“I like to think of mindfulness simply as the art of conscious living.” – Jon Kabat-ZinnDeveloping your mindfulness skills involves transforming the way your mind usually operates. For this reason, mindfulness can be a difficult concept to grasp at first. A deep understanding of mindfulness is learnt experientially.
Mindfulness practice is learning to relate to things in a direct way, without the mental filters of concepts, past experiences, or value judgements placed on top.
In a nutshell: Mindfulness is awareness.
This practice in Zen Buddhism is called Shoshin (初心), meaning "beginner's mind." It refers to having an attitude of openness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, just as a beginner would.
When we practice seeing our inner and outer worlds with this attitude of curiosity, it opens up a greater capacity for self-compassion, joy and gratitude.
Misconceptions About Mindfulness
- Mindfulness is not about emptying the mind or stopping thinking - it's about learning to observe our thoughts.
- Mindfulness is not a relaxation technique - relaxation is a by-product of mindfulness and meditation.
- Mindfulness is not "fluffy", "New Age" or "woo woo" - it's an evidence-based approach recommended by NICE as a preventative practice for people who experience recurring depressive episodes. Mindfulness practice has been shown to rewire our brain and body. Learning about the compelling science behind mindfulness and meditation can be a powerful motivator - we highly recommend learning about the science of mindfulness and meditation using the resources below.
- Mindfulness is not a form of escapism - it's about being fully present in the here and now.
Key Differences Between Poor Mindfulness Skills and Strong Mindfulness Skills
Poor Mindfulness Skills
Strong Mindfulness Skills
Autopilot mode, reacting with habit
Thoughts concern re-living the past and projecting into the future
Poor attentional control
Taking life's pleasures for granted
Placing judgement on perceptions—labelling things as good/bad, right/wrong
Driven by emotions
We neglect our potential
A limiting attitude
Mindful mode, responding with awareness
Thoughts concern the present
Strong attentional control
We enjoy life's pleasures
Perceiving without judgement—being aware of things without labelling them, ‘non-conceptual knowing’
Able to step back and observe emotions
We realise our potential
An attitude of openness, curiosity and acceptance
There are many different forms of meditation. Popular types include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Body scan meditation
- Loving-kindness (metta) meditation
- Vipassana meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Sound meditation
Where to Start
If you experience breathing difficulties, focusing on your breath as an anchor may feel uncomfortable at first.
Try focusing your attention on your belly rather than your nostrils, as this tends to feel calmer. Over time, focusing on your breathing will become more comfortable.
Mindfulness and Meditation Resources for Beginners
In Person Courses
8 Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course (MBSR)The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course is the most recognised and established mindfulness course internationally, and is scientifically proven to help people improve their mental wellbeing.
MBSR combines experiential mindfulness practices with the latest tools and techniques of neuroscience and psychology. Courses typically include:
- Mindfulness meditation practices
- Gentle stretching and movement
- Group dialogue and discussion
- Individually tailored instruction
- Home assignments
To find a local MBSR course, search “MBSR Course + [your location]” on Google.
Insight Timer“Join millions learning to meditate on Insight Timer to help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, manage stress, sleep deeply and improve happiness. Guided meditations and talks led by the world’s top mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and meditation teachers from Stanford, Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of Oxford. Music tracks from world-renowned artists.
With 10+ new free guided meditations added daily, more meditation is practiced on Insight Timer than anywhere else. Great for both beginners and experienced practitioners.
Free features include:
- Thousands of guided meditations
- Select by time for short meditations when on the go, helping you to build a simple daily habit
- Thousands of music tracks and ambient sounds to calm the mind, focus, sleep better and relax
- The world's most popular meditation Timer
- Follow your favourite teachers
- Thousands of discussion groups and community features
- Stats and milestones for tracking your progress
Featured meditation teachers on Insight Timer include:
- Mark Williams- Emeritus Professor at Oxford University
- Tara Brach - Ph.D, founder of Insight Meditation Community of Washington
- Sam Harris - Stanford; author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host
Calm“Calm is the #1 app for mindfulness and meditation to bring more clarity, joy and peace to your daily life. Start your journey to a calmer mind with the app that’s trusted by millions and featured in the New York Times.
Calm is the perfect meditation app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced meditators and gurus.
Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.
- Calming Anxiety
- Managing Stress
- Deep Sleep
- Focus and Concentration
- Body Scan
Top Recommended Reads
Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman"Mindfulness reveals a set of simple yet powerful practices that can be incorporated into daily life to help break the cycle of unhappiness, stress, anxiety and mental exhaustion and promote genuine joie de vivre. It's the kind of happiness that gets into your bones. It seeps into everything you do and helps you meet the worst that life can throw at you with new courage.
