eight-week long program will more likely happen in urban centers (Paris, Marseille and Nimes) where there is enough population in need of this approach.  Dechen Chöling being a retreat center in a more remote rural area, serves to initiate people in this method.  Once home, participants can go on practicing it and connecting to a local MBSR teacher. 

“We are proud to have been the ones to introduce this highly effective method of taking responsibility for one’s own wellbeing in France.  You could say that Dechen Chöling has taken the role of avant-garde in this respect.  This seems to fit in well with the overall program calendar of Dechen Chöling.  It gives a definite touch of health and wellbeing orientation to this Shambhala Europe retreat and practice center.”  

Acharya Mathias Pongracz

Also happening in Dechen Chöling

May 19 -24 Venerable Jigme Gyetrul Rinpoche will give the transmission and teachings of the Sangye Menla practice, the Medicine Buddha.

July 3 – 12    Maitri Space Awareness with Sabine Rolf

This retreat is to experience five basic energy states that we call the Buddha families: a way to skilfully work with our emotions and habitual patterns, in their confused and balanced aspects.

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