Mindfulness for Life

What is Mindfulness?

It’s a pretty straightforward word isn’t it?

It’s a word that seems to be appearing more and more as we look for ways to manage the stresses, strains and anxieties of our often frantic and hectic lives.

The very word itself suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through.

But the reality is that we so often veer from the matter at hand and our mind takes flight, losing focus on the thing we should be doing and we can lose touch with our body, and become wrapped up in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or we find ourselves fretting about the future and what might happen. And that makes us anxious.

What is mindfulness?


Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, bodily sensations and surrounding environment and accepting in a non-judgemental way what is happening without attaching blame, cause or a right or wrong viewpoint.

Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling.

 What Mindfulness is Not

Mindfulness is not about emptying or clearing your mind.

Nor is mindfulness meditation a way of replacing the usual chatter that goes on in our minds with an empty silence.

Instead, it’s to do with observing the mind with curiosity and kindness and through this kindly curiosity, we are able to be aware of the patterns of our thinking in our mind and understand what our dominant thoughts are.

And it is these which can often lead to anxiety, stress, panic and negative thinking.

This observation allows us to recognise these patterns so that we can start to learn to train our minds to respond to these thought patterns in a more positive way.


Mindfulness meditation is not about sitting cross-legged, wearing saffron robes and chanting.

There are indeed some Buddhist religious schools in Tibet and Vietnam for example where the monks do wear orange or yellow robes, shave their heads and use meditative chanting during some of their practices.

However, most mindfulness practices these days are far more informal and whilst there are recommended guidance and postures for doing some exercises and meditations, mindfulness is more about taking time to nurture this ability to observe the thinking patterns of your minds and increase your awareness of how you can respond more positively what’s going on in your everyday life.

A Brief History

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation and Yoga and has attracted many definitions and descriptions since it was first introduced to the western world following research into stress reduction by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and his team at the Stress Reduction Clinic, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the launch of his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, in 1979.

Jon Kabat- Zinn who regularly practiced yoga and meditation thought these practices would be useful to help his clients with depression, anxiety, stress and pain management and so developed the MBSR course which is secular for this purpose, i.e. not connected to religious or spiritual matters.

The MBSR program is a psychoeducational program that provides an integration of mindfulness meditation with proven psychotherapeutic approaches into an accessible and evidence-based approach which has been taught worldwide.

Kabat-Zinn’s teachings formed the origins of the Mindfulness movement which was brought to the UK as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and developed by Dr Mark Williams and colleagues of the University of Oxford and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

This has provided a breakthrough in the clinical treatment of depression, anxiety and emotional trauma and is recommended by ‘NICE’ as a treatment of choice for depression.

What’s the Difference between MBSR & MBCT?

The MBSR course was designed and is still delivered as a clinical course primarily for the relief and reduction of stress.

The MBCT course was designed and is still delivered as a clinical course to primarily reduce depression.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as:

“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, in Purser, 2015).

And so What?

If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s probably best to try it for a while, since it can be hard to nail down in words and you will find slight variations in the meaning in books, websites, audios, and videos.

Here’s another view….

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Mindfulness is a quality that we all already have and there’s no magic spell that we have to invoke to access it.

Every human being possesses it.

We just have to learn and for some us, re-learn how to access it.

So, while mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques, particularly seated, walking, standing, and moving meditation.

It is also possible to practice mindfulness lying down and there are some specific meditations that are carried out lying down but meditation can sometimes lead to sleep so whilst from a pure mindfulness aspect, which requires that we stay present, aware of what’s going on in and around us, it can also be a great way to improve sleep.

So, if this is not the purpose, it’s better to be seated, standing or moving.

Mindfulness practices can be carried out as short pauses that we insert into everyday life.  For example, brushing our teeth, showering, ironing, washing the dishes, noticing nature, whilst walking or simply sitting.

The list is endless – we can bring mindfulness to literally everything we do in our daily lives, particularly when any of our emotional or negative triggers are being pulled

And, merging meditation practices with other activities, such as yoga or sports has also proved to be an effective way to enhance the enjoyment and performance in these activities.

When we meditate we don’t strive to focus on the benefits, but instead, simply just do the practice, but there are proven benefits, or no one would do it.

Also, many of the health and wellbeing benefits have been established through clinical research.

When we’re mindful, we reduce anxiety, stress, overwhelm, panic and worry and enhance performance, gain insights and learning and develop our awareness through observing and experiencing our own mind and body and as a result, increase our attention to others’ well-being.

Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and observe with a natural curiosity the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.

When we practice mindfulness, we are more able to tune into what we are sensing in the present moment without revisiting the past or imagining what might happen in the future.

And for many of us, it’s a new way of experiencing and enhancing our life and the lives of those around you.