What is Mindfulness?

Most simply put, mindfulness is the state of being aware of the present moment, or, as Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts, defines it, ‘the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment’.[1] In the modern world we are faced with countless stressors and an unending stream of new stimuli demanding our attention.  Both an accessible form of meditative practice and a contemplative approach to living, mindfulness draws upon a number of simple tools and exercises to calm, focus, and attune the mind. 

While mindfulness meditation has become a popular, widespread practice over the past four decades, it is not a new discovery but the dissemination of a system of practices that emerged initially in Buddhism and Zen.  Mindfulness teaches us to be present, to be authentic, to be compassionate, and, above all else, to live a meaningful and creative life.  Numerous academic studies have confirmed the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and its powerful benefits, including:  

  • A decrease in undesirable states such as anxiety, depression, distress, and anger,[2]
  • An increase in positive states such as joyfulness, gratitude, vitality, contentment, and inspiration,[3]
  • Improvement of attention, awareness, and the ability to make connections.[4]

Mindfulness meditation is an incredibly powerful and transformative practice that can equip you to be your best self in a wide variety of situations.  As a daily practice, mindfulness helps you to keep your cool under pressure and operate from a place of calm, collected openness and receptivity.  The gentle discipline and ‘brain training’ of mindfulness practice doesn’t merely help you to avoid distractions and handle challenging situations, but to open up your innate creativity and inspiration.

Mindfulness is ‘the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.’

Jon Kabat-Zinn

[1] Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

[2] Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143. Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for salutary effects.Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 211–237; Greeson, J., and Brantley, J. (2008). Mindfulness and anxiety disorders: Developing a wise relationship with the inner experience of fear. In: Didonna, F. (Ed.).  Clinical handbook of mindfulness. (pp. 171–188). New York: Springer; Grossman, P., et al. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 57: 35–43. 

[3] Baer, R. A., et al., (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27–45; Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848; Cardaciotto, L., et al., (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance: The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale. Assessment, 15, 204–223; Feldman, G., et al., (2007). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: The development and initial validation of the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale- Revised (CAMS-R). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29, 177–190; Walach, H., et al., (2006). Measuring mindfulness: The Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI). Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 1543– 1555.

[4] Cahn, B. R., & Polich, J. (2009). Meditation (Vipassana) and the P3a event-related brain potential. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72, 51–60; Jha, A.P., Krompinger, J., and Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience. 7: 109–119; Lutz, A., et al., (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 163–169; Tang, Y., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 17152–17156.