Choosing a Mindfulness Program

Here’s an overview of the many types of mindfulness programs at your disposal.

Veterans learning meditation with Honouring the Path of the Warrior.

Mindfulness offers tools to explore the human condition in all its variety. You can learn basic mindfulness meditation in any number of ways. If you like, you can also find a program that is targeted toward a particular problem, such as depression or addiction, or need, such as leadership or childbirth.

Mindfulness-Based Initiatives

Ever since Jon Kabat-Zinn formed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in 1979, it has steadily grown, to the point where you can find MBSR in any major city—and beyond. There’s also been an explosion in related programs for people facing all sorts of challenges.

For example, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, with its strong emphasis on inquiry, is a powerful way for people with depression to explore their mental habits. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Programs and Parenting helps parents-to-be cultivate lifelong practices for mindful living and parenting. Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training gives special attention to one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward food. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention is helpful for people who wish to develop a lifestyle that supports their recovery.

There are many more of these “mindfulness-based interventions” and a good Internet search will turn them up.

Meditation Centers

Although many meditation centers around the country are associated with religious organizations, you can find centers or programs that make room for people who don’t want a religious orientation toward meditation. Washington, D.C., for example, has the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, which offers a huge number of community meditation opportunities, retreats, workshops, and free online talks and guided meditations. There are similar centers in cities throughout North America. You can call to find out the range of meditation offerings they have.

Try, also, a center for mindfulness at a university near you. UCLA, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts are just a few of the universities that have meditation programs open to the public. If you’re unsure about your local school’s program, call to find out if they encourage community participation.

Online and Apps

One of the benefits of living in a digital age is that we can pretty much access whatever we want. That is certainly true of meditation. Every major meditation center or university has an online component, offering you virtual courses, guided meditations, information on retreats and workshops. There are also new apps you can try, like Headspace. Type in the word “meditation” in your search engine and you’ll quickly see the remarkable number of programs available to you.

Targeted Training Programs

Professionals who want to deepen their practice can take advantage of any number of mindful meditation programs specifically designed to meet their needs. For example, CARE for Teachers (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education)—recognizes the stresses that teachers work under and adapts MBSR techniques to help educators improve their well-being and better nurture their students. Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training—uses body-based awareness and attention exercises to help police, firefighters, and soldiers cope with the effects of extreme, often prolonged, stress. The Institute for Mindful Leadership helps leaders find the space they need to be more reflective, to make room for more intuition, to become better team-builders.

This article also appeared in the October 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.