Introduction to Mindfulness

Reference: Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

By: Jan Kabat-Zin, Ph.D.

Mindfulness means being aware, living intentionally, fully and completely, from moment to moment. It means to live in the moment, not to judge the moment but to see each moment as a new beginning, a new opportunity to start over, to tune in, and to reconnect.

Practicing mindfulness involves stopping all the “doing” in your life and relax into the present without trying to fill it up with anything. The goal is to purposefully allow your body and mind to come to rest in the moment, no matter what is “on” your mind or how your body feels. This means allowing yourself to be in the moment with things exactly as they are, without trying to change anything.

You need to practise mindfulness in order to reap its benefits (table 1). The more systematically and regularly you practice, the more the power of mindfulness will grow and the more of its benefits will be experienced.

Table 1: Benefits of Practising Mindfulness

  1. Learning how to stop all your “doing” and shift over to a “being” mode.
  2. Learning how to make time for yourself which is an excellent stress reduction strategy.
  3. Learning how to slow down and nurture calmness and self-acceptance in yourself.
  4. Learning to observe what  your own mind is up to from moment to moment
  5. How to watch your thoughts and how to let go of them without being caught up and driven by them.
  6. How to make room for new ways of seeing old problems


One of the ways you practise mindfulness is through meditation.  Mediation is really about paying attention to the present moment. The challenge is that much of the time our mind is more in the past or the future than it is in the present. Consequently, in any moment we may be only partially aware of what is actually occurring in the present. Our thoughts are so overpowering, particularly in times of crisis or emotional upheaval, that they easily cloud our awareness of the present.

Mediation involves trying to control your focus and direction of your attention. It is the process of observing the body and mind intentionally, of letting your experiences unfold from moment to moment and accepting them as they are.  Table 2 explains how to practice mediation.

Table 2: How to Practice Mediation


  1. Close your eyes, sit so your back is straight but not stiff, and become aware of your breathing.
  2. Don’t try to control your breathing. Just let it happen and be aware of it, witnesses in it as it flows in and out.
  3. Try being with your breath in this way for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. If you mind wanders from your breath note that your mind has done this and then simply let go of whatever your mind is now thinking and bring your attention back to your breathing. Repeat this process each time you find your mind wandering.


Being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it is the essence of mindfulness practice. Practicing mediation means “being in the present on purpose”. However, you may find that it doesn’t take long for this “formal” mediation practice to spill over into your daily life in the form of intentionally paying attention from one moment to the next, no matter what you are doing. You may find yourself spontaneously paying attention more of the time in your life, not just when you are “mediating”. We practice mindfulness by remembering to be “present” in our waking moments.

Mindfulness will not solve your problems. However, it will allow you to see your problems more clearly through the lens of a clear mind and this will allow you to make better choices and find better solutions to your problems.

The power of mindfulness comes from being aware of your experiences at the “present” moment and in fact this is the only real time that any of us ever has.

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