'Learning how to be in the present moment'
CAMP ZAMA --"Being in the here and now is the hardest thing for human being to do, but the payoff is enormous because your performance in that moment, your appreciation in that moment, or your execution of something in that moment is all going to depend on whether you are here or not here." said Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, during the introduction of a mindfulness workshop tour at Camp Zama recently.
The mindfulness program was introduced to Camp Zama as an eight-week class last spring by Col. Michael R. Brumage, Deputy Commander for Clinical Services at BG Crawford F. Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic Japan.
Brumage defines the concept of mindfulness as "learning how to be in the present moment." The secular practice has its roots in centuries-old Buddhist practices, but began being applied in wellness and resiliency courses in the late 70s at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. More than 30 years of evidence shows that mindfulness training can be an effective way to become more resilient to stress, pain or illness -- both physical and emotional.
"While the Army has many good programs to address stresses and suicide, these issues remain serious … and with suicide, a growing problem," said Brumage. "I am convinced from both research and personal experience that one answer is cultivating greater awareness inside people to access their own wisdom. Mindfulness has been shown, in a pilot study by the Marines, to improve working memory capacity in a stressful pre-deployment setting and increase emotional regulation."
The founder of the mindfulness program, Kabat-Zinn, held workshops throughout the day during his Camp Zama tour. More than 200 people attended the workshops including soldiers, students in Zama American High School, family members and civilian workers.
Kabat-Zinn is also a well known international figure. He is a New York Times Bestselling author and has appeared on TV show such as Oprah, Good Morning America. His books have been translated to many languages and are available in many countries, including Japan.
"The beauty of the mental training is that you can do it all day long," said Kabat-Zinn. "You can bring awareness to everything you are doing. And then, the whole day in some sense becomes your mental training, becomes your mindfulness practice … It's something virtually all human beings can do. It's not luxury to practice mindfulness. It's absolutely a necessity."