The book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT revolves around a straightforward form of mindfulness meditation which takes just a few minutes a day for the full benefits to be revealed. MBCT has been clinically proven to be at least as effective as drugs for depression and it is recommended by the UK's National Institute of Clinical Excellence - in other words, it works.
More importantly, it also works for people who are not depressed but who are struggling to keep up with the constant demands of the modern world. Mindfulness focuses on promoting joy and peace rather than banishing unhappiness. It's precisely focused to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability."
Bliss More by Light Watkins"From one of America's top meditation teachers comes a revolutionarily simple approach to everyday practice—especially if you don't think you have the time or the patience.
Imagine you're sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed, ready to tap into unlimited joy. There's just one problem: You can't get comfortable (let alone still), and your head is full of way too many thoughts.
The problem is not with meditation, or you, though—the issue may be with your approach.
When properly understood and practiced, meditation should feel easy, calming, and comfortable. In Bliss More, maverick instructor Light Watkins provides the tools for making it E.A.S.Y. (Embrace, Accept, Surrender, Yield), dispels the biggest myths and misunderstandings, and shares real-world tips and straight talk for hacking into this ancient practice. The result: a happier and healthier you, inside and out. Watkins also shares candid testimonials from people whose lives have been enriched through his method, and extensive resources for transforming a daily chore into an enjoyable activity. Even the biggest skeptic will look forward to sitting for meditation every day.
Whether you're a novice or experienced practitioner, Bliss More will shed light on the path to a clearer mind, better sleep, and more bliss in everyday life."
I Am Here Now: A creative mindfulness guide and journal by The Mindfulness Project"An essential guide to mindfulness, filled with tools and practices that can enhance our well-being." - Arianna Huffington
I am here now will inspire you to explore your world with greater curiosity and find moments of mindfulness in everyday life while unleashing your creativity along the way.
Be here now with exercises to challenge your powers of observation, investigation and cultivation and bring new awareness to your senses, thoughts and emotions. Practise meditation with the I am here now audio track, guided by internationally renowned mindfulness teacher Tara Brach. Use the field notes pages to record your findings and capture your insights.
"Mindfulness is a simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s simple in that it’s really just about paying attention to what’s happening here and now (i.e. sensations, thoughts, and emotions) in a non-judgemental way. It’s powerful because it can interrupt the habit of getting lost in thoughts, mostly about the future or past, which often generates more stress on top of the real pressures of everyday life." - The Mindfulness Project
The Mindful Kind"The Mindful Kind, hosted by Rachael Kable, shares exciting insights into mindfulness journeys and provides listeners with simple and effective practices to incorporate into their own lives. Being mindful can be a fun and interesting journey and has amazing potential to increase general wellbeing, from managing stress to improving sleep quality. With The Mindful Kind, you will have weekly access to new ideas, personal experiences and practical mindfulness exercises." Head to Rachel’s website for written articles.
Episode 32: How Mindfulness Changed My Mindset
Episode 17: Mindfulness in the Real World
Episode 17: Mindfulness in the Workplace
Episode 1: All About Mindfulness
Episode 129: Mindfulness for Stress Prevention
Episode 26: Breaking Habits with Mindfulness
Episode 116: 3 Key Tips to a Stronger Mindfulness Practice
Episode 70: Meaningful Mindfulness Routine
Episode 28: 10 Quirky Mindfulness Practices
Jim Hopper's Online Guide to Cultivaing Mindfulness - Jim Hopper is an expert in trauma who trains and consults on how meditation and other contemplative practices can transform the brain to bring healing. Head to his website to read his free comprehensive online guide to cultivating mindfulness.
Mindful - a mission-driven non-profit, Mindful are dedicated to inspiring, guiding, and connecting anyone who wants to explore mindfulness. Head to their website for personal stories, news-you-can-use, practical advice, and insights on mindfulness.
Zen Habits – with over a million readers, Zen Habits is about “finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness”. Author Leo Babauta is an expert by experience, having cultivated a regular meditation practise, exercise regime, healthy eating habits, and much more.
Palouse Mindfulness – a free online eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) course, created by a certified MBSR instructor. Includes access to an online student community.
Tara Brach – Tara Brach is a meditation teacher, author and psychotherapist. Her website features dozens of guided meditations and talks.
Jack Kornfield – Jack Kornfield is an author and Buddhist practitioner. Visit his website for meditations, articles, podcast episodes, and videos.