Vancouver: Teaching Mindfulness to Adolescents, A Dream Coming True

Reposted from Mindfully Together Tuesday, December 14, 2010, text & photo by Dzung Vo. He will be presenting Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents (MARS-A): A Hospital-Based Program for Adolescents with Depressive Symptoms, Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain at the conference in February.


I just finished giving my first eight-week "Individual MARS-A (Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescentsfor Adolescents)" cycle. I have long had a dream to teach mindfulness practice to adolescents suffering from chronic illness and chronic stress. With my position at the British Columbia Children's Hospital--and the luxury of having a more functional health care system with sufficient time to spend with my patients and explore issues deeply--I have finally had a chance to start making this a reality.

My first patient was a courageous young woman suffering from chronic pain as a result of an accident a few years ago.  Today, as a course wrap-up, I asked her to reflect on her experience with learning and practicing mindfulness.

I found myself deeply moved by what she shared:

"I still have the pain, but I'm so happy now because I don't have to get stressed out by it anymore."

"I don't mind having my pain anymore, because I'm not suffering from it like I was.  Now,  I can
even smile to my pain."

"I have more energy now.  I didn't realize how tiring it is to be suffering all the time."

"I've learned to see my reactions to situations, and not to hang on to them."

Image removed.

This experience makes me feel a bit like an undercover bodhisattva.  A monk disguised as a doctor, offering ancient dharma practices in the language of modern medicine.

Deep bow to my teachers, spiritual and blood ancestors, and sisters and brothers in practice.  You are all alive in me, here and now.  I hope to continue you beautifully.

About the Author

Dzung Vo, MD

Dzung X. Vo, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at British Columbia Children’s Hospital, and clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver, Canada. He co-developed (with Dr. Jake Locke at BC Children’s Hospital) a mindfulness training program called MARS-A, or Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents. MARS-A is a developmentally appropriate adaptation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), for youth with chronic stress, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Dr. Vo has been practicing mindfulness regularly since 1999, and has experienced the transformational power of mindfulness practice firsthand. All trees have roots, and Dr. Vo’s root mindfulness teacher is the Vietnamese Zen Master, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and author, Thich Nhat Hanh. Dr. Vo hopes to share the benefits of mindfulness to diverse youth in a universal, secular way that is appropriate for anyone, of any religion, or no religion at all.