I was introduced to MBSR over 20 years ago by a colleague who had just completed his psychology doctoral dissertation on MBSR. I was already teaching yoga so I thought I knew what mindfulness was, but as I began to notice through my own practice, mindfulness was different. It was more bare bones, it helped me rest and it helped me see and be in a new and powerful way.
So I came to appreciate the practice of mindfulness itself, which MBSR fosters in a secular and universal way. And I was also deeply moved by how it was being taught in the MBSR curriculum. The way the teacher positioned themselves in the circle as a guide rather than an authority, the way participants were invited to speak about what was real for them and come to their own insights, the way the Eastern origins of the meditation practices became tools for looking deeply at our humanity.
Integrative Restoration or iRest is a newer mind/body method pioneered by Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist with a deep interest in Eastern meditation models. Like Jon Kabat-Zinn (MBSR’s pioneer) who blended his personal experience with Buddhism and Hatha Yoga with his scientific training to create a curriculum that met a powerful need in health care; Richard Miller has done the same. One notable difference that is that iRest’s foundation draws more from the Yoga paradigm than the Buddhist paradigm.
iRest’s origins are less academic and clinical, in that it is not embedded in a university medical center where its development was documented from the beginning. Yet, iRest has developed into a protocol that now qualifies as evidence based and is the subject of numerous studies for its treatment potential for trauma, pain, addiction relapse, compassion fatigue, insomnia, memory, and learning. There are currently over 30 iRest programs in VA’s and Military settings across the US.
For me personally, I find the 2 methods distinct yet entirely complimentary. For several years I have taught both MBSR and iRest, and have seen students benefit from the combination. If I were to sum it up I would say that MBSR is an amazing tool for grounding us, for helping us connect to the moment and learn from what is right here and now. We only have moments to live. iRest is deeply relaxing and expansive, it gives us tools to see our difficulties and distractions as pointers towards a deeper clarity and a healthy resolution.