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Mindfulness Movement Turns 40, Gains Traction at Stony Brook

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Mindfulness has been defined as a state of active, open attention to the present. This state encompasses observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation and therapy and is thought to have benefits that help people cope with the stresses and challenges of everyday life.

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The Stony Brook Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is bringing mindfulness training to campus in order to promote the well-being of employees. Developed in 1979 by MIT molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course is considered the gold standard in mindfulness. Last spring, Stony Brook became part of the growing number of institutions offering the MBSR course to faculty, staff, and students.

The upcoming course will be held on Friday afternoons, 3:30-6:00 PM, from October 4 to November 22, at SBU’s West Campus, in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building (SBS, N119/121). Taking the course requires committing to weekly 2 1/2-hour classes, one seven-hour retreat and 30-60 minutes of home practice daily.

Those wondering whether the course is worth the commitment can attend a 90-minute introductory session as posted on the EAP website.

The course is co-taught by Gabrielle Chiaramonte and Cheryl Kurash, both licensed clinical psychologists with doctoral degrees

Chiaramonte received her Doctorate from Stony Brook and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College, where she is a clinical faculty member. She has worked with many 9/11 first responders and civilians as well as members of the U.S. military, victims of accidents and crimes and burn victims. In 2014, she founded the Stress Reduction Center at Long Island  Behavioral Medicine, PC, where she offers the MBSR course as well as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

Kurash completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine and served as coordinator of Mindfulness Programs at the Counseling and Psychological Services, Stony Brook University, as well as assistant director of counseling for training at SB and associate professor of psychology at SUNY/Empire State College.

Both Chiaramonte and Kurash completed professional training under the direction of Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Over the course of the introductory session, Chiaramonte and Kurash will cover a wide array of topics to clarify what MBSR is and what it is not. What newcomers will learn during this initial class is that although mindfulness is present-based, it does not seek to banish planning for the future or learning from or revisiting the past.

“The mind is designed for thinking and often wanders,” said Kurash. “In fact, this ‘wandering mind’ is known as our default mode since it occurs so automatically. Becoming aware of mind wandering is mindful. Often, we are not aware but rather immersed in the thought- stream, allowing it to take us away, not even knowing we are separate from our thoughts. We can learn to step back and witness what is occurring in the mind; becoming aware in this way involves a fundamental shift in perspective.”

For more information, visit the EAP website or call the EAP office (2-6085) for information and to register for the free session. Be sure to ask about available scholarships and reimbursements.


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