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Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD

Shannon Harvey

Watch an excerpt from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn's episode in the Conversation Series

Prof. of Medicine Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

“Jon Kabat-Zinn brings to the arena of mind-body science a touch of the poet as well as the pragmatist, giving us the hows and whys of meditation in a language we don't often associate with the subject.” - Bill Moyers, PBS

Jon Kabat-Zinn is famous for his work as a scientist, writer, and work in teaching stressed out sick people how to meditate.

More than 20, 000 people around the world have now completed the teacher training program in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) that he first developed in 1979.

"The deep structure of these practices, they've been around for thousands and thousands of years. It's not the next fad. If they have value, they've had value for a very long time. That's why they survived."
Jon Kabat-Zinn started out as a molecular biologist, studying under Nobel Laureate Salvador Luria, but his interest in meditation drew him towards the study of how the mind facilitates healing. Now a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Kabat-Zinn has focused his research on the benefits of mindfulness meditation in cooperation with clinical treatments for patients with chronic illnesses and stress related disorders. One of his groundbreaking early studies showed that meditation in conjunction with conventional medical treatment could help people with the skin condition psoriasis heal faster. He was having lunch with some dermatologists and was listening to them describe how stress leads to psoriatic flare ups and how they treated the resulting skin legions with a course of light therapy. For Dr. Kabat-Zinn, who had set up the Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979 in order to teach people with a chronic illness non-religious meditative techniques in hopes of adding a new dimension to their health approach, this gave him an idea.

He convinced the dermatologists to let him teach the patients to meditate while they were being treated under the ultra violet light. They set up a small randomised trial to compare people getting the light treatment as per normal with people getting the light treatment while they were meditating. It turned out that the meditators skin cleared at four times the rate of the non-meditators. This finding was then repeated in other studies.


"And it is a beautiful example of the mind/body connection because you're doing something with your mind and something is happening in the skin. So it just doesn't get any better than that."


Watch this excerpt from The Connection where Dr. Kabat-Zinn talks about the study.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn is best known for developing the 8 week MBSR Program to catch the people falling through the cracks of the medical system, which has now evolved into Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
    • Recent studies from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that the MBSR program can produce thickening in particular regions of the brain important for learning, memory, executive decision-making and perspective-taking and that certain regions of the brain like the amygdala, which involves threat and fear circuitry, get thinner.
“We have much more to say over how healthy we'll be than our doctors.”
Dr. Kabat-Zinn has written 4 books, translated into over 30 languages, including Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go There You Are, Everyday Blessings, and Coming to Our Senses. He is also on the Board of the Mind and Life Institute, a group that organizes dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists to promote deeper understanding of the mind.

Additional Links

The Connection blog about the US Premiere with Dr. Kabat-Zinn Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society Mind and Life Institute

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