What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to things as they are.”  –Williams, Teasdale, Segal, & Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness has its origins in ancient Buddhist teachings that have been practiced for centuries and recently secularized and integrated into Western clinical psychological and medical practices. In this context, it has garnered extensive research support for its efficacy in treating a number of clinical concerns over the last two decades. Mindfulness meditation is a central component of all mindfulness practices and therapies, such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, originating from Vipassana or insight meditation. Mindfulness meditation emphasizes cultivating awareness in the present moment by focusing on one aspect of focus, such as one’s breath or noticing the physical sensations of sitting in a chair. It emphasizes the mindful attitudes of acceptance, curiosity, non-striving, and non-judgment, promoting mental skills that over time contribute to greater focus, compassion, self-awareness, self-regulation, objectivity, and quiescence, among other robust psychological and neurophysiological benefits.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) integrates the foundational principles of mindfulness meditation with components of cognitive behaviour therapy, teaching participants to shift their relationship with difficult thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and physical sensations. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned by anyone and takes time to practice and consolidate like any other acquired skill. Mindfulness meditation can be adapted to accommodate learners of all levels and mental styles, making it accessible to everyone.