Jon Kabat-Zinn Video Series on

When he started MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn didn't have a detailed plan—just a passion and an inkling that lots of good would come of it. Now, 36 years later, he talks with us about the present and future of mindfulness. 

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.

But let’s take a step back—what is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

Below, Kabat-Zinn explains how awareness helps cut through judgement.

Meditation: How to do it

Kabat-Zinn talks about his own introduction to meditation, and what he’d suggest for people who want to get started:

“Bring awareness to what the impulse is that’s bringing you to meditation in the first place. And therein lies everything you need to know. Keep paying attention to that, love it, and see what happens. And keep it simple.”

On MBSR and everyday mindfulness

Kabat-Zinn talks about his current work, and his vision of MBSR’s purpose.

“My books are meant to be a tool,” he says. “[They are] aimed at training the reader into an experience of themselves, so that mindfulness becomes just as commonsensical as breakfast.”

“It’s not one size fits all. The curriculum is life itself.”

It’s a Mindfulness Revolution—but it’s only the beginning

The Mindfulness Revolution isn’t going to happen all at once, Kabat-Zinn warns. But he argues that bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of society has the potential to help humanity find a way to “not let our self-destructive and other destructive impulses wind up doing unimaginable levels of harm.”

Ultimately, mindfulness can help break down the “us versus them” mentality that dominates the global political scene—and we cannot become mindful nations without this key shift. It comes back to the fact that mindfulness isn’t mindfulness without “heartfulness,” Kabat-Zinn says.

The beginning of mindful nations

Kabat-Zinn speaks about trip to UK Parliament last year, and how the concept of a mindful nation is being adapted in the UK, as well as in the US by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), author of A Mindful Nation and The Real Food Revolution.