WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness as we know it in the West first appeared in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Jon Kabat-Zinn, then a young scientist and Buddhist practitioner, combined Buddhist meditation with Western psychology to create an 8-week course aimed at helping patients to cope with chronic pain, stress and illness. This first secular ‘mindfulness-based stress reduction’ (MBSR) and subsequent courses were very successful in reducing stress, pain, anxiety and many other life difficulties. The course’s integration of Western science with Buddhist methods helped secular mindfulness gain widespread credibility and acceptance in the West. A growing mountain of research evidence supports its beneficial effects on physical and mental health and well-being. It is now taught world-wide in a great variety of settings.
JON KABAT ZINN
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is perhaps the best-known:
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.’
Another way he explains mindfulness is:
'intentionally bringing an open-hearted and affectionate attention to our experience'.
In mindfulness meditation, we pay attention to very ordinary experiences – the sensations of breathing, for example - that we don’t usually notice.
As we train our minds with regular meditation, being mindful gradually becomes a habit in daily life too.
Around 1990 New-Zealander Vidyamala Burch began applying Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness methods to her painful spinal injury and eventually founded her highly respected ‘Breathworks’ organisation, offering 8-week mindfulness- and compassion-based approaches to living well with chronic pain and stress.