Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness

What is mindfulness? The founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction explains.

In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn recruited chronically ill patients not responding well to traditional treatments to participate in his newly formed eight-week stress-reduction program, which we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Since then, substantial research has mounted demonstrating how mindfulness-based interventions improve mental and physical health—comparably so to other psychological interventions. We sat down with him as about his definition of mindfulness:

The Definition of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

“We all take ourselves too seriously because we believe that there’s someone to take seriously. That “me.” We become the star of our own movie. The story of “me”, starring, of course, me! And everyone else becomes a bit player in our movie. And then we forget that it’s a fabrication. It’s a construction. And that it’s not a movie and that there’s no “you” that you can actually find if you were to peel back.

Are you your name? Are you your age? Are you your thoughts? Are you your opinions? Are you your genetic inheritance?

Even your genes, if you meditate, or eat differently, they’re going to be expressed by the hundreds differently. So, you’re not even your genetic inheritance. So, who are you?

How much of our time we are running the narrative of “I” “Me” and “Mine” which is now being identified with certain regions of the brain that do that narrative default mode kind of thing.

And here’s where the rubber really meets the road: The question is much more important than the dimestore answers that we come up with.

So, then we can notice this phenomenon called “selfing.” How much of our time we are running the narrative of “I” “Me” and “Mine” which is now being identified with certain regions of the brain that do that narrative default mode kind of thing. And then mindfulness MBSR has been shown to light up other areas, more lateral areas, where there’s no more story of “me.”

It’s just this breath. That out-breath. And it’s not me breathing, either. If it was up to me to be breathing I would have died a long time ago. Ooops! Got distracted. Forgot. Dead.”

4 Guided Meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Guided Meditation

An Inquiring Practice to Notice the Body 

This 20-minute guided meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn explores embracing sensations as they arise in the body in order to ground ourselves in the here and now. Read More 

  • Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • August 30, 2018